Navigating the complexities of client relationships is a fundamental challenge for Online Business Managers (OBMs), Virtual Assistants (VAs), and Operations Managers. Balancing the needs of your clients with your own business goals is a tightrope walk, and knowing when to let go of a client can be one of the most difficult decisions you face. This blog post delves into 10 key reasons why it might be time to say goodbye to a client, helping you ensure your work remains fulfilling and profitable.

What this post covers:

    • Low Budget
    • Availability
    • Relationship Deterioration
    • Specialisation
    • Boredom
    • Micromanagement
    • Client Unavailability
    • Business Changes
    • Life and Family Situations
    • Career Pivot

Tune in to listen:

1. Low Budget

The financial viability of your business hinges on fair compensation for your services. If a client’s budget is consistently too low, it can impede your ability to grow. Sometimes, you might have clients from when you started who are on a lower rate. If attempts to renegotiate fail, it may be time to let them go. Working at a low rate can restrict your ability to invest in your business and yourself, ultimately affecting your service quality.

“If you’re working with a client and you’re charging them a low rate and they have a low budget, then you might consider firing them. Of course, you can give them the option to increase your rate. Maybe the rate that they’re on now is a grandfathered rate. You started working with them so many years ago and it was a lower rate and you never increased it. And now you feel like you’re stuck in that rate.

2. Availability

When you first took on a client, you had a specific amount of time and resources to commit. However, circumstances change. If your business has grown or if a client’s needs have increased beyond what you can manage, there’s a mismatch. Trying to manage too many high-need clients can lead to burnout and reduced service quality. Assess whether you can offer the level of support they require or if it’s best to part ways.

“Now, let’s say, your client has grown, their business is bigger now, and they need more from you, but you don’t have space. Or let’s say that your business has grown, you have more clients, so you don’t have as much available capacity to be able to commit to as much support as they need. And if there’s that mismatch, there’s going to be friction.”

3. Relationship Deterioration

Healthy client relationships are built on mutual respect and good communication. When these erode, it might be time to reconsider the partnership. Life events, business stress, or other factors can cause relationships to deteriorate. If this leads to consistent friction or toxic interactions, it’s unhealthy for both you and the client. Prolonged negativity can affect your mental health and the overall atmosphere of your work environment.

“You might have started working with a client and it was incredible. It was a match made in business heaven. But, over time, it’s deteriorated. And there might be valid reasons for this. Maybe there’s life circumstances. Maybe business circumstances. Things are very, very stressful. Or, maybe there’s mental health reasons. There’s all different reasons that relationships can deteriorate and that people can start behaving in a different way than what you’re used to. But that doesn’t mean that you have to deal with it.”

4. Specialisation

As you advance in your career, you might find yourself drawn to a specific niche or industry. Initially, you may have taken on a wide variety of clients. However, specialising allows you to become an expert in a particular area, providing higher quality services. If certain clients don’t fit this specialisation and there’s no room for transition, it might be time to let them go to focus on your niche.

“As an OBM, you’ve decided that you want to specialise and you want to focus on clients in a specific niche or a different industry. When you started, you worked with all different kinds of clients, different types of industries, businesses, niches. But now you’ve worked out that you really, really love marketing support. So you only want to work with clients who give you marketing support work, where you can learn more about that, where you can expand the skills you’ve given, where you can add marketing strategy and strategic advice to the role.”

5. Boredom

Stagnation can be detrimental to the driven, highly organised professional who thrives on learning and challenge. If the work has become mundane and doesn’t offer any new challenges or opportunities for growth, it can lead to dissatisfaction. As a professional who values improvement, seeking out new, more stimulating opportunities might be necessary for your own growth and enthusiasm.

6. Micromanagement

Autonomy is crucial for professionals in managerial roles. Excessive micromanagement can hinder your effectiveness and create frustration. Clients who insist on overseeing every detail can stifle your creativity and efficiency. Micromanagement often stems from a lack of trust, which can make the working environment uncomfortable. If efforts to build trust fail, it might be time to find clients who respect your expertise and allow you the freedom to operate independently.

“The sixth reason you might be considering walking away from a client is because they are micromanaging you and are controlling. I hear this time and time again from OBMs. They cannot understand why some clients feel the need to micromanage every single task and breathe down their necks and check every piece of work. And sometimes even jump to conclusions before any action has been taken. You haven’t even let me make a mistake yet and you’re assuming I’m going to.”

7. Client Unavailability

Effective communication is the cornerstone of successful project management. If a client is frequently unavailable, making it difficult to get the necessary information or approvals, your ability to deliver quality service is compromised. Consistent delays due to a client’s busy schedule can cause frustration and inefficiency.

“The client is busy. And always too busy. If you have a client that is too busy to even talk to you, or a client that cannot finish their sentences because they’re too busy doing other things, and then it means that you never have what you need to do your job properly, and things are constantly feeling haphazard or half done, that’s because your client needs to take a step back.”

8. Business Changes

Clients’ businesses evolve, and their needs may outgrow your capacity or area of expertise. If a client’s business expands or pivots in a direction that no longer aligns with your skills or service offerings, it might be beneficial to part ways. This allows you to focus on clients within your competency, ensuring you provide the best service possible.

“Maybe the client’s business has changed. When I started working with this client, I was doing certain things and it was great. I had my fingers in all pieces of the pie and it worked really well. Now, my client’s business has grown and expanded and I don’t have the skill to keep up anymore. Maybe as an OBM, what your client needs or wants, or what the business demands, you can’t provide anymore because it’s changed.”

9. Life and Family Situations

Changes in personal circumstances for either you or your client can impact your working relationship. Personal life changes, such as moving, starting a family, or other significant events, can alter availability and capacity. If these changes make it difficult to maintain a productive working relationship, it may be a sign to end the professional engagement.

10. Career Pivot

If you’re considering a major shift in your business model or career path, some client relationships may no longer be a good fit. Whether you’re planning to adopt a new service model, enter a new industry, or radically change your business operations, existing clients may not fit into your new direction. It’s important to align your client base with your new objectives to ensure consistency and clarity in your business approach.

Over to You

Understanding when to let go of a client is vital for maintaining the balance between professional success and personal well-being. It’s essential for OBMs, VAs, and Operations Managers to periodically reassess their client roster to ensure it aligns with their business goals, personal values, and quality of life. Remember, making room for the right clients can lead to more fulfilling and profitable business relationships.

For more insights on managing client relationships and growing a profitable business, tune into the full episode of The Audacious OBM Podcast 48 where we dive deeper into these 10 key reasons and share practical advice for implementing these strategies in your own business.

Have you ever had to fire a client? What was the tipping point for you, and how did it impact your business afterward? Share your experiences in the comments below or send us a message.

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