If you read my August income report, you know that I recently “fired” several clients.
And you know what?
The clients I let go of had been wonderful to me, and they were giving me consistent work. So it was scary as SHIT.
Almost as scary as the thought of being locked in a room and forced to watch Real Housewives for 24 hours straight. (key word: almost)
…But I parted ways with them anyway because I realized that something needed to change.
I’m in the process of creating my Killer Cold Emailing course right now, and I’m trying to spend a lot more of my working hours on this blog (as opposed to freelance writing work).
Pretty soon after making the decision to focus more on this blog, I realized there simply weren’t enough hours in the day to handle all my freelance writing clients and give my blog the attention it needs.
So I took a big ol’ pay cut and slashed my workload in half.
In other words, my reason for parting ways with some of my clients was to free up more time to work on other projects.
But if you’re not running a blog (or tackling some other kind of side hustle) on top of handling your freelance writing work, your reason for wanting to fire a client might be totally different.
So before we go over how to fire a client, let’s talk about why you might need/want to.
Signs It’s Time to Fire Your Freelance Writing Client
You’re not getting paid enough.
Let’s face it – most newbie freelance writers don’t charge enough. I know that was the case for me. (And heck – even some experienced writers don’t charge what they’re worth!)
But please understand this:
No matter how much you like your low-paying clients, you can’t hang onto them when it’s time for you to raise your rates. It’s not worth it.
Here’s what my process has looked like each time I’ve raised my freelance writing rates:
- I decide I’m going to raise my rates.
- I go after new clients and quote them my new, higher rate.
- Once I land enough clients at the higher rate to replace the low-paying clients, I let the low-paying clients go.
Follow this process, and you can continuously level up your freelance writing income.
…And, you know, avoid working for pennies forever. 🙂
(Pssst. If low pay is your reason for firing your client, try to negotiate for higher pay instead of straight-up firing them. We’ll talk more about that later in this post!)
You’re not getting paid on time.
Look – you have to let your clients know that paying on time isn’t a negotiable thing. Before you start any project, your payment terms should be crystal freakin’ clear.
Because you’re running a damn business here. And businesses don’t just get paid “whenever.”
So, using Net 15 payment terms?
Let the client know all the details upfront.
Don’t write a damn word until they’ve agreed to it.
Now, I understand that sometimes, even if you’ve stated your payment terms, clients will run late paying you.
I’m not saying to fire them immediately when that happens. Send them a reminder and let them know the payment is past due and needs to be taken care of.
But if late payments are a consistent problem and you find yourself spending tons of time trying to get a client to pay up, don’t keep working with them!
Because you know what?
A client who constantly pays you super late is sending you a clear message that they don’t respect you or your terms as a business owner.
And if you think about it, I bet you’ll notice other signs that they don’t respect you too.
Your client is more demanding than a newborn baby.
If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you know the kind of client I’m talking about.
You discuss the scope of the writing project with them and agree on all the specifics. You turn in your work, and then…
They hit you with a mile-long list of revision requests.
And I’m not talking about normal stuff here. I’m talking about crazy stuff that’s totally outside the agreed-upon scope of work.
Not only that – they want the revisions TODAY. NOW. IMMEDIATELY.
Suddenly, you’re stressed as hell and not sure what to do.
I mean, you understand that revision requests are necessary sometimes.
But this client is constantly demanding insane, immediate changes. You feel like you never know what they really want.
Hell, do they even know what they want?
So, I’m here to tell you:
This client that isn’t worth the stress they’re causing you.
(Seriously – even if they’re paying you well, the pay probably isn’t as good as you think when you factor all the time you spend accommodating them!)
Now, don’t get me wrong – as the writer, it’s your responsibility to agree on a scope of work and hold your client to that scope.
But if your client is constantly giving you a hard time about it, calling you at all hours of the night, and just generally being way too demanding despite you being clear about your policies, it’s probably time to part ways.
You have way too much work.
If you’re a freelance writer who is struggling to find work, this probably sounds like a good problem to have.
But you know what?
Having too much work is really stressful too. I’ve talked to lots of writers who are overwhelmed with their workload and not sure what to do.
Often, they want to fire some of their clients, but then…
Fear takes over.
And they start to think:
What if I can’t ever find more work when I need it? What if I end up going broke? Shit. I better hold on to these clients.
Does that thought sound familiar, my friend?
If so, consider this:
You’re probably pretty awesome at marketing yourself and landing clients if you’ve gotten to the point where you’re drowning in work. So, what makes you think you can’t use those skills to land clients in the future if you need to?
I bet you can.
The point is this:
Don’t be afraid to let a client or two go if you’re swamped right now and can afford it.
I know it’s scary as hell… I really do.
But you’ve already proven that you can book yourself out with work, so feel confident knowing you can do it again in the future.
The client (or the work they’re giving you) is just a pain in the ass.
Look – you don’t have to put up with a client who treats you like shit (or write about something that bores you to tears).
Give yourself permission to kick assholes to the curb.
I mean, you started freelance writing to gain more freedom, become your own boss, and do what you love, right?
So, why put up with someone who makes you feel like you might as well be working at a shitty 9-to-5?
Now, if you’re a newbie who needs to bring in the cash, I totally get that you don’t have the luxury of just firing all the clients you want to.
I’ve been there.
But what you should be doing is constantly improving your marketing and going after better clients.
Phase out difficult clients by replacing them with better ones. That way, you can gradually get rid of some clients without taking a big financial hit.
I’m fortunate to have lots of clients I love working with right now.
I’m at the point in my freelance writing career where I can afford to be picky, so I’m super picky.
But it wasn’t always this way.
When I started out, I had some pretty rough experiences with clients. I mean, as a newbie who needed to make some moolah fast to pay my bills, I really couldn’t afford to be picky.
