Marketing / Customer service

Why I fired my client and what I learnt

Today was a bad day. I love my clients and protect them all fiercely. In my 19 year legal career I’ve never had to fire one, until today.


What drove me to fire? 

Having an online business means that clients sometimes expect more for less, sooner rather than later. Client X was a startup entrepreneur who required several telephone discussions prior to deciding to become a customer. He purchased a package legal template from our site, and then started phoning on the pretext that his query related to the template, which unfortunately it wasn’t. 

When Client X first started contacting us, he was very polite and courteous, but every call was over an hour, just to ‘check something’. It began draining our time so we advised him that any further ‘quick’ questions would be billed on legal time costing. 

Then one day Client X contracted us to complete some custom legal work. We conducted the normal work scope, agreed on a project work outline, and provided a time estimate for each piece of the work. 

As the work progressed, Client X added in ‘just one more thing’ at each level, which we advised would cost more. When it came time to issue an interim invoice, the investment was naturally higher, but our client didn’t want to pay it. So after a lot of discussion with the team, we decided to cut the cord, pull the plug, fold the hand, cork the leakage (everyone had a different description for it), and fire our client. 

"If not managed correctly, issues like this can pull your business down. It’s okay to say goodbye to a client. "

Want more articles like this? Check out the customer service section.

The lessons I learnt 

  • Manage expectations early 

Establish your working parameters with your client early in your relationship. Agree on the project scope, phases and payments, and make it clear that anything outside of this detailed plan will cost more. 

  • Identify and manage any issues immediately 

The earlier you identify issues, the better. You can save time, energy and money, while possibly preserving the business relationship. So address any issues directly and quickly. 

  • Have clear written Terms and Conditions 

Ensure you have very clear Terms and Conditions for any agreed project or work. 

  • Regularly update clients on costs 

Keep your clients informed so that there are no nasty surprises. Interim invoices are an excellent way to help your clients understand and manage expenses. 

  • Know when to walk away 

Protect your business. If not managed correctly, issues like this can pull your business down. It’s okay to say goodbye to a client. 

If a client is firing you up for all the wrong reasons, it might be time to fire them for all the right reasons. Just do it early, politely and cleanly. And move on. 

Do you have your own story, tips or advice to share? Have you ever fired or been close to firing a client? Or have you salvaged a rocky relationship?

Vanessa Emilio

is a Practice Director, Lawyer, Founder and CEO of Legal123.com.au, a legal website business with easy-to-use, inexpensive legal templates, forms and agreements for everyday Australians as well as lots of useful information.


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