Back in October I had to make the decision to drop a bookkeeping client. Don’t get me wrong, they were a great client, had their work ready and on-time for me every month and always had a check for that month’s work in the package as well. Yeah, I know – dream client! So why the heck did I cut them loose?
They crossed my boundaries.
When I first began my bookkeeping business, I took any client who wanted me. I re-arranged my life around their schedule so I could complete their work all in the name of receiving a monthly check. As time went on and I built up a comfy little client base, I was able to be more selective. I also still work a full time job so it’s not as if my business was my sole bread-and-butter so that helped in being able to weigh up whether I wanted to take someone new on or not.
Once I had a certain number of clients, I didn’t want to let go – even though I was working two nights and almost all day on Saturday (and even Sundays during January when year end deadlines are due). Why? Because the clients I had were low-maintenance, the work was easy, I didn’t have to chase them down for documents or even payment and, well, I liked them. The additional income was worth the lack of time I had to clean the house on the weekend.
But something changed this past June when I realized I didn’t want to spend another summer buried in my home office. Those little changes allowed me to not only complete all my work responsibilities, but also to recharge myself so I didn’t burnout. It also made me realize what I had been missing and didn’t want my work dictating my life. It was going to be the other way around. And when something – or someone – crossed that line, I was prepared to make a decision.
Thus the booted client in question.
The incident happened while I was waiting to board a flight. I had already communicated with my client that I was away and that I would pick up their work upon my return and have it completed on a scheduled day, which they were fine with. But then I got an email from them while waiting in the airport that they wanted – no, NEEDED – to have the work completed sooner. I had explained that I could not because I had already scheduled my other client work, not to mention I had to also go back to my regular job. That would not do. They still insisted to the point of manipulating me with begging, pleading and – finally – guilt.
I wasn’t just upset. I was downright infuriated. My client basically accused me of ‘not understanding their needs’ and ‘having their business put on the back burner so I could go off on vacation’. It didn’t matter that my ‘vacation’ was to be there when my dad had returned from rehab. I shouldn’t have had to explain my reasons. But the passive-aggressive approach combined with their ‘please, please, please this just HAS to get done – you don’t know how important this is’ just sent me over the edge.
So what did I do?
After about 10 back and forth emails before I had to close my phone for good and board my flight, I had told them I would do as they requested, re-arrange my schedule and complete the work sooner, but……..as of November 1st, they were free to find another bookkeeper.
You have no idea how good it felt to say that.
Will I miss the four-figure annual fee from this client? Sure. Do I feel a great sense of relief, peace and balance since parting ways? You bet. Does the latter out-weight for former? Absolutely!
Because that client crossed my boundary line.
Although I had given in, I knew it would be the last time. I wanted to end the relationship knowing I had honored my word to complete that month’s work before parting ways. And because I took permanent action, I felt in control rather than the other way around. It also empowered me to look at my remaining clients and weed out yet another one from the garden who had been dragging their feet getting me their documents to where they were almost 6-month’s behind. Receiving all of them at once would’ve been too overwhelming, not to mention the jockeying around of my regular monthly schedule I’d have to do in order to fit in the time to complete all that catch-up work. Emailing them to let them know I would no longer be able to complete their bookkeeping felt like a huge exhale. I stuck to my guns and behind the thick boundary line I had drawn. With the exception of special circumstances for which I’m made aware of in advance, I will never let anyone cross that line again.
For those of you who are in business for yourself, it’s hard to say no – especially when it may be accompanied by the loss of that paycheck. Even though I still work full time, it didn’t make giving up those two fees easy. That additional income came in very handy to pay down some accumulated debt. It may take a bit longer to get rid of, but at least I’ll have my peace of mind. I feel better. My stress headaches have stopped. I can stop working at noon on Saturdays so I can spend the remainder of my weekend cleaning my house, work in the yard,bake something decadent I found on Pinterest, work on a blog post, peruse flyers, clip coupons or just sit on couch for the rest of the day and stare at the television. Weeding the garden allowed room for other things to grow in my life and setting boundaries around them as a fence kept everything from spreading out of control. I’m able to focus better on my remaining clients and am more productive at my job because I don’t have this constant burden on my mind.