3 Free Scripts: How To Break Up With A Client (The Classy Way)


We've all been there.

Even if your heart is soaring with good intentions and your marketing is totally on-point, less-than-ideal clients will still find a way to wiggle into your schedule. Like those sneaky splinters that somehow get under your nails and are impossible to dislodge.

They drain your practically-extinct time (and call you on Sundays at 7pm to confirm that you got that email they sent out Saturday morning, because why haven't you replied yet?).

They slurp up all your creative juices, leaving you with cotton-brain.

They stomp around like energy exterminators, killing off every little volt you've got left with annoying precision.

And at the end of it all, they take five months to pay you. (Or don't pay you at all and tell you that your invoice must have "slipped through their desk cracks" whenever you infiltrate their secretary lines and finally trap them on the phone.)

It blows hard, but there's no pussyfooting around it. You know that relationship is Due South (like my favourite Canadian crime drama). And when that happens, you'll have three scripts to oh-so-gracefully extract yourself from an awkward situation, tie those loose ends into a pretty bow, and ship that festering partnership OUT before things get seriously stinky up in yo' business.

Script 1: It's not you, it's me.

FOR: The client who you've just started working with (read: said yes to and immediately regretted it), but you're already seeing red flags, giant frickin' flares and the words "DON'T DO IT" written in the sand. You know you've got to snip-snip these ties STAT.

Hey, {clashy-clashy client’s name},

I’m sitting on the Mount Everest of gratitude right now because I’m seriously flattered that you chose to work with me. But as we’re starting to dive into {your project/our coaching sessions/this process}, to be honest with you: I feel like our {creative energies/personalities/work styles} aren’t syncing. (Sad face.)

Chemistry is such a fickle thing, and I’d hate to waste another minute of your time trying to force {Disney/Tom Hanks + Meg Ryans/Bruce-Springsteen-live} magic.

For this reason, as delightful as you’ve been, I’m going to go ahead and cancel our {project agreement/coaching agreement/contract}. Don’t worry, you’ll find a full refund of your {00%} deposit in your {Paypal account/mailbox/inbox}.

Thank you for understanding. And it goes without saying—I’ll do my part to point you in the direction of someone who can take better care of you. In fact, here are a few {graphic designers/coaches/copywriters/consultants} who I feel would be your match made in heaven:

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Your support means everything to me, and I wish you the best of luck in your business!

Still rooting for you,

{your signature}

Script 2: I'm just not feelin' the chemistry.

FOR: The not-yet client who has a mad crush on you and has just touched down in yo' inbox. They're pouring on the sugar, already lovin' you up big-time, and you're blushing to the tips of your ears...but you're just not that into them. You know you've got to reject their offer, but you still wanna do it with class—and not make them feel like they just got burned at their high school prom. (Because, um, Carrie.)

Hey, {not-so-ideal client’s name},

Thanks times two for landing in my inbox with your request! I’m buzzing with appreciation. (That third cup of coffee probably didn’t help either.)

I’ve let my thoughts percolate for a while—no coffee pun intended—and here’s the thing: I promised myself when I started my business that if I couldn’t show up for a {project/client} wholeheartedly, I’d point that person in the direction of someone who would.

In your case, I feel like this is the right move. My {calendar is at just-right capacity/ zone of genius doesn’t encompass this/signature style won’t sing here}. And while I’m seriously flattered that you thought of me, I don’t feel like I’m the person to fill these {shoes/hot heels/crazy-adorable boots/ Converse All-Stars/Nordstrom loafers}.

It’s awesome to hear what you’re up to. And it goes without saying—you deserve someone who lights up for this {project/goal/idea} just as banana-bright as you do.

I know that this is {main referral}’s jam, if you wanna check ‘em out.

Also, here are a few other superstars who meet everything on your wish list—and then some:

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Sending virtual high fives and feel-good vibes your way,

{your signature}

Script 3: My heart has flown the proverbial coop.

FOR: The client you want to off-load real, real bad, but you're already in neck-deep. And because they've pushed you to your outer limits, you've been going on Ben & Jerry binges and having indignation-seizures whenever your significant other/mom/dog enter the room. Still, you know you've gotta see this project or contract through before you can break-up for good. The only question is: How do you keep your sanity in check stop yourself from throwing watermelons at the pavement until then? It's time to negotiate.

Hey, {frustration-worthy client’s name},

I’m all kinds of grateful that we had an opportunity to mind-meld, but it seems like we can’t get our Footloose jive down. For that reason, I wanted to make sure we got on the same dance floor before moving forward.

As our {project agreement/contract states}, I was responsible for:

Deliverable A Deliverable B Deliverable C

At this point, I feel like I’ve gone above and beyond {the scope of this project/amount of revisions agreed upon/expectations} to make sure you were tickled pink with the final {product/design/deliverables/goods}.

If you’d like to keep plugging away, I’d be stoked to {tweak/redesign/spread on extras/venture into new territory} to your heart’s content, but I’ll have to charge an add-on fee of {$00) for the extra work required, or we can renegotiate the terms of our {agreement/contract} to make it possible for me to stick to my own quality standards.

Thank you for understanding. You’ve been a blast to work with, and I’d love for us to both walk away from this feeling gut-deep satisfied and smiley-faced. How ‘bout it?

Sending tidal waves of appreciation your way,

{your signature}

5 Tips For Channeling Your Inner Audrey Hepburn With "No"...

+ Be firm, but compassionate: DO NOT apologize for guarding your boundaries, use wishy-washy language, or leave wiggle room for them to get their hooks in you again. This is your decision, and even if they don't understand, they've got to respect it.

+ Try to sound cucumber-cool, even if you're not: The frustration has been brewin', I know, but don't write a flaming goodbye or be hostile. It could ruin your rep. Be understanding and sympathetic.

+ Don't point fingers: This isn't kindergarten when it was cool to call Johnny out for pantsing you on the playground. Playing the blame game isn't necessary. The last thing you want to do is get your Indiana Jones on and start excavating old disagreements, mistakes or past wrongs. Be mature and adult about the situation.

+ Keep it brief: It is NOT (I repeat, NOT) your responsibility to go into long-winded explanations about why you've made this decision. Be honest and clear, but get to the point.

+ Be professional and fair: If you're already partway through a project, see it through. If you're just getting started and ready to call it quits, offer to refund them their full deposit and help them find someone else who will meet their needs. If they're going to feel your loss, try to give them notice.