Last week on the blog, I talked about what to do if you have to fire a client. This week, we’re flipping the tables! Because, unfortunately, clients can also fire YOU as their designer! It’s painful when it happens, so you need to be prepared. Here are the top things you should do if you’re fired by your client:
Take a Deep Breath
Before you lose your cool, take a deep breath. You need to think about this without emotion – or as calmly as you can! It isn’t going to help anything if you blow your top. You need to be very professional in this situation and take the emotional meter down as low as you can. We may want to just scorch the earth, but that’s rarely the right response. Remember that this person could go around and tell other potential clients how terrible you are, and that’s the last thing you want.
Ask yourself a few questions. First (and be honest!), was there a reason and were you the one at fault? If the answer is that it’s all on you, then you need to apologize and try to make it right. If you were not the one at fault, can you still help them make it right? That will make you look like a star! If you have no idea what’s going on, you need to call the client and talk to them. This is NOT the time to email or text. Try to very calmly get to the bottom of what happened. But keep your questions neutral and professional.
Do you REALLY want the client back, or is it a relief that you’ve been fired? (Do a gut check!) If you don’t want to work with them, this is a good time to quietly bow out. Thank them for the time you’ve been together and give them notes on where things stand at that point. If you’re owed money, be sure to invoice them for time and materials. Don’t avoid getting paid just because you want to avoid the situation.
Either way, you want to keep every single piece of communication professional and unemotional. You may also want your lawyer to look at how you respond, to be sure you aren’t in contract breach, that the client isn’t in contract breach, and that you aren’t admitting a fault that could cost you in the long run. But you want to take the steam out of the issue as much as possible. Any way that you can end things gracefully are going to help you in the long run because you’ll (hopefully) keep the client from telling everyone how unhappy she was with you.
I’ve actually had an awful situation with an angry client turn completely around so that we ended the project in a great way – AND they hired me again! The key was to do everything I could to try to make it right – that doesn’t mean I paid for others’ mistakes. But I have helped find solutions, workarounds, and new ideas so that the client could be happy again. And if I made a mistake, you better believe I paid to correct it.
So many mistakes can be corrected by managing your clients’ expectations up front. I know I offered this last week, but it’s important that you really do download my FREE Guide to Setting Client Expectations!