When and How to Dump a Client

Posted on 01. Nov, 2009 by in Clients, Lists

When and How to Dump a Client

Client satisfaction gives us reputation and credibility, however, every now and again we will come across a problematic client. Some of my colleagues will continue to work with clients even when they have asked them to compromise so much and cause hassle. Usually in this scenario, if you do not end the relationship with the client, there will be problems in the future.

There are certain things which the client can say which you should take as a big orange sign saying “Danger”. So when do you dump a client?

When and How to Dump a Client

1. When they ask for silly deadlines
When a client asks you to do a project sooner for the promise of more pay or that they will recommend you to their friends, you are not in for a treat. At this point you should explain to the client that there is nothing you can do to speed up the process and you will not be able to comply.

It may be that you can negotiate a time with the client to make it more satisfactory to your own needs. Continue with the client if they do, however, do bear in mind that if you are late on a project despite aiming for the early deadline, the client will be upset. The client may ask for returned payment or even worse ruin your reputation.

2. When the client refuses to sign
It is a very clear sign that the client will be causing problems, if they refuse to sign a contract with you. There must be a reason why they do not want to sign a document which can stand up in a small claims court against them. Whatever reason they give you, even if they are genuine, I would advise that you always get a signature.

If the client still refuses then explain to them politely, how it is your policy to not to continue on a project without a signature. They may be after a revision in the contract, and if it is a legitimate concern then you may want to change the contract to make it more suiting. You may want to be careful about what you change, but only you can be the best judge of that. This may resolve the issue, but if it does not, I would not continue.

3. Late payees and deposit-avoiders
A deposit is your compensation if the client rejects your work in the future. The time which you will have spent on the project before they reject it, along with your pursuit of their project and rejection of others can be compensated with a deposit. If the client wants to refuse a deposit, you will not be compensated when the shit hits the fan.

Requesting a delayed payment can also be problematic as their work can be done and dusted and then it will be up to the clients ethics whether they pay you or not. I would not trust a client, as I have ended up losing some serious money trusting a client.

You may want to negotiate the deposit. Many freelancers will take 50% deposit and 50% on completion. You can easily change this to 40% deposit and 60% on completion. In extreme genuine circumstances you may want to even consider 30% deposit with 30% when half is complete and then the last 40% at the end.

With clients requesting late payments I would try to negotiate instalments. If they do not want to pay the remaining 50% on project completion, I would ask them to pay 25% now and the remaining 25% in a month.

If none of these solutions work then the client is most likely to cause problems for you in the future. Dump them politely.

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4. Clients who want too may revisions
When you show your work to a client and they ask you for a revision, this can be fine. Too many revisions, however, can be problematic. I would usually stretch revisions to the third or fourth revision and after that I would assume that the client can do better without me.

The level of revision also matters. If a client wants you to start again from square 1, you should not compromise so much.

5. When the client wants to run your ass
There can be instances when a client will expect you to do project after project for cheaper or revisit former projects for updates. If a client wants to hire you again, it can be very good, but if they want you to do too much work, I would usually decline. The more problematic issue, however, is when a client wants you to keep checking a previous project and updating it. This is the main reason I do not give clients my IM account details!

If you find yourself stuck in this situation, try explaining politely that you can not keep updating previous work. I find that a sly approach is better…let me demonstrate:

Client: Can you change this on the project you did?
Me: Yeah sure, I’ll send you a new invoice
Client: Isn’t this included as part of the last project
Me: Unfortunately not, you see, the contract outlines that there is a period where you can make revisions and after that period has expired, I will have to make a new invoice

I find that usually sorts out the problem

A Word on How You Dump the Client

Never return your deposit, remember that this was a compensation in case the situation which you are in arose.

Tell the client as soon as possible. Like many relationships, they ought to know sooner than later that it’s not working out.

Return everything which belongs to them. This may be details of the company or photographs or anything which is theirs.

Finally, remember that you should only dump a client as a final resort and should try to resolve issues up to the last step. Dumping a client may hurt your credibility and reputation, and there is nothing worth more than that!

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25 Responses to “When and How to Dump a Client”

  1. uberVU - social comments

    01. Nov, 2009

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by allwebdesign: When and How to Dump a Client http://bit.ly/1k8n45...

  2. AndyiBM

    01. Nov, 2009

    It’s amazing just how easy it is to get suckered by ‘genuine’ new clients into starting a project before they’ve sent a deposit, only to find they disappear off the planet the moment you’ve spent a day’s work of your time on a visual. Always ALWAYS get a deposit – no matter how much of a hurry they appear to be in.

  3. Daniel

    01. Nov, 2009

    As the owner of a web design company, I totally agree. There are a lot of bad design companies and freelancers, but at least as many bad clients.

    My advice would be, as the author says, always write detailed contracts. I find it easiest to have a contract template, which goes into every single little aspect.

    A contract makes things like pre-payments and such very clear, and enables you to ask for less, since with a contract, your payment is more probable.

    Anyone who declines signing a contract either wants to make trouble later on, or is avoiding his/her taxes I would say.

    I would add one more thing, a bit off-topic, but related. Always ask for the price you think you deserve, don’t underprice because you want more and more work, this will make you MUCH more money in the long run, and save you a LOT of trouble with clients .)

  4. [...] When and How to Dump a Client [...]

  5. elijah

    02. Nov, 2009

    excellent article. lots of useful info. your smallest section (no. 4), I happen to find the most useful.

