We want to be there for our clients and build lasting, mutually-beneficial relationships with them. But when clients become high-maintenance—they start demanding immediate responses to emails sent at 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday, they try to renegotiate rates, or fail to pay us on time—it doesn’t take long for us to lose our patience.
Breaking up is never pleasant, but here are a few things you should keep in mind if you decide it’s time to end your professional relationship with a client.
Give a two-week notice: You may not need this client anymore to make ends meet, but always give him or her a two-week notice so that s/he has time to find a replacement, tie up loose ends with you, and take care of any outstanding balances.
Finish all of the projects you’ve accepted: Your reputation is only as good as your word. Always hold up your end of the bargain and finish projects that you’ve accepted.
Offer referrals: This client may not be a good match for you, but perhaps you know a few language translators who are not bothered by last-minute deadlines or what you consider to be a lazy, disorganized project manager. Help out your client by offering a few referrals and s/he may return the favor.
Be professional: Avoid attacking a client or writing long-winded emails. Just as important, if your client is defensive or angry, resist the urge to get the last word in. There’s no reason to perpetuate a back-and-forth email argument.
Keep it clear, concise, and definitive: If you’re serious about getting out, be clear, concise and definitive in your messaging. Don’t imply that you’d be open to “working things out” if you know darn well that you have no intention of doing so. There’s a caveat to this, which we’ll get to below.
Be open to negotiation: Some clients have no idea how difficult they are and may be self-reflective enough to see this as an opportunity to grow and nurture your professional relationship. In this case, it may behoove you to work things out.