Firing Atilla the Hun
Published on October 15, 2000
Enter, Atilla the Hun. That client who is never satisfied, no matter how well we perform. It's difficult not to view this client as a witless, thankless, pushy piece of work whom we would happily hand an anvil if we found them gurgling away in quicksand.
This type of situation is almost always due to a client insisting that everything be redone until our profit margin and patience have shrunk to an all-time low. Even fewer in number are those who are simply nasty people, and become verbally abusive. In either case, it may be time to consider firing the client.
Your contract must be squeaky clean. You have followed all procedures, kept all logs of time spent, client changes requested, and all correspondence (including and especially the nasty stuff). You're ready to approach the client about the problem with contract in hand.
Be polite and calm. Don't let yourself get emotionally distraught or be goaded into a heated debate. Stick to the facts. Explain point blank to the client what the problem is. It may have been that the client misunderstood what was required of them and stepped into blame mode, or that they simply needed an attitude adjustment. If the client is open to hearing your complaints, a resolve may be possible in an ensuing conversation.
If the client insists on calling you an incompetent so and so, etc., it will be clear that a resolve is impossible. Tell them that you are unable to continue to work with them and that you wish to exercise your right to terminate the project, as stipulated in the contract. Inform them of what they owe you for work to date and any expenses incurred, that you'll forward the final invoice to them in the mail. Also remind them that you still retain copyright, as the rights are yours until the project is actually completed and paid for in full, and as is stated in the signed contract. They may tell you to take a flying leap; they may ask to pay the full amount for transfer of rights.
This type of situation is very rare--and uncomfortable. Dealing with unreasonable people isn't easy for anyone. If you're ever in the unfortunate position of having to endure this, you might want to talk to colleagues and friends about it. The support can be helpful. When you know you've done absolutely everything in your power to make the client happy, only to have the situation turn ugly, it's important not to take the client's disrespect or abusiveness on as your responsibility or fault. Move on. Pick yourself up and dust yourself off. Atilla the Hun is not worthy of your energy.
Return to: What makes those damn clients so difficult?