What?!??  Why would you want to fire a client?

The reasons are numerous, including:

  • The client is horrible to work with.
  • You hate the type of work.
  • It doesn’t pay.
  • The client is never happy.

The bottom line: you get to choose who you work for, the type of work you do and how much you charge.

A few weeks ago, we discussed the 3 Signs It’s Time to Fire a Client.  This topic generated a lot of comments, especially from people who already knew they needed to “fire” a bride or groom…they just wanted to know HOW.

The tricky part is getting rid of an unwanted client without destroying your reputation.  Yes!  It can be done.  Here’s how.

Warning: I have not tested all of these methods myself, so use your best judgment and proceed with caution.

4 Ways to Break Up With a Client

1. Prequalify and dump them before they hire you.

This is your first line of defense.  When you learn how to powerfully attract your ideal clients, also include elements in your marketing that deliberately identify and alienate the clients you don’t want to work with.

For example, if your problem clients are the budget shoppers who nickel and dime you over every service but want the moon, include a starting price that’s high enough to filter them out.

Or if you can’t stand working with uptight brides, include photos that strike fear into their hearts. One photographer features a photo on her website of the bride’s mud-caked Manolo pumps.  It’s guaranteed to send uptight, perfectionist brides screaming.

2. Raise your price.

An easy way to breakup with past or repeat clients you’ve outgrown is to raise your price.

Many wedding professionals (ourselves included) started off with a price at or below average.  As your reputation grows, so does demand, but it’s easy to feel trapped into continuing your original cheap pricing for clients who’ve been with you over the years.

Simply raise your price and many of them will go elsewhere on their own.  Those who stay are the ones who really appreciate what you do.

Here’s a script you can use to manage this breakup with current clients.

Breakup Phone Script – The Price Increase

“I’m so grateful to have you as a client!  Because we’ve expanded our services so much over the past few years, we’re raising our prices on January 15th.  The good news is that you can book us at our current rate until then.”

The has the double benefit of providing advance notice about your pricing change as well as drumming up some quick sales from people who might be on the fence.

3. Call it off before they sign the contract.

You meet with the couple, quote your rates and send them away with a contract.  But you’ve got “that feeling” that working with them is going to be a nightmare, and it just won’t go away.  You need to break up with them FAST.

Quoting your price does NOT mean you are obligated to work with the couple.

Catch them before the contract is signed and save yourself the headache later on.  Here are a few ways to do it:

Breakup Email or Letter – “No longer available…”

I have used this approach successfully on many occasions when the alarm bells of “Don’t book this couple!” go off.  It’s not a lie (I’m choosing to be no longer available) and it doesn’t require entering into icky territory that can lead to offense.

Hi, [Name]!

Thanks so much for meeting with me last week.  I really enjoyed learning about your [description of the wedding, dress, or ideas that will surely flatter them].

Unfortunately, [I’m no longer available for your date / something personal and unexpected has come up and I’m no longer available for your wedding.]  I’m really sorry we won’t be able to work together.

However, I’m happy to recommend some amazing [photographers/entertainers/planners, etc.] who would be a great match for you:

Referral #1
Referral #2
Referral #3

I wish you all the best with your wedding plans!

Breakup Email or Letter- “We’re just not the right match.”

This script was inspired by Janine Duff’s eloquent and honest client breakup letters.

Hi, [Name].

Thanks so much for chatting with me about your wedding awesomeness!  I really enjoyed learning about your [description of the wedding, dress, or ideas that will surely flatter them].

I’ve been thinking about your amazing ideas for a while and here’s the thing: I promised myself that if I couldn’t deliver what a client wants 100% with all my heart, I’d send them off to someone who can.

I think that’s the right move here.  [I’m just not the perfect match for your style / my specialty really doesn’t encompass what you want / I’m just too overloaded to give you the attention you deserve.]  I’m completely flattered that you want to work with me, but I’m just not the right fit for your dream wedding.

