Breakups are never easy. They’re even more complicated when the other party is a client. The longer you’ve been working with a freelance client the, more difficult it is to fire them (or to deal with getting fired!).
As a freelancer, I’m ecstatic every time I sign up a new client and even more so when it leads to return gigs. However, sometimes you may not spot a problematic customer until you’ve been working together for a while. Some clients just have higher standards, which is entirely understandable. However, there are also customers that can make for a very toxic work relationship.
Today, I’m going to tell you about what to do if you ever need to fire a freelancing client – which is something I had to do not too long ago. Let me tell you why!
Why I Decided to Fire a Freelancing Client
Particularly for new freelancers, constantly finding new clients is a huge challenge. Thanks to my time in the field, I’m luck enough to have a handful of long-term customers. Clients like these are unicorns for freelancers, since most people work on a project-by-project basis.
Naturally, I strive to take excellent care of my customers, so as not to lose out on business. However, from time to time, I run into clients with toxic personalities or unreasonable expectations, which brings us to the next section.
How to Identify and Evaluate Problem Customers
Just a short while ago, I decided to fire a freelancing client I’d been working with for over a year. During that period, I wrote two articles per week for them like clockwork. That’s over a hundred articles written and published on their website, so I got to know them pretty well.
Over time, their requirements kept increasing, which is to be expected. Most clients’ needs evolve over time, and if you want to hang on for the long term, you need to adapt. However, in this case, things were getting a bit unreasonable. I’m talking about almost daily requests for last minute changes on ideas and outlines that already were approved.
If you’re a freelance writer, you will get revision requests from time to time. However, if they become a daily thing, then you’ve got a problem on your hands. When you run across this scenario, you have a choice to make – you can either increase your rates accordingly to account for the added work or just quit altogether. I chose the second since we didn’t seem to be a good fit for each other anymore.
Set Up a System to Prevent These Situations
In this case, the problem was a client who expected an unreasonable amount of work for no additional compensation. Plus, they got to approve every topic idea beforehand, so we could’ve avoided any issues if they brought up potential issues at that stage. Instead, it deteriorated to the point where we were wasting each other’s time.
In retrospect, I might have avoided having to fire that client if I did two things in advance:
- Add a clause to my contract limiting the number of revision requests if the client approved the idea and article structure beforehand.
- Specified additional charges for any revisions beyond that point.
A while ago, I wrote about some essential clauses every freelance contract should include. However, you can always improve on your contract as you become more experienced. Those two provisions are going into any future contracts of mine for new clients!
How to Part on Good Terms With a Client
Even if you decide to fire a freelancing client, there’s no reason to blow up your bridges. Ideally, you want clients to think you have no other choice but to let them go and never mention they’re the problem. Here’s how I approached things in my case.
Don’t Breakup While Angry
The truth is, I was already flirting with the idea of firing that client for a while before I took the leap. However, the thought always came to my mind while I was fuming about the latest unreasonable request.
If you take one thing away from my story, it should be this: never write an angry email to your clients.
If I had contacted them while angry, I might have written something stupid, such as “I really can’t stand working with you anymore!”. In a small niche like mine, antagonizing a client would almost certainly translate into a poor reputation. Besides, it would be incredibly unprofessional.
Instead, I gave myself a few days to think about how to best broach the subject. In the end, I decided to tell them I need time to focus on personal projects, but was grateful for the opportunity to work together. It may sound like a cliché breakup template, but hey, it beats an angry email!
Make the Breakup Fair for Both Parties
If you’ve been working with a client for a while, it is irresponsible to quit out of the blue. One of my contracts, for example, requires I give at least a month’s notice before quitting, or I forfeit part of my earnings.
It sounds harsh, but it’s understandable. If a blog depends on you for its content, for example, quitting at a moments notice could throw their schedule off balance. I was writing about 2,000 words for my former client each week, so I decided to give them two month’s notice. That’s more than a reasonable amount for any job, so they didn’t have any reason to complain. Meanwhile, I had breathing room to look for new work to replace them.
If you’re ever in a similar situation, one of your first stops should be the Paid to Blog Jobs board. You’ll find plenty of potential gigs, all with excellent rates. This way, the clients are readily available – all you need to do is send a winning pitch.
Sometimes, firing a client is the best thing you can do for your freelancing business. As long as you focus on bringing value to your customers (and you have an excellent portfolio), you shouldn’t suffer from a lack of work. It’s difficult to say goodbye to a part of your income, but when a client becomes too much trouble, it’s the only way to move forward.
The key is to part ways without antagonizing your clients, even if they’ve made your life difficult. That way, you won’t get a bad reputation in your niche, and they may refer some work your way in the future. With that in mind, here’s how you should approach the problem:
- Evaluate your client relationships to identify problems.
- Put a solution in place to avoid similar problems with other clients.
- Don’t talk about quitting while you’re angry.
- Make the terms of the breakup as fair as possible for both you and your client.
Do you have any questions about how to fire a freelancing client? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.