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When you first started your agency you weren’t fussy about what clients and projects you took on.
As long as they could pay you, all was good.
These days work isn’t so much fun anymore. You see some of your clients eating away at your agency’s soul. You think, “I’ve had clients fire me in the past. It took awhile to recover from that, but we’re still here and going strong. Maybe it’s time to fire a client or two. But how do I know which ones to fire and when?”
If you’ve reached that point, here are a few signs to help you decide:
1) Constant Criticism
If any criticism is spot-on, helpful, and presented in a way that creates a spirited constructive discussion, you welcome it. That’s creative collaboration, and it almost always results in outstanding work.
The trouble is that this client’s criticism is ego-based, useless, off-target, and just plain spiteful.
That’s bullying. It’s not criticism. Don’t put up with it. Say good-bye and celebrate. Your team will get a huge morale boost and work even harder for you.
This comes in oh-so-many disguises. Look for patterns of behavior, which when viewed objectively paint a different picture than the charming excuses, sweet smiles, and innocent “misunderstandings” of your client.
For example, the client frequently calls all-hands meetings at agency to discuss some urgent, earth-shattering issue and then doesn’t show up, or he refuses to talk to anyone but you and doesn’t interact with the account team or doesn’t even acknowledge their presence in meetings. He forces you to constantly justify your existence and demands work outside the agreed scope of work, ignores estimates and then gets angry when work isn’t delivered on time or gets a bill for work he says he didn’t authorize.
If you see any or all of these symptoms (and similar behaviors) say “Ciao!"
Your team will love you because they know that every client contract is precious. When you do this, you validate not only their importance to you, but you protect your agency’s “reason for being.”
3) Ignores or Overrides Your Advice
Sometimes a client challenges your recommendations. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
When conversations are productive, albeit tense, that’s a sign of a deeply trusting relationship.
On the other hand, if he doesn’t value your point of view it’s time for a heart-to-heart conversation to see if you can resolve this.
No luck? Exit stage right, and find a better client.
4) Pays Late
With the exception of paid media, you’re exchanging time for money. Once time’s gone, you can’t sell it again. Any client not paying you promptly is a problem.
Get the client to fix it, for good, or walk away. It's better to have many smaller clients who pay on time, than a few big clients who pay late.
At the end of the day, firing a client isn’t the end of the world. To be sure, it takes courage. It also means acting professionally and with empathy, regardless of how you feel you or your team has been treated. You want to rest easy knowing you’ve done the best you can.