How to drop this client?

I’m a consultant, more or less. What I really do is guide small business owners towards a more intelligent use of their time and resources. Someimtes, this invovles teaching them Basic Computer Skills.

Now, that’s all well and fine, because I have nothing against basic ignorance – I mean, if you haven’t ever done X, you can’t be expected to do X competently, if at all.

What I have a severe problem with is arrogance. I have this client (let’s call her Judith) who is a very self-important person. She, in turn, consults to professionals (lawyers, doctors, high-earners).

Judith, while being quite good at turning the computer on, can’t seem to make Windows behave the way she wants it to. She expects the computer to do specifically what she wants it to do without much effort on her part. She has basic competency in Word and Excel, enough to run her practice, but she’s very disorganized. She would like all her files arranged by type of file (document, spreadhseet, etc.) and while this isn’t impossible to do and keep going, I asked her if she might benefit more from having her files arranged by client.

Well, I now know enough never to question her again about anything regarding her computer. She is the type that expects it all and expects it yesterday, and she can’t see any reason on God’s green earth why she can’t have it all exactly as she wants it.

The trouble is, she’s a freind of a friend. She likes to think that I’m her friend, now, too, but the truth is, i can’t stand being around her. At all. For even a few minutes. She drives me totally apeshit with her requests (and they aren’t all computer-related, either. She one time asked me to hang a corkboard in her office. :dubious: )

She’s invited me over for dinner. Rather, I have an appointment with her this evening, and she is serving me dinner. She made it clear that dinner was being served for just us; I’ve gotten out of dinner with her a few times before. She’s older (60+) and lives alone. I’m 37, and gay. It’s not terribly clear that she’s trying to hit on me. I’m sure she’s just lonely, and it’d be great if I enjoyed her company.

I’m getting very close to the point of having to end our business relationship, only because I can’t stand spending time with her.

If this were your problem, how would you do it?

My options (that I can see) are:

[li]become terribly busy and never have time to fit her in[/li][li]bluntly tell her it isn’t working out[/li][li]somehow indicate to her that it’s not working[/li][/ul]

It’s the last one I can’t quite get clear how to do, what to say.

I’m personally leaning towards the first option.

And it isn’t like I have to have answers right now – I’ll do dinner and try not to disembowel her – but something’s gotta give. Sooner rather than later. (It’s also not the case that I need her – she’s a very very tiny part of my income currently – and the psychological damage is nowhere nearly worth what I’m bililng her.)

What say you, Dopers?

Would it cause problems with the mutal friend if you dumped her?

Life is to short to spend time in bad company. Let her go the same way you would an employee who is not working out. Just say it is time to part ways and leave it at that.

It sounds as if she cannot handle the truth. Her illusions about your shared ‘friendship’ notwithstanding, there is no graceful way to exit this situation.

If it is going to cause a rift between you and your friend, just get really freaking busy. If she is self important, she will find someone else to make her feel better about herself.

I’d say the first one. While a cowardly move in a personal relationship, it’s a perfectly valid one in a business relationship. You just got a new client and are booked up for the reasonable future. If things change, you’ll let her know.

This also leaves things open for some catastrophic loss of business. You can always reapproach her if you decide that you’re desperate enough for the work.

It all depends on the friend of a friend relationship.

The best solution is always the honest one in situations like this. I suggest scheduling a business meeting with her, make it totally clear that it’s business, and explain to her your issues. Not the personality problems per se, but that she comprises a small part of your business and she takes up a disproportionate amount of time and concern. Explain that you are there for a specific purpose and need to be treated professionally, no more “dinners” and no more “hanging tack strips”, consulting work only. Make it clear that under the circumstances you’re going to require a more businesslike relationship or you’re going to need to divert your limited time to better paying and more accomodating clients.

Simple as that. You might hurt her feelings, but so long as you frame it as a business decision she will have to understand and accept your choice. If she insists on taking things beyond a business relationship you’ll be forced to end it.
Now, if there’s some ecceedingly delicate situation with the friend of a friend, well that could change things.

I doubt it – “Judith” has a reputation among the people who know her.

Just a thought, but you are genuinely busy, so how about recommending someone else to her? “Judith, I know I’ve been looking after you for years but I’m afraid my schedule has become so full that I can’t fit you in any more. However, can I introduce Jim …”

And three months later Jim will be asking Feydeau “what did I ever do to you?”

I dropped in to post this same thing. I helped a friend who does a little Web design berid himself of a nasty client with this suggestion. I told him to find a bigger company with comprable prices and suggest the new company to the client.

Bigger companies seem to be able to deal with this sort of shitty customer. Might not even need to be a bigger company - just someone who is not you.

Do a little leg work to find someone who’ll work out for her and it’ll be worth the effort.

I just don’t know whether I can with good conscience foist her upon someone else – the one guy I would think of worked with her immediately prior to me, and you shoulda heard what she said about him!

Dinner tonight was cancelled – I was calling to tell her I might run a bit late, and she told me she wasn’t feeling well, and could we do it another time? – so I am apparently off the hook for a week or more.

Unless I miraculously find a new pair when I wake up tomorrow morning, I’ll likely find my schedule just completely overrun with other projects – indefinitely.

Then recommend to her someone you don’t like. We’ve dumped lousy clients on a hated competitor before.

Another way to fire a client is to raise your prices (for that one only). Charge her more, especially if it’s more than she would pay elsewhere for like services). She may very well come to the decision that she wants to move on on her own.

Just tell her. “it’s not you, it’s me.” They fall for it everytime.

Seconded. And if after rasing your prices she is still around and still a bother, raise them again. Lather rinse repeat until she goes bye bye, or you get to the point where you look forward to her apointments cause they are so profitable. :smiley:

Another vote for the old price hike.

Send her a form looking letter:

*Dear client,
It’s been swell and I love haivng you on board but due to such-and-such I’m sorry to announce I’ll need to raise prices by such-and-such. This new price schedule will begin on X date.

Feel free to adjust her fees to an amount she may not pay but if she does it will be more worth your hassles.

I wanted to thank you all for your advice, and give a little update.

She called me yesterday, asking (pleading) for my help. Seems she had saved a document incorrectly; now she knows there is a way to “roll back” the computer to “yesterday” and get her original back. I spent 20 minutes trying to walk her through a restore from her zipdrive.

I’m going to bill her half an hour at my ‘emergency’ rate (double regular rate).

Hopefully, that should scare her off. If not, I’ve suddenly become so busy.

So very, very, busy.