As a freelancer, your clients are your bread and butter. You need them to survive, and unfortunately, that sometimes means putting up with a lot from them.
Hard work is great, especially when it’s necessary for a paycheck, but what happens when that hard work is accompanied by endless, nitpicking revisions or impossible-to-meet deadlines – or even worse, a refusal to pay? The reason you got into freelancing in the first place was to have more freedom to work remotely, and to be more flexible, so having a difficult client can really put a damper on your business.
Here are some tips on how and when to cut off your problem clients.
For Projects You Just Can’t Take On
Your clients aren’t bad people, it may just happen that you have a steadier stream of projects from other clients, and would like to focus on those instead. Handle these transitions in between projects, when they send over their next request.
Remember to explain the situation, be professional and set expectations for what will happen next.
Thank you so much for all the work we’ve done together, and for thinking of me on this next project. Unfortunately my other projects don’t allow for me to take on any more work at this time. However, I’m more than happy to help you find another freelancer for this project, or any others you may have coming up.
For Clients That Don’t Align With Your Goals
At the beginning of your freelance career, you likely took on jobs from wherever you could get them. Then, as your career and business progresses, you start to reevaluate your business model. Certain clients just may not make the cut when all is said and done.
That doesn’t mean they’re problem clients necessarily, just that your working styles don’t complement each other. Maybe you’re looking for creative freedom and they want a rigid structure. Perhaps they’re looking for web design while you’re shifting your focus to app development. Whatever the reason, try something simple and professional.
It’s been great working with you over the last [time period]. Over the last few months, I’ve been evaluating my strategy, and have decided to shift my focus to [new areas].
Unfortunately, that means I won’t be able to take on any more work from your company, but I am more than happy to discuss with you some freelancers who will do an excellent job on your project.
For Clients Who Don’t Pay Enough
When you find you’re able to pick and choose the projects you work on, the first projects to go are usually the ones with lower rates. Regardless of whether or not you enjoy working with the client, you have to let them down.
Let them know they’re priced out upfront. If they truly love your work, they may be willing to pay you more to do it.
Thank you so much for thinking of me for this project. It’s been a great year for me, and I’m starting to analyze the growth potential for my business.
In order to accommodate an increase in demand while maintaining a focus on my clients, I am raising my rates from [$] to [$$] as of next month. I know this may not work for you, and if you like, I’d be happy to help you find someone within your budget for this project.
For Difficult or Abusive Clients
If there’s one thing you should not put up with in your freelance career, it’s a client with red flags throughout your time working together. When you’re dealing with a client who is unresponsive, unreasonable or downright rude, you have to take a more direct approach in letting them down.
In my business, I hold professionalism and a good working relationship with my clients in the highest regard. Recently, I’ve noticed some friction in our working relationship, and it does not seem like our working together is a great fit.
I think it’s best that you find another freelancer to complete the project for you. I will complete the following tasks by the end of this month, after which time our contract will be terminated:
Having to fire a client isn’t pleasant, but it’s a necessary part of being a solo entrepreneur. After a certain point, you can’t accept all projects, and some of them have to be cut loose. Hopefully these suggestions will help you let your former clients down more easily, and give you peace of mind doing it.
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Anum Yoon is a twenty-something blogger, writer, and working professional living in Philadelphia, PA. She is also the founder and editor of Current on Currency, a personal finance blog she started for fellow 20-somethings who can’t adult well enough to be savvy with their money. She has lived in 5 different countries throughout her lifetime, and hopes to travel to money more in the years to come. She’s also a fierce advocate for the sustainability movement, so you’ll often find her writing about the environment.