You deserve to work with someone who is as over the moon about your wedding vision as you are.

Here are some superstar [photographers/entertainers/planners, etc.] who are right up your alley:

Referral #1
Referral #2
Referral #3

Thanks again for finding me and I wish you an unbelievable wedding day!

4. Cancel the contract.

This is the toughest scenario of all.  You have a signed contract and collected a deposit or retainer fee.  What can you do?

First of all, you simply MUST have a terms of service and cancellation clause in your contract that allows for this type of cancellation.  Without it, you’re on shaky ground.

Read this article about how to cancel a contract from Rachel Brenke of the Law Tog and consult with an attorney to discover if your current contract needs revision.

Critical principles to remember here:

  • Communicate clearly about exactly what you’ve done, the terms of your cancellation and what you plan to do about it.
  • Refund all deposit and retainer fees as long as no work was begun.  It’s a good idea to write off your time invested and any minor expenses if possible.  Remember: this is going to save you a heap of trouble in the long run!
  • Call first before jumping into legalese.  Sending a breach of contract or contract cancellation document can stir up trouble and lead to bad reviews if you don’t engage in non-confrontational communication first.
  • Compromise to avoid conflict.  Swallow your pride, keep yourself cool and be the bigger person.
  • Get your agreed cancellation terms on paper and/or get a signed cancellation of contract to be 100% clear.
  • Find another wedding professional who is available to give as a referral.  This is proof of your willingness to help and may take out some of the sting.

No doubt about it: this is going to be a challenging phone call.  That’s why it’s vitally important that you script it out completely and practice what you’re going to say first.  If you can’t say it with calm professionalism, wait a few days until you can.

Breakup Phone Script – Cancelling the Contract

“Hi, [Name].  This is [Your Name] from [Company.]

I’ve loved working with you on your wedding.  However, I’ve been noticing some problems with our working relationship.  It isn’t easy to say, but I think you’d be better off working with someone else.

We’ve already completed and delivered [list everything you’ve done so far].  What I’d like to do is [list the actions you’re going to take, including any refunds, remaining deliverables, and a cancellation of contract].

Did I leave anything out?”

[Pause for their response.  You may need to compromise here, so be prepared.]

“Great.  I’m going to send you an email confirming our cancellation agreement as well my #1 referral.  [Name of pro] is available and ready to take over from here, and I think you love [him/her.]

Breakup Letter #5 – “Breaking up is hard to do.”

This script was inspired by Janine Duff (see above) and Nicholas Reese’s Scripts For Problem Clients.  Remember that you’ll still need to address the legal issues according to the terms of your contract and call them first to discuss!

Hi, [Name].

I’ve been so impressed with your ideas and enthusiasm for the wedding!  After a lot of long and hard thought, it’s come to my attention that we’re just not on the same page.
You deserve to have the very best match for your wedding, and I’m not it.  I’d like to end our agreement in a way that works for both of us.

As we discussed, here’s the work we’ve completed so far:

1. Deliverable 1
2. Deliverable 2
3. Deliverable 3

Here are the action steps you can expect from here:

1. Anything you have yet to do or deliver.
2. Date by which you’ll send the contract cancellation.
3. Refunding of any deposit or retainer.

As you move forward in looking for another wedding professional, here are some superstar [photographers/entertainers/planners, etc.] who are right up your alley:

Referral #1
Referral #2
Referral #3

Thanks for your understanding and I wish you an unbelievable wedding day!

Avoiding the Fall Out

If your communication has been clear and professional, chances are you’ve ripped the Bandaid off and you’re in the clear.  If the bride or groom does retaliate, here’s how to recover fast from a bad review.

Keep those lines of communication open.  Remember that your contract is there to support and protect you, but the relationship with your client comes first.  Don’t be afraid to throw it out the window if it’s the right thing to do.

What do you think about “firing” a client?

photo credit: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious via photopin cc