Breaking up is hard to do, as the old song says. That’s especially true when the person you’re breaking up with is someone who you appreciate and like. And that person is your ‘right’ arm and helps you run your business as your virtual assistant.
No one had to twist my arm to see the benefits of having a VA. I’ve worked with several online business consultants over the years and each one contributed hugely to my success as self-employed professional and growth as a good person. They brought their skills, suggestions, advice and expertise to me and I am better for it.
Trouble is, client relationship change over time. You can outgrow your clients as a VA, moving on to services or markets that don’t resonate your current tribe. And, your client can outgrow you, needing services that you don’t provide now and aren’t interested in learning. Then what?
I recently had this experience with my VA. Initially, we got on famously. But over time our styles and preferences drifted apart. I wanted to her to do more social media and podcasting stuff than she wanted. She was frustrated by my organization skills. (I tend to shoot first, then aim, so things can get off-schedule pretty quickly because I haven’t made half the decisions needed. I’m working on a fix for this which I’ll share later). We didn’t bicker, but there was tension. I saw the handwriting on the wall. We needed to break up.
I’m still noodling on the exact clues that lead me to the conclusion and I’ll share those in my next post. However, we did have an excellent conversation about our breakup that allowed up to part on good terms with respect and affection for each other.
How to Break Up with your Client
Here’s the basic ingredients and an example of how to break up with your client. Feel free to use this as a model for your own difficult conversations.
Be Transparent- set the tone for what comes next by being honest about how your feel. If you’re nervous or sad, say that. Those highly charged emotions aren’t going to disappear just ’cause you ignore them. And, most likely, your client is feeling something similar.
State the obvious- this is where you’re most likely to stress. Trying to find the right words. Don’t. Just say what you’ve observed about your working relationship. Explain what concerns you and why. Your feelings and experiences are your own and don’t need to be legitimized or shared by your client. It’s your business, your way, remember?
Share your conclusion- say what you’d like to see happen and why it’s good for both of you. Sure, this takes some practice and courage but that’s what I’m here for- to help you become the fearless Thought Leader you were meant to be in your business. Be open to negotiating change and also firm if you think a breakup is the best possible outcome for you both.
Wrap up the details- don’t leave things up in the air. Have and share your ideas for what happens next. How will you deal with documents and images? What do you need to close out first? What’s the end date? How will you both talk to others about the breakup. You, of course, want to leave on good terms so that you can work together again in the future or get referrals.
Hey Bunny, I’m not really sure how to say this and I’m anxious about hurting your feelings but we gotta talk.
I’ve noticed that we’re not on the same page anymore. I’m interested in doing more with social media and podcasting and it seems like that’s not your thing. And, I have a sense that our work style differences are getting in the way. I’m a last minute brainstorm kinda gal, which I know makes scheduling bothersome.
I think it’s time we went our separate ways. I so appreciate everything you’ve done for me and my business. Let’s talk about next steps like how long I can access your client site and what to do with the documents and graphics you have soon. Let’s shoot for a Jan 30th end date. Of course, Im happy to Skype with you about this. Thanks again. Wishing you the very best and if I can ever help you or be a reference, I hope you’ll ask.
I tend to start this conversation by email. It’s easier to gather your thoughts and get all the points in. Also, it makes a paper trail just in case.
One last thought that might persuade you if you’re clinging to toxic clients for fear of not getting more. How will you ever have room for your best clients if your schedule is full up with less-than-ideal clients?
Have you ever broken up with or fired a client? How did you do it?
Please share in the comments so we can all grow!
Tags: best, client relationship, difficult client, dina eisenberg, fire your client, freelancer, OMB, self-employed, solopreneur, toxic client, VA, virtual assistant