Eventually though, I realized I couldn’t keep working with difficult clients forever.
So I busted my ass to market myself in a way that would attract better clients. And because of that, I was eventually able to replace difficult clients with awesome ones.
And yeah, it took some serious time and effort to improve the quality of clients I was able to attract.
But was it worth it?
Whatever your reason for wanting to fire a client, I’ve got some advice to help you out.
And I’ve even got a free download for you – it includes my client-firing script + some quick tips you can use to make sure the process goes smoothly!
Snag it here:
(Seriously – even if you don’t need to fire a client right now, download this resource and save it for later. It’ll totally come in handy one day!)
How to Fire Your Freelance Writing Client Without Burning a Bridge
What you say will depend on the reason you’re firing your client.
But let’s start out assuming that your client isn’t an asshole.
You just don’t want to work with them anymore because you want to take your freelance business in a different direction (you need to cut down on work, you’re changing your niche, etc.).
If that’s the case, send them an email that says something like this:
Hi (client name),
Hope you’re doing well!
I wanted to reach out and let you know that I’m restructuring my business right now to focus more on marketing my personal blog, so my new workload with that prevents me from taking on any additional (company name) blog posts at the moment.
However, I can definitely still write the 3 blog posts currently assigned to me and get those done by the due dates.
I have really enjoyed working with you and writing for (company name). Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help make this transition easier – if you’d like, I’d be more than happy to recommend a writer who can replace me!
This is pretty much copied from an email I recently sent to a client I had to let go of (I had a good working relationship with her).
She was really receptive to it and nice about the whole process.
If you want your clients to react that way too, you need to:
– Give them plenty of notice so they have time to find a replacement. I usually give clients at least a couple of weeks.
– Tell them what work you’re going to complete. I try to complete any projects that have already been agreed upon. Obviously, this may not work out if your client schedules things out months in advance. But in that case, you can simply let them know what projects you’ll be able to finish up.
– Let them know you’ve enjoyed working together. You could even mail them a thank you card after you’ve parted ways with them – it’s a great way to close out the client relationship and avoid burning a bridge!
– Realize that you don’t need to give the client a detailed explanation of your decision. But if you’ve had a good relationship with them, you can let them know what’s up, like I did in the example script above (“I’m restructuring my business right now to focus more on marketing my personal blog”).
– Offer to recommend a replacement writer. I’ve done this for several clients in the past, and they’re always really appreciative of it. Just make sure you recommend a writer who has relevant expertise – you should feel confident knowing that your recommended writer can do a damn good job for the client.
Keep in mind that you should modify my script based on your specific situation, your relationship with the client, and your reason for ending the business relationship.
(Now, that doesn’t mean you have to tell the client something shitty, like that you hate the work they’re giving you. You might just say something vague, like you’re “making some changes to your business.”)
What if your client is a total asshole and you hated working with them?
Well, you certainly don’t need to be as nice as in the script above.
Keep it simple and to-the-point – just let them know that it’s not working out.
Don’t feel like you have to go into the details of why the business relationship isn’t working out – you probably don’t want to go down that route and end up dealing with an unnecessary confrontation as a result.
But still be professional (yes – even if the client is a complete jerkwad), and give them the date when you’ll no longer be able to work together.
One more thing to note here:
If you’re firing a client so you can free up room for better-paying clients, try to find those better-paying clients first.
(I know the idea of keeping your current clients around for a while longer might suck, but it probably doesn’t suck as much as putting yourself in a shitty financial situation. Just sayin’.)
A Couple Alternatives to Firing your Freelance Writing Clients
Okay – maybe you’re on the fence about firing one of your clients. You want the money, or you just really enjoy working with them.
If you’re not ready to part ways yet, here are a couple options:
Raise your rates.
This is a great option if low pay is your only reason for wanting to fire the client.
Make sure you’re okay with potentially losing the client if you try this. They could totally say that they’re not down with your new rate and decide to let you go.
But it’s totally a risk worth taking if you were going to part ways with them anyway.
Want to try this?
Email the client to let them know what your new rate is and when the new rate will go into effect.
You never know – they might be totally cool with it, especially if you’ve helped them get some awesome results with and built a solid business relationship with them.
And if they say no?
Oh well. On to the next.
Related reading: How to Negotiate and Demand High Freelance Writing Rates
Subcontract the work.
This can be a great option if you have a client who pays you pretty well but you don’t like the work and/or you’d rather pursue other opportunities.
When you subcontract, it just means you keep the client but have another freelancer do the actual writing work.
I’ve been on both sides of this, so I know firsthand that it can be an awesome setup for both freelancers involved.
A word of warning:
Subcontracting can be pretty damn demanding (especially if you’re anything like me and struggle with project management 🙂 ).
You still have to handle the client admin work, assign the project to the freelancer you’re subcontracting to, make edits, etc.
So make sure you’re prepared for that stuff before you jump into subcontracting, okay?
WHEW. Now that we’ve covered everything, I want to close out this post by saying this:
Keep improving your freelance writing business as you learn from past experiences.
For example, if you had to fire a client because they never paid on time, make sure all your clients in the future agree to your payment terms upfront. And learn how to enforce the shit out of your terms.
If you had to fire a client because they were way too demanding, you’ll probably be able to think back and realize you had a bad gut feeling about them from the start.
Learn from that. Trust your gut in the future, and don’t hire clients who you just know are going to be a pain to work with.
And remember, all freelance writers go through tough shit and deal with difficult clients at some point.
The ones who reach success get there because they learned from their experiences and kept going.
Are you thinking about firing a freelance writing client soon? Need some more advice? Share your story or ask questions in the comments section (I’ll do my best to help!).