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Sometimes, a client relationship just doesn’t work out. Maybe the client is too demanding, has unrealistic expectations, pays late or just isn’t a good fit with your company. When it’s clear a working relationship is no longer sustainable, it’s time to cut ties in a professional and straightforward manner.
Your letter should come from you on company letterhead. Time the letter delivery so you give the recipient enough time to find a replacement for your services. Address the individual you work with, lead with an acknowledgement of the relationship, then get right to the point. “While it has been my pleasure to be your public relations representative for the past five years, effective May 1, 2015, I will no longer be able to serve in that capacity.”
Offer an Explanation
Explaining why you’re firing a client can be tricky, particularly if the relationship was acrimonious, or if you’re concerned the client may talk poorly about you to others. One option is to be frank and state the specific reason. “Unfortunately, I’m afraid we have vastly different philosophies about meeting deadlines and publication schedules, and I no longer feel I can be an effective advocate for you in this position.”
If you prefer to be less confrontational, a more generic excuse can avoid hard feelings. For example, “I’m afraid I have over-extended myself and am forced to cut back on the number of clients I represent.”
Offer a Completion Timetable
Unless a client has behaved in a terribly unprofessional manner that requires immediate severing of ties, establish a timetable for completing outstanding projects. “As planned, I will have your completed press kits delivered by the end of the month. I will also update the press archives on your website and provide you with both digital and hard copies of the various speeches and presentations I’ve written for you over the past several years. A final bill is attached for your convenience."
Make a Referral
If your client was just not a good fit for you, but could be a valued asset to a colleague, offer to make a referral. “I’d like to refer you to a colleague, Jane Smith of ABC Public Relations. She has a good deal of experience handling clients in your industry and I think your personalities and business philosophies would be a good match. If you’d like me to arrange a meeting, I’d be happy to set one up.”
Write a Cordial Close
Bring your letter to an end cordially and professionally. Offer to further discuss the matter by phone if the client prefers. “Again, thank you for the opportunity to represent your company. If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything in person, please feel free to contact me directly. I wish you continued success in all of your professional endeavors.”
If you have any qualms about firing a client from a legal perspective, ask an attorney to review the terms of your contract before writing the letter. You don’t want to breach a written agreement, fail to fulfill duties you agreed to or fail to give proper notice.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.