For the Pro

Time to Say Goodbye to a Client? 6 Signs and How to Break Up Nicely

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If you’re a nutrition professional reading this, you may (like many people) have run into some roadblocks in your business or on your career path. We all do at some time or another; it’s part of running a business and working with clients. While we’re thrilled that you’re considering or were inspired to build or grow your professional nutrition coaching, health coaching, or otherwise wellness-focused practice—we never promised it would be easy.

There are going to be days where you’ll want to throw in the towel, slam the door, and even give up on your dreams because some days, even doing what we love is still really hard. For every amazingly coachable client you have, you will probably have three or four that are a bit more resistant to making real changes in their lives—or worse, just incredibly difficult to work with.

We’re not saying that you should only work with “perfect” clients who follow your advice 100% and come back each week or month with a smile on their face and a list of successes and straightforward areas for improvement. No one is perfect, and we don’t aim to help anyone accomplish perfection in any sense of the word. What we do want is for you to work with clients who are the right fit for how you coach, because these are the ones who will benefit most from what you have to offer and the ones that you’ll feel most fulfilled working with.

If you’ve been struggling with a client, here are six signs that it might be time to break up.

Signs It’s Time To Say Goodbye To A Client

1. Your client shows little (to no) signs of effort.

Do you have a client that makes you feel like it’s Groundhog Day every day when you meet with them? Like nothing has changed since the last time you met? Like they literally go home and forget you even had an in-depth coaching session where you put all your effort and know-how into figuring out how to help them? There’s only so much you can do for your clients if they don’t meet you even part of the way.

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“In this scenario, it’s really helpful to have a conversation with your client about their readiness to change,” says Nutritious Life Founder Keri Glassman. “It’s important to sit down and assess where they are on their wellness journey. Maybe you need to have that talk with them before simply offering up more ideas for breakfast.”

If, after that, you determine that the client is not committed to doing their part, it might be a sign to move on or take a pause.

2. Your client consistently reschedules your sessions.

We understand that fitting something new into your schedule can be hard at first, but if you’re truly invested in getting great results, you put in the effort and make it happen. Of course, sometimes things happen, and appointments need to be rescheduled.

“To avoid this from happening, I like to talk to the client early on about respecting each others’ time,” says Keri. “I also suggest having each client sign a contract in advance that outlines your guidelines for missed sessions. This step helps to reinforce the importance of sticking to a pre-arranged schedule.”

If a client is still proving over and over again that they don’t value your time as much as theirs, then they aren’t worth your time, either.

3. Your client neglects to pay you on time.

Money is always one of the least fun things to talk about when it comes to running your business. You want to help people to live healthier lives, or become healthier versions of themselves. But at the end of the day, you are, in fact, running a business—and your clients should respect that.

To avoid having a client that is repeatedly late with payments, and/or is constantly coming up with excuses for why they need an extension on an invoice, it’s again helpful to have all your expectations in writing.

“Make sure the contract your client signs outlines any and all financial obligations,” Keri says. “This is a great impetus for people to pay on time.”

If they continue to neglect paying you, it might then be time to let them go.

4. Your client doesn’t respect your boundaries for communication.

Unfortunately, there’s always that one client that just doesn’t hear your request for personal space, or flat out ignores it. They might pry and ask too many personal questions. Or maybe they regularly text you after hours like they would a close friend and expect you to respond every time they reach out.

Of course, you want to help your clients with obstacles that come up day-to-day, but there is a time and place for that, and it’s important that they understand and respect that. It’s also crucial that they don’t cross the line in a client-coach relationship.

“If the client-coach boundary is being disregarded, it’s up to you to draw those lines more firmly and communicate them to your client,” Keri says.

If things don’t change, it might be time to go your separate ways.

5. Your client isn’t being honest with you.

What’s more frustrating than a client that isn’t doing the work to make changes happen? How about a client that says they’re doing the work, but isn’t actually doing it. This is a tricky one because you don’t want to go around accusing clients of lying to you. But if they aren’t opening up about their mishaps, their challenges, and they’re always telling you what they think you want to hear, they might not be ready to commit. In this case, all the coaching in the world isn’t going to produce the results they want. This may again be a time to have a conversation about readiness to change.

6. Your client is disrespectful towards you.

Some clients can just be plain rude. Maybe you notice that they’re the ones who want to run the show. Do they act like they’re the wellness pro instead of you? There are some extreme cases where it’s obvious that you and the client are not the right fit. Maybe your coaching style rubs them the wrong way. Maybe what they’re looking for from a coach is not the type of coaching you offer, and this leads to friction and discontent.

In these scenarios, it’s pretty obvious that the relationship needs to end. You don’t need an article to tell you so; go with your gut on this one. Make sure your contract has a clause that addresses bad behavior and allows you to walk away when necessary.

How To Let Them Go … Nicely

Once you’ve determined that you have a client that isn’t right for you, it’s time to have that conversation, which doesn’t have to be difficult. First, let yourself off the hook; not every working relationship works. The best we can do is learn from them. Here are a few tips on approaching the conversation:

1. Leave emotion out of it.

You may be highly frustrated with the client for a variety of reasons, and/or you may have a list a mile long indicating why it’s time to let them go, but you don’t need to read them off as if you’re handing down a sentence. Avoid raising your voice or insulting the person in any way. You simply need to deliver the message that you can’t coach them anymore, because they aren’t a great fit for your coaching style or service offerings. Try not to make it personal, and keep emotion out of it. After all, it’s just business.

2. Talk about what was accomplished.

It’s important for both you and the client to understand what you’ve accomplished together. Talk with your client about their accomplishments, so they can feel good about the work you did do together. Leave them with a sense of achievement and allow them to focus on what comes next in their life. Be sure to encourage the person to keep working on their goals, and make it clear that you are still rooting for them. You might also refer them to another coach in your network who seems like a better fit.

3. Leave the conversation on a positive note.

If the reason you’re letting a client go is due to a lack of respect or personality issues that you can’t get past, this might be a bit more difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Approach the conversation with respect, honesty and sincerity, no matter the reason for ending your relationship. You’ll feel better afterward, knowing you did what you had to do and no bridges were burned.

Moving Forward

Now that you’ve cleared some space in your schedule, you can fill it with a new client (or two?) that appreciates your expertise and knowledge, and that you can help to live a more nutritious life! You got this!

(Image: Shutterstock)

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