I Fired Someone and It Felt Good!

I’m not a jerk.  At least I don’t think so.  I’ve been doing web design as a part-time business for years.  As I’ve moved into the domaining space, I’ve decided to focus on only my existing clients and not pursue new ones.  There are many reasons for this, but one of them is the headache that comes along with some of the clients I’ve worked with in the past.  I say “some” because most people are great to work with.  But it’s those few that just make life so miserable that, if I could go back in time, I would  rather drive a dinner fork through may hand than to take on these people as clients.

Several weeks ago, I made some updates for one of these difficult clients and had been waiting for payment.  In a conversation a few days back, he wanted some new, unrelated changes.  I won’t go into the details, but lets just say that his perception is that I should work for free, my time has no value, and name calling is a negotiation tool.   When the conversation turned in this direction, I politely told him to keep the money he owed me and I would no longer be working with him.  End of conversation.  I fired him as a client!

It felt great!  In fact, he contacted me several times via phone, email, and chat after that, telling me I couldn’t leave him hanging in that position.  Really?

I’ve found that the difficult ones typically generate the least income and the most aggravation while taking up most of my time.  The reality is that, in any business where you provide a product or service, it’s a mutual exchange.  You are exchanging value in the form of a product or service to the customer who is providing value in the form of payment.  Why focus on anything else?

28 Comments I Fired Someone and It Felt Good!

  1. Tia Wood

    I feel your frustration and you did the right thing. I had to do that myself a few times over the years. I learned that “free work” is hardly ever appreciated and most people take advantage of it. Good for you for putting your foot down!

    1. Mike Sullivan

      @Uzoma – I thought that might come up. I did not include any names because that would not be fair with out allowing the individual a venue to speak. However, I’m not opening this up for a public argument. The point of the post is to do what’s right for the business. Which may mean cutting clients that don’t contribute to business growth. Besides, he has a blog of his own… I installed it for him 🙂

  2. Chad

    Congratulations Mike, I think getting rid of a terrible client is more enjoyable than landing a new one! Love that feeling when you get rid of those people who don’t properly value your time and effort. I’ve been doing a lot of that this year and my work has become so much more fun.

  3. Uzoma

    It’s a big allegation; he’s trying to get work done for free. If he doesn’t show up here to defend himself, he loses by default. In that case, I commend the jury, Tia, adele, Chad… for the verdict. 🙂

  4. adele pace

    I dislike ex parte hearings and hearsay.
    Hey I have a special section on my website devoted to the intracies of website development agreements, because I have seen many friends have disagreements over website development. The problem is that people don’t like using legal agreements in business because it is uncomfortable, so on my website I just flagged the issues under ‘ecommerce’ that people may not have thought about so, but which DO come up. Agreements don’t exists because the parties are litigously minded, but they do help to prevent misunderstandings on both sides. However in just like every other area of the law, particularly tech people want legal people out of the room as they want to argue about definitions, things like milestones etc. and ‘get in the way’.

  5. adele pace

    agree chad, now if there had have been a post with enough information to enable the person to be identified with some reasonable degree of accuracy, that may be different. What a ridiculous assertion..lol Is it you chad?

  6. Uzoma

    In fact Chad, there’s a third possibility: I’m neither a troll nor a tool – well it depends on what type of tool we’re talking about.

    1. Art

      No offense Uzoma, but you sound like a tool. Or someone who likes to make troubles. Seriously, if you never had a bad client, and you want to bad clients side? you need a good smack upside your head.

      This is to Allan. You sounds just like Uzoma, no difficult client? second smack is for you. Steve said you have poor understanding of business, i will re-phrashe it, you have NO understanding of business.

      Damn, for so few comments, it sure is a lot of business inept people. Lets hope thats not over all development in domain community.

  7. alan

    Sorry, no sympathy here, you did not enhance your
    reputation as a business owner by firing a “difficult”
    client. We all have to take crap from people from time
    to time but that should only strengthen a good businessmans resolve to give the best product and service which will enable you to stand out from the crowd in what is becoming a very competetive market.

