On Firing a Client

This is a guest post featured on Solo PR Pro from Heather Whaling of Geben Communication.

I fired a client last week. If this is some sort of “rite of passage” that every SoloPR person experiences at some point in her career, I guess I’m officially a member of the club.

While I’m a new SoloPR person — on my own since December –  I have eight-plus years of agency experience. In all that time, I’ve never had a relationship go this bad, this fast. It was quite a learning experience for me.

Without rehashing all the ugly details, this client didn’t follow through on some things on his end, which put me in a very compromising situation with a highly influential reporter/blogger and a number of other people. At the same time, he told me he wasn’t going to be able to pay me for work already performed. When I told him that I couldn’t continue working for him on this or any other project until he took care of the issues with the blogger and while these bills were outstanding, he sent me nasty emails — totally out of line and untrue.

How would you have responded? Even though the concept of firing a client may sound a little crazy, I don’t want to align myself with people like that. To me, it’s not worth it. I think WHO you work with speaks volumes. Sarah Evans once wrote that business owners need to trust their gut when deciding if a partnership or client is the right fit. I couldn’t agree more.

In fact, this was one of the most valuable lessons I learned at my last job, director of PR for Costa DeVault. Linda Costa founded her company nearly 25 years ago, and today it’s one of the top PR/marketing firms in Florida. She’s an incredibly savvy businesswoman. Working for Linda for four years taught me a lot about running a business, not the least of which is the importance of treating people the right way. Linda wouldn’t stand for clients who didn’t treat her employees with the respect they deserve. Nor would Linda do business with every potential client that came calling. Now, as a business owner myself, I can subscribe to that same approach.

This whole experience has made me realize a number of things, but most importantly, that one of the benefits of owning my own company is the ability to pick and choose the clients I work with.
As SoloPR people, we don’t have to put up with clients who are disrespectful or falling short on their end of the bargain. Being solo gives us the flexibility to work with people, causes and clients that we truly believe in. It’s easily one of the best things about working for myself. While this week has been challenging, it’s also been an excellent learning experience about the types of clients I want to align myself with.

I’d love to your perspective: How do you handle clients and prospects that don’t align with your personal approach to business?

Heather Whaling is an award-winning, seasoned communicator, fusing strategic thinking, strong writing skills and creativity to deliver public relations, social media and marketing results. She launched Geben Communication to work more closely with nonprofit organizations and small businesses. Additionally, Heather co-moderates #pr20chat, a weekly exploration of social media’s influence on public relations. Connect with her on her blog, Twitter or via email at heather@gebencommunication.com.

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