Is there such as thing as divorcing a client? — Lionesses of Africa

by Teboho Seretlo

I am an independent business consultant, meaning I earn my revenue from paying clients, who are prepared to pay for my time and expertise. I get most of my clients from word-of-mouth, followed by social media. In the last few years since I started this consultancy, I have realized that it is very important to know your worth and be confident in what you can deliver. If you don’t know your worth, you will be chopping and changing things such as your fees, the minute a client complains about your fees. You don’t want to get into such a debate with a client, especially if the client is not even one of those that contribute a lot towards your monthly revenue. Once you get into such a debate, then rest assured the client will always come back to you with this line of cornering you into lowering your fees.

So, in this case, I have learnt over the years, it’s okay to walk away from such a client, divorce is warranted. And then, there is the client who will not argue with you upfront about your fees, but once you send the invoice, they turn around and say they never agreed to pay that amount, and give you the run-around before they pay you your money. This means such a client cannot be trusted, plus they are changing your payment terms that are clearly articulated on your invoice. The time you spend chasing after your money from such a client can be put to better use elsewhere. So, walk away from such a client, with your head help up high.

One of the other services I provide is business mentoring. I then come across people who either email me or send me a WhatsApp wanting to engage on a variety of things like how to go about starting a business or how to get access to customers and or financing. Some of these people are referred to by friends who happen to know what I do, like I pointed out earlier, my business relies on word-of-mouth to get clients. Now, the downside to these clients is that either they expect you to call them or they expect to have free advice (or both). When you ask them to book a ZOOM session and give them your rates, they suddenly disappear.

In my earlier years of being in business, because I was not too confident in what I was trying to achieve and I was hung up about making money at all costs, I would “chase” and be the one to make the phone-call or ZOOM without even watching the time. Yes, of course a free 15-minute mentoring session is what I also offer. But I would find that some clients took advantage of this and would email or WhatsApp and when I calculated the amount of time, I had spent on this one client, it would exceed the 15-minute free slot. Such a client is a little sneaky and trying to score a free service from you and it is okay to divorce them too. So, I have learnt to put my foot down and insist that they book a slot, pay for it before I can engage with them, so that I am also paid for my expertise and my time; to enable me to make a living.

Additionally, I take it that if a client is serious about wanting to get some advice, then at least they need to show their seriousness by taking the time to make the call, show up and show up on time. If they repeatedly fail to show up and or show up on time, then clearly, a divorce in this case is inevitable. Trust me, I have been there, where I had a few would-be-mentees showing up 20 minutes into the scheduled meeting, coming to the meeting unprepared. That can be very frustrating and time wasting.

Other clients lack the respect for boundaries and call you at all sorts of hours in the day. I have had a client call me on a Sunday evening, not once, not twice, but on several occasions. The client would also WhatsApp me at any given time on any given day. It took me time to learn to either ignore the calls and return them during “working hours” or send a WhatsApp saying I would call back the next day. Again, if the client was among the bigger ones contributing a lot to my revenue, I have no issues bending the rules slightly. However, as a rule, I have also learnt that keeping a separate business number which is only switched on during so called working hours, has brought some semblance of structure and sanity to my life.

Finally, please remember not to let the fear of not having money lead you to making unsustainable decisions of compromising on your worth and your fees. I know you must be saying it’s easy for me to say this, but trust me, I don’t have a fat bank balance either, but I would rather believe in my services, my value and my worth. For, if I don’t, how do I expect clients to believe in me?

Go ahead and divorce those clients that make your life miserable, that don’t respect your craft and your time, and that want to play by their own rules.

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