I do love my clients. I love the process of working with them to decide if we are a good fit. I love the support that I am able to provide within our relationship. I love tracking things intuitively and advising them as they go. I am a happy little clam over here, serving folks that I genuinely like.
I hope that this is also true for you!
But I wonder if you’ve noticed something along the way, as I have.
Have you noticed that sometimes – sometimes – things don’t always go as we had hoped and you find yourself thinking about a client relationship and you realize, “Our work here is done.”
It could be that your client cancels his appointments, frequently, at the last minute.
It could be that her team isn’t giving you the leads she had promised.
It could be that you feel as though the advice that you’re giving – the strategy you’re preparing, the plan that you’re developing – is falling somewhere just left of centre, never quite “landing” with your client.
It could be that they’re not paying you.
It could be that your communication styles are, quite simply, incompatible.
It could be that you just don’t feel the same “buzz” you get from your work with other clients, and that even though you just can’t quite put your finger on it, exactly, you get a sense that the two of you just aren’t jiving.
And sometimes it is more overt. Sometimes people can be aggressive. Or passive. Or passive-aggressive. Sometimes folks can even bully us (yes, bullying happens outside the playground too!).
And sometimes maybe it’s karma. Or dharma. Or your sun signs are opposing or something.
But whatever it is, even when you know that your work with someone is just done, it’s not always easy to end that relationship.
Maybe you’re like a client we once worked with – let’s call her Joan. Joan hired us for a project, and part of that project was to help her create a transition plan into her new work and dreams so that she could leave a toxic client relationship upon which she was currently financially dependent.
Want to hear something funny? Within 5 weeks of our project beginning, Joan landed 2 new clients doing the work she loved doing, and the toxic client she wanted to transition away from actually “just happened to” release her from their contract themselves. She didn’t even have to fire them!
Did this mean that Joan didn’t worry about where the money would come from to replace that income that the toxic client had been paying her?
No. But, it meant she worried less because there were already 2 new clients with money in hand, showing her that it was indeed possible to release the old and move on with the new.
Another client of ours spent several months in turmoil about releasing a client from their contract, even though he wasn’t being paid on time (if at all) and the relationship was faltering. To make matters worse, his client refused to even address the financial short-fall or enter into a conversation about how and when he intended to pay what he owed.
Our client took a deep breath and fired the client. It wasn’t easy. They’d had a long and up-until-recently positive relationship. But he did it because he was tired of chasing him for the money he had earned and that was owed to him.
And the result?
While it wasn’t exactly immediate, it was within 2 months that he found new clients to replace that income – and they paid him! On time. Every time.
And then there was the time that I let a client go, not because I didn’t adore them, but because quite honestly, I didn’t feel I could serve them. I tried. I did my very best. But it simply wasn’t working no matter how we tried to work on it – because we did talk about it openly and we did try to find a way.
Sometimes, despite our due diligence in the sales process, we find that we aren’t actually a good fit for a client, and that’s okay, too, just as long as we share that openly and do our own work to ensure we’re “clean” with our decision.
I have come to trust that when our work with one client is done, another client will appear. It will be eighteen years this June that I have been in business for myself, serving clients, and there’s just no denying this truth.
And I am writing about this today because there’s a lot of letting go happening lately, a lot of folks around me releasing clients and work situations that just aren’t working for them, and in case you, too, may be considering releasing a client or two from your own roster, let me assure you: When the work is done, it’s done. For whatever the reason, let it go. Exit gracefully. Be in integrity and await the new clients who are on their way.