When & How to Fire a Client in Your Agency: 5 BIG Signs It's Time to Move On

Mar 19, 2024

No one ever wants to do it, but knowing how to fire a client is a needed skill in your PR toolbelt.

I get it — it feels super safe to stay with a client you’ve worked with for a while, even when your gut tells you it’s time to move on. The income is consistent and reliable; sure, you may not be getting paid what you’re worth, but at least it’s guaranteed, right?

Wrong! So wrong!

When you’ve been stuck in a burnt-out, reactive mindset, it’s easy to let limiting beliefs win. However, reactivity holds you back from reaching your full potential. You NEED to feel confident in yourself, your value, and your ability to find and work with top-tier brands — and, sometimes, that means cutting ties with clients who aren’t serving you.

5 Signs It’s Time to Move on From a Client

The first step toward knowing how to fire a client is identifying when you need to fire a client. If any of these things sound familiar, take it as a sign that it’s time to let go.

#1: You’re Not Feeling Satisfied With Your Agency

Your business should light you up! But when a particular client is getting in the way, it’s time to move on. Feeling uninspired and unmotivated is a sign that a client isn’t working out. 

You need a clear vision of what you want for yourself and your business. Think about questions like:

  • What kinds of clients do you want to work with?
  • Which services will you offer? 
  • How many hours a day do you want to work? 
  • Will you take off more than just the weekend? 
  • What niche (or niches!) do you want to work in?

You should enjoy the work you’re doing for your clients — and if everyone is filling you with dread, you may be dealing with a bigger issue. I show you how to get out of this mindset in my free PR Agency Action Plan!

#2: You Know You’re Not Getting Paid What You’re Worth

This one is an immediate red flag and a BIG sign you should start thinking about how to fire a client from your agency. Whether your client insists on an hourly rate instead of a retainer, you’re dealing with major scope creep, or your client’s rate is so low it’s impossible to raise it enough to earn your worth, you need to get out of there! 

It can be tempting to stick with your low-paying current clients because, hey, it’s guaranteed revenue. But you’re losing a lot in the long run, so look at the bigger picture. The longer you spend working with low-paying clients who don’t meet your agency goals, the fewer opportunities you have to work with top-tier clients who do align with your vision.

You’re doing yourself a disservice by staying with low-paying clients! If you created an agency to craft the career of your dreams, why are you wasting time, energy, and resources on clients who don’t push you toward your goals? Say no to what doesn’t serve you and say yes to what lights you up! 

Related: When is the Best Time to Raise Your Rates as a Digital Agency Owner?

#3: Your Client Isn’t Doing New and Exciting Things

Maybe things are getting stale because it’s been a while since your client launched a new product. It happens! But it’s time to let go if you:

  • have already run the gamut of their hero products and slow movers
  • are struggling to match up your client with niche trends
  • have totally lost steam with your pitches

Saying “no” and letting a client go is actually an act of service to them. Moving on at the right time is part of delivering stellar services!

You’re allowing your (soon-to-be-former) client to keep looking for the right fit for their brand. Sometimes, what’s best for a client is to bring in someone who can look at the company with fresh eyes! Reminding yourself of this when planning how to fire a client will help you break the mindset that letting a client go is bad business and poor service.

Yes, you may both feel disappointed or sad that the partnership didn’t work out how you’d hoped, but this is the best move for both of you.

#4: You’re Turning Down Other Work

You shouldn’t be turning down work from potential partners because a client is already dragging you down. Plain and simple as that! 

If you’re saying “no” to clients you want to work with due to time constraints or conflicts of interest, it’s time to consider how to fire a client who’s holding you back. This goes double if you’re turning down higher-paying, more exciting dream clients!

A client who is only causing you exhaustion, overwhelm, and frustration is NOT worth the lost revenue and opportunities. If one singular client stunts your growth, you need to let them go. It’s always hard to cut ties with a partner, but something bigger and better will come along. Focus your energy on intentionally creating a business you love. The right clients will find you.

#5: You Don’t Feel Valued or Respected By the Client

No one wants to work with someone who doesn’t value their time or expertise, respect their contributions, or support them through the good and bad. If you’re dealing with a lot of scope creep, communication issues, or lack of praise, you’ve got a major problem. And, if you’ve already talked about these issues and nothing’s changed, it’s time to think about how to fire your client.

Be very clear with yourself about why you’re letting go of this particular client and what you’re looking for from your ideal client. Ask questions like:

  • How do they treat you?
  • What does your relationship look like?
  • What’s the level of trust between both parties?
  • How do they show respect for you and your team? 

This is all part of establishing your agency vision, which we dig into in my PR Agency Action Plan!

Visualizing your dream clients helps you attract that kind of energy to your business. Having clarity around your ideal clients gets them through the door! It also makes it really easy to say no to potential clients who won’t work for you.

How to Fire a Client No Matter How Long You’ve Worked Together

Ending a partnership is always challenging. But, being mindful of your approach when deciding how to fire a client can help you exit with grace and stay on good terms with your former partner.

#1: Check Your Contract

Always, always, always check your client’s contract before you do anything else. This is How to Fire a Client 101! If you’ve committed to a six-month retainer, finish out those six months. If possible, notify the client of your decision 30 days before the end of their contract (or whatever is stated in the terms of your agreement).

When thinking about how to fire a client, plan to show your client you respect them, their time, and their budget by doing it professionally. This will give your client time to find someone else to take over once your partnership ends (or, even better, you could provide a trusted referral!). Someone else will find greater joy and fulfillment in this project. Your client should work with them instead!

Related: How to Handle a Service Termination or Pause Request from a Client

#2: Remind Yourself of Your Value

Look, this is going to be a tough conversation. Whether you’ve worked with your client for six months or six years, it’s normal to be nervous or scared about how this chat will go! You’ve developed a relationship with this client. You want to respect what you’ve built together, even though it’s time to move on. You need to approach this situation with care.

When the nerves threaten to take over (and make you back out of your decision), take a step back and remind yourself why you’re doing this:

  • Are you totally burnt out and in need of a change?
  • Are you letting go of clients to uplevel your revenue?
  • Are you leaving behind a client that’s been dragging you down mentally and financially?

Whatever it is, it’s a valid and important reason for firing a client, and the peace you’ll feel in this new stage of your agency is more than worth the discomfort of the conversation.

It’s time to let go of the beliefs holding you back. Reaching your goals and fulfilling your vision for your agency means embracing the hard conversations! Having a plan for how to fire a client will help you exit the partnership gracefully and on good terms while showing your care and respect for the relationship you built together.