It costs 5x to 25x more to find a new client than to retain an existing one. So why would you ever want to fire a client? Well, buckle up.
The 80/20 Rule
AKA the Pareto principle which states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In the case of your clients, typically 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clients. Conversely, 80% of the time you spend is catered to 20% of your clients. We all know the ones…
The ones where your contract clearly states one revision. You’re a professional, you know the pre production was extensive. Yet, the client insists on revision after revision after revision. What’s worse is they’re expecting you to do it for free even though your written agreement states only one revision is included in the price agreed upon.
They’re the client that tries tirelessly to nickel in dime every aspect of every shoot. Before, during, and after the date of the shoot. They pay late. Some clients even try to avoid signing contracts all together.
You Owe it to Your Preferred Clients
You actually have a responsibility to your other clients to fire problem clients like this so that you can better serve your best clients. They deserve it after all. The 20% of your clients paying 80% of your revenue should be royalty to you. Short of cutting off your own arm, you should be willing to do anything for them.
You should be willing to do anything for them.
They’re the clients that would never dream of asking you to do something “for exposure”. They pay you on time. They admire your professionalism when you explain the ins and outs of a contract to them. Most of all they respect you, and you respect them.
If you have trouble clients that are impeding on the quality of service you provide to the clients that you wish you had more of, then you need to fire those bad clients immediately.
What if You Don’t Have Dream Clients Yet
You’re never going to get to the place where you have outstanding clients that respect the hell out of your business if you can’t respect yourself. You’ll know… After you’ve put in the time, you’ve been in trenches, you’ve done the hard stuff and now you’re demanding a little respect. Stick to your guns. The clients you want to have will admire you for it.
It’s better to have one outstanding client than ten bad clients.
Out With the Old and In With the New
Listen, I get it. We have all been there. You have to do a lot of stuff you don’t want to do when you’re on the long road to becoming a full time photographer and filmmaker. You work jobs you don’t love, you work for less than you’re worth. It’s a reality unfortunately. However, don’t take that baggage with you.
This is what I mean.
If you were once the $500 guy. To some clients, they might always see you as the $500 guy. You’re going to evolve, you’re going to get better at your craft. You’ll continue to pick up new skills and become more sought after. When this happens it can be awkward telling old clients that your prices are going up. There’s a right way to do it. Still though, it can be awkward and doesn’t always go over well.
Thinking of your dream clients though, how do you think they would feel if they knew you were shooting a full day commercial project for $500 if you’re charging them $3000 for the exact same thing. Is that fair to the client shelling out $3000? Of course not. It’s also not fair to you.
It’s also not fair to you.
You know you’ve worked your ass off to get to the point where someone is willing to pay you what you’re worth. Don’t let clients from your past de-value that. If they don’t understand that, and if you’ve done everything in your power to communicate with them… you need to fire them!
There’s a common theme here. You need to be constantly be thinking about what’s best for your preferred clients, and also for you.
A Natural Parting of Ways
Sometimes it’s not as dramatic and black and white. Sometimes you begin working with a client in hopes of a future that you both imagine together. Maybe it’s partnering with a startup or a smaller brand. You might give them a break on some shoots, maybe they trade some of their product or services for your services.
You’re happy to do it at the time because you believe in the direction it’s going, the doors its’ opening. It may feel mutually beneficial for a while, so why not. Well, time changes things. Maybe you don’t require their services anymore and the exchange that once worked doesn’t really make sense for you now.
Sometimes you just have to go with your gut, there’s not always a perfect formula to know when it’s time to move on. Making yourself available for something new can be tough. You might even make the wrong move. Some of this is guess work, and that’s okay. The most important thing is you do what feels right for your clients, for you, and for your business.