Let’s face it.
We were not all designed to get along with one another, and certainly not all of the time.
This is not only true of personal relationships but business ones too.
Of course, you don’t have to be bosom buddies to have a healthy business relationship with your clients, but there should at least be some mutual respect and ideally a degree of ’likeability’.
Unfortunately, sometimes both the physical and emotional cost of dealing with certain clients can be too high, so it is a good idea to know when it’s time to walk away.
Depending on the circumstances, the following signs should act as indicators that it is time to move on.
1. Late payers
Late payers can kill small businesses dead in the water, so as soon as you notice there is a problem; tackle it there and then.
It might be a simple issue which can easily be ironed out.
But either way it needs to be resolved sooner rather than later.
Never be shy about being upfront with issues relating to money.
And remember, if you let it carry on; late payers can easily turn into non-payers.
There is absolutely no need for clients to ever be personally rude, insulting or aggressive.
So, if you or your employees are subject to client behaviour which is unacceptable and upsetting, then this must be nipped in the bud.
Start as you mean to go on and make sure the working boundaries about what is and what is not acceptable are in place right at the start of the relationship.
3. Constantly moving goal posts
It is not unusual for projects to change and evolve over time, but make sure this eventuality is taken into account in the agreement before you begin any work.
Agree in advance exactly what you are being paid for along with timescales and revision terms.
Otherwise you could easily end up doing a lot more work for less or even no pay at all.
Clients who constantly move goal posts are not ideal, and if you have one at least do your best to ensure the risks can be mitigated.
Otherwise projects will over run and your other clients may suffer.
4. Not the right fit
Sometimes for a myriad of reasons you just don’t gel with a client and vice versa.
It can come down to a simple mismatch of values and beliefs (see point 5 below) or just a different style of working. It doesn’t mean either of you are ‘wrong’, it just means it wasn’t meant to be.
But whatever you do, don’t stay in the relationship if it isn’t working.
What’s the point?
Your work will suffer and at the end of the day remember; your portfolio is your reputation is your business.
5. Work which constantly goes against your core values and beliefs
You won’t do a good job unless you ‘believe’ in or at least ‘get’ the product or the cause you are ‘selling’.
And don’t for one minute think you are not in the business of selling; being a copywriter means you are acting as a salesperson, just using a different medium than the doorstep or the cold call.
Okay, you don’t have to have an evangelical zeal about the project you are working on, but it should not go against your core values, beliefs or behaviours.
If you are opposed to animal cruelty you are hardly going to write an award winning piece for ‘Foie Gras Are Us’ are you.
6. Too much take and not enough give
Energy vampires exist in the business world just as they do elsewhere.
Just because you have a client relationship, it does not mean it should be all one way traffic and your client can suck you dry whenever they feel like it.
You are on equal terms with your clients and never forget that. You are providing a service and in exchange they are paying you. You are not there to be your client’s whipping boy or metaphorical punch bag.
Never allow yourself to be bullied.
If you feel it is time to move on (and you have already tried to address the issues to no avail) then be a professional about it, after all, it’s nothing personal…it’s strictly business.
Refer to the terms of the contract if need be (which should have a workable termination clause), and tactfully explain why you believe the relationship is no longer working out and therefore not in the mutual interests of either party.
It is not a crime to ditch a client, sometimes it is the only way to ensure you are running a healthy business.
If done professionally and diplomatically, hopefully both parties will learn something positive from the experience.