When the client – contractor relationship doesn’t ‘fit’

Anna and I have both respectively worked with tricky colleagues and customers; the world of media is full of them and when you take the leap of faith in becoming self-employed you tend to get a good idea of the types of people you will or can work with.


None of us went into running our own businesses wanting to work with difficult clients and sometimes it isn’t that customers are being awkward, simply that you’re just not a good fit. It can take the stronger person to admit when it’s not working and to pull the plug on your working relationship.


Yes, you’re worried about your reputation but sometimes it’s also the time for damage limitation; working for yourself is about running your business ‘your way’, on ‘your terms’ so when it starts to feel like a burden, or leading you to burn-out, it’s time to take stock of the situation and decide if this is what you really want.


One of the most refreshing things I’ve found is the ability to say ‘no’, to value myself and the team around me more than a big payment at the end of the month; here’s my experience of some of those red flags to look out for to protect your self-worth:


-Difficulty getting the correct information on exactly what needs to be done and by when from the client.


-Lack of payment for services rendered despite having clear payment terms.


-A fundamental lack of respect for your time (being late for meetings, delaying responses)


-An expectation for you to pick up everything immediately when the reply does eventually come leading to unreasonable demands on your work and time.


-No feedback on work completed or acknowledgment of services provided.


-Constant changing of the boundaries; i.e. work required, hours needed, top priorities.


-Disparity between your binding contract and reality regarding the work and its associated compensation.


Making a clean break is difficult, particularly when you have a notice period to serve out and you will most likely need to find at least one more client to make up for the financial loss you may incur by not continuing with this current customer.


Avoid burning bridges if you can, be honest and helpful in what needs handing back or over to a replacement and by when. The lesson is tough but you’ll come out of it stronger and with a sense of relief that it didn’t work out, safe in the knowledge you’ll move on with some learned experience.


Kate 11th June 2019

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