A great colleague of mine, Ariana Friedlander, wrote an important article today entitled The Easiest Way to Fire a Client is to Never Get Hired by them in the First Place. This is a great read for anyone who’s in a relationship-based business like coaching or consulting.  Go have a read.

I’ve had clients that I should have “fired” in the past.  It can be painful to not know how to bring an engagement to a close, especially when the client says they’d like to continue despite getting little value and causing you grief.

Ariana’s exactly right, that it’s much better (and easier!) to select the right clients before they hire you, rather than regret your decision later on.  Sure, sometimes things go sour, but many times you could have told in the beginning that things wouldn’t go well:

  • Never being happy with what you’re delivering
  • Delaying, rescheduling, not showing up for appointments
  • Delaying payments or arguing about your bill
  • Changing the goal mid-stream

There’s some critical things you can do BEFORE the engagement to help detect whether a client will be troublesome:

  • Do you write down a clear contract for work performed, walk through it in detail (to reinforce its importance), and physically sign it in front of each other?
  • Did you have trouble scheduling meetings and making connections during the sales process?
  • Do you have the sense that the prospect is PULLING services from you, rather than you PUSHING on them?
  • Have you talked explicitly about how payment is going to work – what, when, how much, who, and so on?

Any consultant should have a “qualification” step in their sales process which goes well beyond just establishing that the client has the money to pay.  A qualification will also address these other attributes, either through explicit discussion with the prospect or by an independent assessment.

And I’ve found that having these discussions also helps position yourself as more professional, as well.  Which is probably something you want to reinforce if you’re trying to make a living from your business.