Why I Fired A Client

Hey, there!

In our attempts to gather customers, to super serve them, to make sure they are happy, to completely satisfy them, to surprise and delight them — there is an exception to be made.

And that is the client that must be fired.

Why would you do that? Read on.

I have a client, who just started taking my free Getting Started in Voice Over class, and who I became — concerned about.

Oh, he started off just fine. He said he excited about learning, open to my message, happy to have a mentor.

Then, the pain started.

It started when he sent me his demo — one that is not competitive in the marketplace. And I told him so. I also encouraged him to think about how to make it better and told him how I looked forward to helping him upgrade his tools, including this demo of his.

Instead of being open to that, he responded that he’d be very appreciative if I gave him credit for how hard he’d worked on it, how he’d taught himself how to add music and effects, and how he’d followed the rules of demo-making.

(Never mind that the rules he quoted were news to me.)

He went on to say that he’d recently read an article about finding the right VO teacher and producer, and that article stated clearly that he needed to find someone who works with you, not against you.

And by the way, he’d booked a job with that demo. And that I should listen to it again, and “see the good points” in it.

I recognized immediately that I had a client who might have to be fired. But not just yet.

I wanted to respond, to make sure that he understood my approach to coaching, and that his efforts were laudable, but the result simply wasn’t. I said that the job that he booked, since it was based on an audition, might not have even included a review of this demo.

(If you’re reading this and are already a client or student of mine, you already know that my approach is supportive, but honest and to the point. And I don’t want to waste a second of your time in getting you to a place of success.)

Then, his reply landed in my inbox.

It included a few choice words about how he “would appreciate a more positive approach to the way that you deal with me seeing that I am an amateur as well as self-taught myself to add music and sound effects etc. I completed that demo on my own and myself and others (including those at Voice123 who I asked to be COMPLETLEY (sic) honest) did not think it was half-bad.”

Well, that was that.

What I had on my hands was someone who didn’t even know yet what they didn’t know, and really wasn’t interested in finding out, and someone who wanted a sycophant as opposed to a mentor.

Sure, I could have gone another round with him. Or a few more rounds with him.

But the 80/20 rule was staring me in the face: I would be spending a lot more time trying to be super super nice, as opposed to being effective — for him and for my other clients.

Why do I share this with you?

Because you might find yourself in a similar situation with a client — someone who comes to you with a script that needs produced, or a book that needs voiced, or a web series that needs narration — and who becomes much more of a management project than a VO project.

Remember, you have every right to choose what kind of client you want to work with.

And what kind of client you want to fire.

I do insist that you make sure that you explore a reasonable number of options to make things productive.

Maybe it’s just a miscommunication that can be righted with a clearer explanation.

But if you find someone insisting on being right, someone fighting for credit for or inclusion of unworthy work, someone micromanaging your performance, or someone who isn’t pulling in the same direction you are, gracefully parting ways with them and wishing them well is not something to avoid.

And that client of mine? He wrote me one more time, asking when I was going to respond to him.

I did. Nicely. And I doubt he’ll ever know what he might have missed out on.

And now, I can spend more time with you. :-)

Have you ever felt like firing a client? Did you? How did you do it? Join in the conversation below.

Hope this helps.


9 Responses to Why I Fired A Client

  1. Lance Blair April 2, 2014 at 5:09 am #

    Agreed. Moving on from people who won’t meet you at least half way is the best policy. This week I fired a client I worked with for a few years because they refused to listen. Half the emails they sent to me started with ‘ Hello Blair Lance’ to start with. They are a translation house that works with very complex new medical trials in Japan. On every project I politely asked for a pronunciation guide, as I couldn’t find half the terms anywhere – not even in medical guides or, etc. They never supplied one. Instead, they would ask me to fix the wrong words when they got feedback from the Japanese client. The pay was good on the surface, but not good in the amount of time and frustration that went into the projects. Plus, it would affect my ability to be ‘in the zone’ for other projects. So Monday morning, they sent me the worst script yet. I told them to please not contact me again specifically because they never sent me pronunciation guides.

    They wrote back and said they were sorry to see me go, and wondered why, claiming that I did not give any clear reasons.

    Some people just don’t listen! You can’t provide a professional service to people like that.

  2. Steve April 2, 2014 at 6:01 am #

    David, I had a client. An advertising agency. One of the big ones. Well maybe I should say, they have a LOT of clients and employees.
    I was a Voice Talent on their roster for many many years. Made some decent money with them.
    But, they took FOREVER to pay! Oh sure I’d get a call at 5:30 on a Friday that they had a “punch” to a script that they needed right away.
    But then it would take 6 months to get paid for it!
    Even though this agency boasts hundreds of millions in sales per year, they habitually delay payment to vendors. And they treat all their vendors this way.
    It’s standard practice for them!
    I still have Invoices dating back for almost 2 years that they haven’t paid! And every one of the Voice Talent I talk with who does business with them, says the same thing. They do this, because they can! This agency knows that if someone files a collection case against them, they’ll be removed from the Talent roster, and excluded in future work. You’re cut off! Then they find someone else who’s willing to be dragged along forever. It’s clearly NOT a Union house, although they do some Union work. So I finally said, enough. It became too much to manage them. I’d send Invoices 3 – 4 times. And detailed account statements. Then a month later they’d ask for them again. Just stall tactics to further delay payment. This is a very large ad agency we’re talking about here! Sure I’d like to keep the business. But at what point is it more hassle than it’s worth?

