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Breaking up With Clients at Various Project Phases

July 19, 2023

On our most recent From the Tap podcast, we sat down with Robin Fisher, CMKBD, CAPS, owner of Robin Rigby Fisher Design in Portland, Ore., to talk about breaking up with clients. As someone who has been in the business for more than 30 years, this designer has had some experience with this unfortunate but often necessary challenge.

She talked about how she determines if a client is a good fit for her and vice versa, and surprise – budget is not a factor. Having a list of pertinent questions is important to having a successful partnership. She also mentioned some red flags to pay heed.

Fisher explained why she does charge a fee for her initial consultation, and she said she almost always comes out of that first meeting with a signed agreement. Of course in some situations, this is not always the case. In one example she had to break up with clients before the project even started because the husband and wife had not communicated their project goals with one another before Fisher came into the picture, which would have led to disaster moving forward.

Another example of the designer having to bid adieu with a client was in the middle of a project when said client first changed the scope of work, which increased Fisher’s fees. Because nothing was written in a contract (no legal recourse), the client refused to pay what was owed in the end.

The designer’s third example of a client breakup came toward the end of the project, which started out great. By the end, Fisher had to back out because the homeowner was forcing her to change the way her process worked. In that scenario, the client was respectful of Fisher’s decision to back out.

She explained that is a designer’s right to break up with a client if something just isn’t working well and if you know the project will not be successful. She says not to worry about getting a bad review – because everyone does – because that is just one review and not indicative of the whole picture. It’s how you respond to that review that counts.

For more tips on how to gracefully and tactfully back out of a project, listen to the podcast on SpotifyGoogle PodcastsApple PodcastsPandora and other outlets.