    “fire” a client…..hell no, save your self respect and call him, apologize, and give him the best web design service he will ever know. If he is taking more of your time tell him that there will be aditional charges applied, ie, COMMUNICATE with him!

    There is no such thing as a “difficult” client. If you can’t
    handle a situation as you described, maybe YOU are in
    the wrong business!

    1. Mike Sullivan

      Alan, your comment is posted. The delay is that first time comments require approval. I appreciate you points. A couple of clarifications, I am no longer in the web design business and have shifted to domain investment/development… only maintaining some existing clients. Also, as I mentioned, name calling is in no way professional and not something I will tolerate in any business model.

  8. dnclips

    The 80-20 rule says that 20 percent of the clients bring 80% of your revenue. It also applies to troubles – only the 20% brings 80% of your troubles. I’ve found this rule to be more true in everyday life.

  9. steve

    Best Buy got rid of their problem clients.
    You want people returning stuff every week?

    Alan you have a poor understanding of business. In business they can go to war against you. This is not a win win but a bad client. I don’t know if you gave him any warnings like pay up or I will dump you. Or please stop using that tone of voice. If he keeps it up then dump him.

    That is why there is an 80 – 20 rule. Some customers are king and some are scumbags. You won’t hurt your rep, as anyone above moron level knows how life is.

    Unless we saw it all go down we don’t know what really happened since this is your side of ths story.
    But yes their are clients we need to get rid of because I saw it first hand with a friend.

    He let himself get turned into a commodity and lost any branding ability from then on. So no matter what he did he got yelled at. This is why big time companies are so hard to deal with and they call it professionalism. Small time players can move faster but we get stuck with low end clients who have no manners.

  10. adele pace

    Alan I have worked in Customer Relations long enough to know that no matter how professional, customer service oriented and devoted to improving service blah blah blah, there are always a small minority of customers/clients who will consume resources, and deprive other clients of the resources and attention they require.

  11. Uzoma

    I stayed up all night thinking about this.
    Then it struck me! This is a case of non-payment.

    There’s no need to re-invent the wheel. Simply send the necessary emails, or snail-mail requesting your payment, and if you don’t get it, send it to the collection agency.

    This is a common, daily occurrence in most businesses. It is nothing to get personal about.

    Therefore, I’ve reached my conclusion in this particular matter, but I will take it under submission, with all due respect to the blog owner.

  12. steve

    He already told the guy he is dropping him and no payment is owed. If he accepted payment the person could sue him for not fulfilling the contract.
    This way he can say I was never paid so I stopped work.

  13. Mike

    This reminds me of some of my clients. Yes, sometimes you have to fire the client. No one should be calling people names in business. Kudos!

  14. Mike

    @alan: NO ONE has to take crap from anyone at anytime in any place – EVER. Period. Mike did right – fire the client and move on. That client will piss off the next person – maybe it will be you. But, from your post, you’d be foolish enough to continue working for that client. Clients like that wont be in business long – check him out in a year. He’ll piss off his own clients and his own employees – sounds like a winner human being to know.

  15. adele pace

    As for the contractual aspect I guess there would be the possibility of breach of contract being argued, for parties don’t pay on the grounds that the terms of the contract (oral, written, partly oral and written) weren’t fulfilled. It would be an evidentiary matter, eg he/she stated that it was a term of the contract that he would make a me a website that functions, perform reasonable updates/modifications as I request free of charge etc
    That’s why it is important to pin these nebulous concepts down

  16. adele pace

    Just make sure if you are a client who has been given technical control of the website that you hand it back to the web developer. Some Judges don’t understand the nature of ownership of electronic rights over the internet and found a customer who wouldn’t pay or hand over the ‘website’ to the web developer guilty of theft and sent him to jail. It’s only happened once and is regarded as an aberration.


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