When to Fire a Client

Written by on Jan 19 2009

In the two years that Less Everything has been around, we’ve finally learned when to stop working with a client:

When we can’t make them happy.

It’s really that simple. Sometimes you know this at the beginning of a project and sometimes you don’t know until the middle or end, but as soon as you realize this, start taking the steps to end that relationship. Sometimes you can’t make them happy because they are asking for more than you normally offer, for us this would be a client that wants to talk two hours ever day, which is way beyond our normal service. When you realize this it is probably the right the time to require more money (you have to realize it because no client ever comes out and says “I want to talk so much that I will be an obstacle in project completion”). “We would love to keep working with you but since we’re doing things outside the way we normally work, we’ll have to charge you more.” Some clients will understand and pay more, most will be offended and walk away. Either response is a win. Realizing that your clients expectations are greater than you can provide (even greater than what’s in the contract) is the right time to fire your client. Killing yourself to do all kinds of extra stuff for a client that will take all that for granted is not good business. Just walk away. (Of course, if you have no other client, then this might better than sitting on your thumbs.)

This happened to us recently. We were talking to a really cool client who had a really cool idea for an application. We went through a very extensive “idea phase” and on the eve of signing the contract I balked and suggested they find another development team. I realized that we could create a product that we would be happy with, but that they would not be happy with it. And if we built it in a way that they would be happy, we would not be happy with it. So I suggested a few firms they could go with and wished them the best, parting as friends. This seems to be a much better ending than going through a lot of work to have no one be happy at the end, which usually leads to animosity (we’ve made that mistake before).

We’ve been doing this with Less Accounting customers since the beginning. The goal of Less Accounting is to make people happy and the approach we’ve taken to hit that goal is not for everyone. Our philosophy has always been we want people to be happy, even if that means not using Less Accounting. We gladly recommend other applications that might be better suited to an unhappy customer.


Hi I'm Steven,

I wrote the article you're reading... I lead the developers, write music, used to race motorcycles, and help clients find the right features to build on their product.

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