  6. Leon

    02. Nov, 2009

    Very well written post. I agree on all points. Including agreements on revisions after completion of a project is new to me, but seems really smart. I will definately think about adding that to our contracts.

    I have found that whenever a client suggests to make à fixed price it bevers works out right for us, since it is harder to agree on when a project is actually finished.

  7. [...] When and How to Dump a Client [...]

  8. [...] Visit Source. [...]

  9. Barbara

    02. Nov, 2009

    A very helpful article, thank you very much! I’m currently dealing with number 4, which I think is a really tough one. Sometimes it’s difficult to decide when enough is enough.

  10. [...] DIRECT LINK » Go to SourceSubmit this to Script & StyleShare this on BlinklistShare this on del.icio.usDigg this!Post this on DiigoShare this on RedditBuzz up!Stumble upon something good? Share it on StumbleUponShare this on TechnoratiShare this on MixxPost this to MySpaceSubmit this to DesignFloatShare this on FacebookTweet This!Subscribe to the comments for this post?Share this on LinkedinSeed this on NewsvineShare this on DevmarksAdd this to Google BookmarksAdd this to Mister WongAdd this to IzebyShare this on TipdShare this on PFBuzzShare this on FriendFeedMark this on BlogMarksSubmit this to TwittleyShare this on FwispMoo this on DesignMoo!Share this on BobrDobrAdd this to Yandex.BookmarksAdd this to Memory.ruAdd this to 100 bookmarksAdd this to MyPlaceSubmit this to Hacker NewsSend this page to Print FriendlyBump this on DesignBumpAdd this to NingPost this to IdenticaIf you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed! Tags: client, client satisfaction, credibility, DIRECT, link, reputation, Satisfaction [...]

  11. Doug C.

    02. Nov, 2009

    This was great. Numbers 3, 4, and 5 have been me lately – it seems I’ve had nothing but bad clients in the past couple months. I’m going to bookmark this page as a personal reference – thanks.

  12. When and How to Dump a Client…

    Client satisfaction gives us reputation and credibility, however, every now and again we will come across a problematic client….

  13. Manz

    02. Nov, 2009

    I have to say that I’m very lucky and have had great clients!

    I’d also like to add one other thing to keep an eye out for… if a client sends over their own in-house designer to “observe” (or they may call it “help”) – during photoshoots, press-checks, whatever – dump them!
    You’re not being paid to also teach someone to replace you later down the road!

  14. Luke Jones

    03. Nov, 2009

    I’ve been the victim of a few troublesome clients and it’s not the greatest feeling in the world, especially when one is somewhat attached to the project.

  15. [...] When and How to Dump a Client | FreelanceShack [...]

  16. Inside the Webb

    03. Nov, 2009

    Very interesting article, always afraid of how to dump clients when they start to become very annoying and almost impossible to deal with anymore. Money is good, but not worth wasting so much time and getting worked up over one person for.

  17. Gus

    03. Nov, 2009

    I find this post VERY interesting. But I would like to know from anyone, how do you manage to maintain a “contract” legal without a signature and only through electronic communication (email, phone, etc…) are the “I AGREE” forms online as valid as paper signed contracts in a small claims court? Thanks again and great job :)

  18. [...] When and How to Dump a Client [...]

  19. Storm

    06. Nov, 2009

    Email acceptances by clients of a contract can be used in court but if the wording in the email is unclear then the client can test the validity of this acceptance in court. I’ve learnt through past experience that its best to get the client to sign it, scan it and email it back to you.

    I too have had a speight of bad clients in the past few months but in the end I am greatful to all of them as they have taught me some valuable lessons for the future.

    Always have a contract with a rigidly defined set of terms
    Don’t start work until a deposit is paid
    Stick to deadlines and make sure your clients do too
    NEVER underprice yourself, if a client doesn’t appreciate the value of your service they aren’t worth working for

    Great Article

  20. [...] Freelance Shack: Every freelancer will run into a bad client once in a while. You know, the type that appears shady from the start or makes you work more than you than what is required. Learn to identify and dump them. [...]

  21. Kim H

    10. Nov, 2009

    Goodness isn’t this the truth. I unfortunately had to drop a client that I’d been working with for several months on a very cheap project because they kept demanding revisions – even went as far as to insult me and say that I wasn’t doing my job properly, when obviously they don’t even know what they’re doing.

    I definitely don’t work, either, until a deposit has been made. Too many times when I was first starting up a client suddenly “didn’t have money” et cetera.

  22. [...] fantastic advice on how to find more out about your clients and how to effectively talk to them.8. When And How To Dump A ClientIt’s a cruel and difficult world when freelancing. There are perfect clients, chatty clients, [...]

  23. kane

    04. Nov, 2010

    I’m sure those are all familiar to all freelancers.

    In the beginning of my freelance career I certainly experienced those clients but I felt like I had to do the job anyways since I did not have very many clients.

    Now being in the industry for a year I finally have the guts to dump clients who fall under those categories. But in fairness however, those clients helped me write a bullet proof contract =)

    It’s certainly something when you have to choose between money and integrity.

  24. [...] When and How to Dump a Client (FreelanceShack) [...]

  25. Freelancers

    01. Jun, 2011

    Freelancers do get taken advantage of. Gotta know when to walk away sometimes. Thanks for reminder on how to deal with particular clients.

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