One piece of good news about freelancing is that most of your clients will be stellar. The bad news is that, every once in a while, you’ll end up working with a client who… isn’t. They might take up too much time, sap your creative juices, or just makes you miserable. If you end up with a client like that, never fear! It’s perfectly acceptable to fire a freelance client.
Here are some dos and dont’s to make sure you fire your freelance client in a way that doesn’t burn bridges.
Don’t: Act too hastily
First, when you find yourself nearing the limits of your patience, take a deep breath. You’re 100% within your rights to stop working with this client, and at the same time, you 100% need to protect your own reputation. As the CEO of your business, you need to think long-term. In other words, it may feel great in the short-term to simply say you’re done, but in the long-term that could hurt business.
Do: Strategize solutions
Instead of immediately shooting off a strongly worded email, take some time to determine what’s bothering you about the client. Write it all out and brainstorm some potential solutions.
- Could you implement a better process for providing feedback?
- Is there an opportunity to clear up murky communication issues?
Before you fire your client, figure out if there’s a way to solve the problem. Often it’s not just the client; as freelancers, we are part of the equation, too!
Don’t: Fire your client without forewarning
However, if the situation doesn’t improve, it might be time to begin the process of firing them. Yes, it’s a process—you can’t just dump your client, especially if you’re in the middle of a project. (Remember, your #1 goal is to protect your reputation!) No matter how much trouble your client gives you, they are still relying on you to complete the project they hired you for.
Do: Communicate with your client
You may have to grin and bear it, waiting to fire your client until the project is complete. At this point, the key is to be firm, clear, and polite.
Simply inform your client that this project is the last one you’ll be able to do for them. You may be able to refer them to other freelancers. (But make sure you warn your peers first if you go this route! See below.)
Do: Consider whether someone in your network is a better fit
Does it make sense to find a colleague to take over this project for you? There may be freelancers in your network who would be unfazed by the things that drive you nuts about this client. Obviously, the client would have to agree to work with a different person (and your peer will have to understand the issues you faced!), but this might be a win-win situation.
Or, if you can, finish out the project and then recommend another freelancer in your industry to the client.
Do: List out any red flags so you can learn from them
After you’ve fired your client, uncover any lessons you can learn from the experience. Were there warning signs you can look out for in the future? Did they view punctuality as optional? Were they constantly changing their mind about the project’s scope? As you work with other clients, watch for clues that will help you avoid a similar experience. After all, it’s better to avoid a problem than have to solve it!
Your turn! Have you ever had to fire a freelance client? How did you do it? Let us know in the comments below!