How do you know when to walk away from a client?

One of the fantastic things about being a small business HR consultant working with lots of clients is that you are not reliant on one organisation for your income. This gives you the flexibility to pick and choose a bit more, and also means that if you feel you don’t want to work with a client anymore, you can walk away.

But how do you know when it’s time to do that? Obviously, you’re in a better position to do it once you’re established and have lots of clients, so your financial situation will be a factor.

It could be an ethical thing – certainly I’ve walked away from clients when they’ve made a decision or taken a path I didn’t think was ethical. It could be about your reputation as well – even if the ethics of a decision or action aren’t a massive concern, the impact of that decision could be something you consider might damage your reputation so want to distance yourself from.

Perhaps it’s about the people – some business owners or managers can be incredibly challenging to work with and can take up a completely disproportionate about of your headspace and emotional energy. That’s one thing if it’s an employer paying you a full-time salary, but for the amount a small business is probably paying you, the amount of headspace you can afford to give them isn’t nearly as significant.

Sometimes internal politics can be a factor – if the person you mainly deal with is fine, but internal wranglings are having an impact on what you’re doing and the advice you’re giving, it might be time to walk away.

And occasionally a client will not be listening to your advice. They normally do, because they’re making a choice to pay for it, and usually value it. But if they consistently don’t act on it, it might be time to call it a day and focus on clients where you can make a bigger impact.

Developing solid long-lasting relationships with several clients is not only good for your own professional interest and job satisfaction, it also puts you in a position where you know if you need to, you can walk away when it’s right for you. And actually, just knowing that in itself can be very helpful!

We’re actively looking for HR professionals who want to choose who they work with and when, so if this is something you’ve been thinking about for a while, do get in touch.