The Upside

When to Walk Away: Recognizing Red Flags and Ending Client Relationships

We all know how it feels at that distinct moment when you know it’s time to move on from a client.

The hardest part, however, is taking that first step in walking away. 

Starting today, I want you to get comfortable walking away as soon as you think about doing it.

The delay between thought and action takes valuable time away from what does serve your business. 

Here are 5 red flags to look for that may indicate it’s time for you to “break up” with a client:

🚩 The client isn’t really using any of your ideas

🚩 The client keeps moving the goalpost on their definition of a successful engagement

🚩 The client is rude (interrupting you, belittling you, making inappropriate comments about you or anyone else, etc.)

🚩 The client pushes back or is non-responsive after you discuss the need to raise your rates 

🚩 The client isn’t respectful of your time

Here are 3 tips to help you remove red flags -or- walk away while maintaining a positive reputation: 

✔ Have an in-person conversation and speak from the heart. We are all human, even bad clients.

✔ Remind them why they hired you and ask for a “course correct” call to review the scope, initial discussions and current challenges you’re seeing.

✔ Be direct and honest about what will best get them to their end goals and what roadblocks need to be removed in order for you to execute on that plan. 

Part of the joys of working for yourself is that you get the power and flexibility to walk away from any work that isn’t aligned with your goals. 

And even in times when you “need the money” and feel beholden to a client, always remember that the universe does not like a vacuum. Create the space and something better will come in. 

Erin Halper

About the Author

Erin Halper is the founder and CEO of The Upside and the leading authority on independent consulting. Since launching The Upside in 2017, Erin has helped thousands of professionals transition from corporate life into consulting to achieve flexibility, autonomy, and a renewed sense of purpose in their careers.

Erin has been a frequent speaker at Columbia, NYU, Harvard, and Brown and has been featured as a leading future of work expert on dozens of podcasts as well as in Forbes, Business Insider, Nasdaq, Crunchbase and many more.

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