  3. Kendra Hoffman April 2, 2014 at 7:34 am #

    I’ve done this. I’m generally happy to help new VO, as a way to pay back for all the help that’s been given to me. But one potential VO was so focused on getting a demo made that he was deaf to all suggestions of training – not even necessarily training from me. He didn’t want to read articles or explore websites I suggested, but then would ask questions that were well covered in the sources I’d given him, wasting our time.

    He too had booked one job already. I wonder if there is a pattern there? That a taste of early success may have a detrimental effect on openness to advice? Or perhaps the successful VOs are the ones plagued with self-doubt. =)

  4. Dan McGowan April 2, 2014 at 8:01 am #

    Great words here – that I think also ring true for just about every relationship in this wacky creative world we work in. Thanks for sharing this honest re-telling… I’m sure it will speak to others as it did to me.

  5. k April 3, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    i certainly have fired a client! i work in telephonic advertising (20-40 second “advertisements” delivered via telephone from companies to whom someone has given their number) quite a bit and had a client that would consistently change “small things” in the script and not want to pay for revisions beyond an initial free re-do.

    after a couple of engagements like this, i told them that i wasn’t the voice talent for them and “appreciated their business but would no longer be serving the account”

    they came back a month later apologizing and agreed to a redo fee…
    and oh yea… in the meantime, i’d hiked my price by more than 100%… and they paid it! :)

  6. M December 27, 2016 at 3:15 am #

    Great article! I too have had to fire a client. Like one of the previous comments it was due to not paying invoices. I got all the way to the accounting department, the accountant let it slip that my invoice had no PO numbers meaning that they never entered my bills in the system to be paid. Even after that, they asked for more VO, to which I stated that I need a PO number prior to me voicing anything going forward and I discussed their low rate since prior they were taking several phones and emails plus upwards of 6 months to pay me. The response I got back was that, “Other voice over talent would be honored to work with us (a large market TV affiliate) for free. At least you get to put our name on your resume.” Needless to say that was the end of our relationship.

    On the other hand, I keep meeting people looking to get into voice over that act this way. I try to stress the importance of training and they feel like they know everything already and I’m hiding information from them. They want to skip all steps and somehow, they want me to “put them to work.” I’m not a VO coach and explain that as well. I make suggestions of coaches, websites and in the end usually have to block these people because they just don’t give up and they refuse to listen. The time invested is just not worth it.

  7. Benjamin Patten December 27, 2016 at 8:18 am #

    I also taught myself how too add music to a demo so i could to try to be competitive. But the thing is, I am always open to constructive criticism and any advice i can get to make me better. Why hire a coach like David if your glass is full. I am honored i could learn so much from David. So i can understand why he fired a client for that. Glad i met met you David and look forward to more lessons.

  8. Tim Mac December 27, 2016 at 9:32 am #

    Great article David. Here’s something I posted to the PLF Facebook group a few weeks ago describing a recent experience…
    I fired a client today… a big one. Unacceptable behavior is just that, unacceptable, and it’s not tolerated. What they did is unimportant here, just know it was a series of things and you would have been p____ too, probably more than I was. But here’s the deal, my thought is you either have standards or you don’t, there is no middle ground. There is grace of course, and lots of it… but only up to a point. Of course, firing a client is not something I do often, and never lightly. Sure, I could have just ‘conveniently been busy’ when they called in the future, which they would have, but I thought it better to simply tell them I preferred they find someone else to work with. It was the right thing to do… for me. And btw, it felt good. Not the firing of course, but knowing that I was and am true to myself and the standards I have. There is no point in having standards if you fail to hold yourself and those around you to them… that only leads to weakness, not knowing who you are and what you’re all about, and chasing after inferior clients and work instead of trusting in yourself, knowing your worth and the value you bring to the relationship, and letting that draw high value clients and work to you… Never chase after clients. Be selective as to who your clients are. Build a reputation as THE trusted source of value in your niche, have standards, hold yourself and your clients to them, and you’ll find the clients will be drawn to you.

  9. Stephanie December 28, 2016 at 4:53 pm #

    I totally agree, sometimes it’s better for both parties to say “I don’t think I’m the right person for this project/job/offer” and then move on. It works in all business relationships and doesn’t burn bridges.

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