Freelance Writing Advice: When to Let a Client Go — Even if They Don’t Want You To

The following is a guest post by Laura Pennington.

Are you treating your freelancing like a business? Because it is. And like any business, it means you’re going to go through phases, outgrow things, change concepts, and evolve. That can, in fact, be one of the hardest parts of being a business owner.

Right now, my own freelance company is going through a bit of a shift, and it’s been difficult mentally to do the things I need to in order to reach the next level. Which is why I want to talk about letting a client go.

An Important, Often Overlooked Topic Among Freelance Writers

As freelance writers, we spend a ton of time talking about how to acquire and keep clients. And no doubt, those techniques are VITAL if you want to stay in business. But one topic that’s often glossed over is this concept of letting a client go.

It might sound counterintuitive, but one of the major reasons my freelancing has been a six-figure venture every year since 2014 is because I’ve sensed when to cut the cord and then followed through with it.

Firing clients helping you to get to six figures? Believe it!

Every time I’ve ended a relationship that was no longer working, I landed better clients paying just as much or more than the previous client.

It’s like you’ve thrown that previous client back out into the sea of many fish and you get rewarded with a better catch. I repeat this mantra often …

Not every client is the right fit for you.

Even when you believe that and when you’ve had as much experience firing and retooling your business (for example, I fired six clients in February of 2016), it’s still hard to come to grips with terminating a relationship.

I just fired my business retainer client. It was killer. This was someone I had worked with for 15 months. Someone who gave me enjoyable, easy work.

The problem was I got paid late approximately 25% of the time. And we’re not talking small amounts either.

We’re talking thousands of dollars overdue. After repeated reminders and too much patient waiting, it was time to say goodbye. Enough is enough.

What Often Happens After You Fire a Client

After coming to terms with that relationship being over, I did what any good freelance business owner would do … I panicked. Losing a few thousand dollars a month was a huge blow, especially since it was December, aka freelance writing dead zone.

December and January are always my slowest months. As someone working with a team of support professionals too, it was all the more important to figure out how I could weather this storm as quickly as possible.

I think some clients actually assume that because my freelance business is relatively public regarding annual revenue, some people simply assume “she can take the hit.”

Just like everyone else doing this full-time, freelancing pays my bills. It’s how I run my businesses. So the loss of any money is indeed a problem, and that should never be an excuse to skip paying someone. And yet, it happens.

However, when I got to work, I replaced 75% of that revenue in just two weeks.

The Lesson: Sometimes we need that push to make things bigger and better.

What I’m saying is that firing clients does not get that much easier- but the more experience you have, the more you’ll have the belief that everything will work out backing you when you do make the call.

A Simple, Professional “You’re Fired!” Message

I’ve made a list below of some of the reasons it’s time to end your professional relationship with a client. If they do push back and beg you to stay — and if your intuition has already spoken; trust it and don’t fall for their “We’ll pay you more! We’ll make it easier!” promises. You can use the following simple statement:

“Thanks for the opportunity to work together. Unfortunately, my business model has changed and I can no longer accommodate your project. I wish you the best of luck. The last day to order content from me under our current agreement is X.”

You can also phase some clients out naturally by raising your prices or requesting a monthly minimum. I had one client ordering $180 worth of content per month. She then paid – by check – 45 days later. No thank you. Way too much hassle.

I ended our contract by explaining that due to an increase in demand, I would only be able to accept projects of $500 per month or more going forward. That was a drama-free way to end things with her.

Freelance Writers: Reasons to Fire a Client — Do Any of These Apply to You?

Make sure you do pay attention to your intuition. If a client is making you miserable or just seems to be too “on the fringes” of your business, this could be a sign that it’s time for you to grow — which means letting them go. Some other signs it may be time to let a client go include:

  • They have become difficult to work with, including paying invoices late or pushing your boundaries.
  • They are non-responsive, making it difficult to do your job.
  • They argue with you when you need to raise prices.
  • They order content at the last minute, expecting immediate turnarounds.
  • They email, call, or text you after reasonable business hours.
  • Their demands for edits seem to increase, despite the fact that your work is always high quality.
  • The turnover of the editors or other staff members is so much that you never know who you’re supposed to be in touch with.

When you do have to end it, keep it professional. There’s no reason to burn bridges (unless, of course, they owe you money, and then all’s fair).

How to Get Your Freelance Clients to Pay Up!

FYI, here are 7 ways to get late / non-paying clients to pay up. These include eveyrthing from implementing systems that make this less likely to happen, to what you need to do to take a client to small claims court (if it comes to that).

Trust me, firing clients, when it’s the right fit, opens up your schedule and your energy to work with someone better. It definitely takes a leap of faith, but it’s one I have always found to be worth it.

Next Time (Wed, Jan 4th): Bringing in Money Fast! How to Launch a Simple & Fast Freelance Marketing Campaign When You Need Some Dough

Laura PenningtonAuthor Bio: Laura is a former inner city teacher and corporate employee who fled the grind in 2012 to work at home. She specializes in SEO content for law firms and insurance agencies, writing everything from ebooks to blogs to video scripts. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, and blogs at SixFigureWritingSecrets.com.

P.S.: Ready to Kick Your Freelance Writing Career in High Gear Next Year?

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Let 2017 be the year you finally put your writing skills to use — for you!

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