The Freelancing Dilemma: How do I let a client go?

Being a freelancer is great! We get to do work we actually want to do. Whether this means choosing exciting projects or working with people who interest us, the decision…
Oona Rokyta

Being a freelancer is great! We get to do work we actually want to do. Whether this means choosing exciting projects or working with people who interest us, the decision is ours. Since you own your own business, you have the privilege to choose work that will make you happy. Any freelancing client that pushes you away from this happiness or productivity should go. If a client is taking a toll on your mood and mindset, this will be reflected in other areas of your life. If your mind is preoccupied with a tense client relationship, it will be less free to focus on how to make more money and grow your biz. Your other projects and clients will also take a hit from this.

Once identified, letting go of the clients that hold you back is one challenge that many freelancers face. You might feel guilty for having to fire a client or hesitant to turn down the income. So how does one go about it sensitively yet confidently? Where does one start?

Continue reading for 6 key ideas to keep in mind in order to fire your client in the nicest way possible.

1. Determine the where.

Should I tell my freelancing client over a coffee or via email? It depends on the way in which you’re used to working together. If you’ve built a relationship face-to-face, it is important to deliver this news in person. If you can’t or have never met your client face-to-face, set up a video call. Give them this in-person respect, but make sure you state the way you will move forward and the termination in writing afterward.

2. Stay polite and professional.

Each interaction must maintain a positive business relationship. Upsetting a freelancing client could push them to write negative reviews online, or alert a potential client. Remember, this is an opportunity to keep a good reputation for your biz. Although it didn’t work out with a certain client, they may still refer others to you in the future. Keep your professionalism and this window open.

3. Depersonalize the firing.

With emotions and relationships in the mix, it can get complicated. Changes in business direction, personal circumstances, or an unsuitable process for both you and your client can put you in this situation. Although it may be uncomfortable, think of it as the business decision that it is. Do what’s best for your business and remove all other factors.

4. Be Honest.

Explain what lead you to your decision. Let them know the exact expectations that are not being fulfilled. Use your evidence, like a written contract or project plans, as examples. This will help both you and your former client move forward in a more productive way. Be open about the ways they prohibited you from producing your best work and why they aren’t the right fit for your business. This will allow both of you to reflect on the relationship and understand what to tweak when moving forward.

5. Refer a colleague.

Although it is not necessary, your client will be more than appreciative to receive some direction once you let them go. Just because a client didn’t work well with you doesn’t mean they won’t work well with a peer. Since you will no longer be completing their needed services, help them find someone who can.

6. Keep your eye out for red flags.

What aspects of the client were detrimental to the relationship that has caused this firing? There may be at least four of them according to this Forbes article. Don’t make the same mistake twice. Move forward with your business while keeping in mind the red flags that made you fire this client in the first place. Being aware of what works and what doesn’t will help you determine how to choose the right clients for your freelancing biz. It will ensure reliable clients and stable happiness for the future of your solopreneurship.

No matter how hard you try, you cannot meet every demand of every client. You may just not enjoy the work you do or who you work with. Don’t let this stand in the way of your solopreneur happiness. This is your business. You call the shots.

All in all, you want to let someone go in a respectful manner to maintain a positive client relationship. To do this, be honest to your client and explain where things went wrong. They may not realize this at first, but you are saving both yourself and your client time and money to find a suitable match.