1. Take the high-road
If this particular client is a jerk, don’t stoop to their level. There’s no need to start a fight. Just take a deep breath before you write your breakup email or phone call. Every ounce of you will want to blame them and start a fight. Don’t. It’s not worth it. I bet 90% of your business comes from referrals and word-of-mouth…even clients you broke up with may refer you business in the future. YOU NEVER KNOW.
2. Be professional.
This is very important. Don’t be a dick. Don’t point the finger at them. Just be calm and complain about them to your dog when this is all over.
3. Read the contract. Then read it again.
If you have a contract in place (you should!) find the section where it talks about terminating a project. Sometimes there is very specific language in there and steps that must be followed. For instance, you may have to give 30 days notice of termination of the contract. Hopefully this was your contract and you already decided on how to handle these situations 😉 If you don’t have this section you should have a breakup clause.
4. Look for another client BEFORE ending this one.
If you’re concerned about your income taking a hit (valid concern!), then start looking for a replacement client before you break up. You can do a nice transition period ramping up the new, better, nicer, paying on-time client while you ramp down the other one. See, the situation isn’t actually that bad 😉
If you can’t find another client in a week or so, break up with the problem client and you’ll have more time you can focus on getting new business. Eat more Ramen if you have to.
5. Know that everything will work out.
It may seem like you’re in a dire situation, it certainly feels that way. Having asshole clients sucks; I’ve been there and it’s no fun. But, once the tough conversation is over, the relief you’ll feel is amazing. You don’t have to cringe every time you see their name on an email. You don’t have to ignore their calls or texts anymore. You’re free! Everything will work out, I promise.