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When You Know It's Time to Let Go of Your Clients

By Edited Apr 29, 2015 0 2

Freelancing or running a business is hard work. You have to find clients, stay on top of the workload and make sure that not all your eggs are in one basket. It can be difficult to say no to a client or to remove one from your list but there are a number of times that you need to do it – no matter how much you enjoy doing their projects.

When They Don't Pay - On Time or At All

You don’t work for free. Sure, there are times that I work for residual pay. This is one case and I write on a variety of sites similar to InfoBarrel and for residual income. I don’t class it as working for free; it is working for a future profit. But clients you expect to pay upfront and according to the terms of your agreement. When a client is struggling to pay on time or meet the agreement on a regular basis (once or twice could be a glitch in their system), it is time to cut them loose.

However, there may be other options available. One is to change the terms of your agreement. Consider working in milestone payments with difficult clients. You get 50% before starting the work and the other 50% when it is completed; or 25% when you deliver the job and last 25% when it is completed.

When They Have Unreasonable Demands

I don’t mind demanding clients. In fact, I like clients that know what they want and expect a certain type of work. What I don’t like are clients that have unreasonable demands. I have had clients that have suddenly decided they want the deadline shortened by a week – when they know that I will be away for that week – or ones that have demanded revisions time and time again due to changing their mind on the project without any extra compensation.

Cut your clients loose by politely telling them that you cannot meet their deadlines or do all the work that they are requiring for the pay. There may be the possibility of negotiating a new contract; I managed to turn my multiple revision request into one with extra pay after explaining that the terms were met the first time and that it wasn’t my fault that she had decided on something else afterwards.

When They Are Rude and Disrespectful

I don’t mind demands and clients who have a professional way of communicating over email but I don’t like rude and disrespectful clients. I will not tolerate a client who decide that their children could do a better job or talk down to me. Maybe not so suprisingly, I mostly find these clients are ones that want something for free and are unwilling to negotiate on any terms!

It is important to remain professional in all dealings with a client, even if they are rude. I always reply in a friendly manner and explain that due to professional and personal differences I cannot continue working on the project.

When They Are High Maintenance

I once had a client who wanted me to remain on GTalk at all times – even be available in the middle of the night – and give hourly reports on his projects. I work for several clients and giving hourly reports just isn’t possible and I definitely won’t keep my computer on when I’m asleep. My emails do go to my phone but that doesn’t mean I’m going to reply when I’m trying to sleep!

High maintenance clients are a big no-no for me. I can’t do all the hand-holding or offer detailed emails all the time. I don’t think these clients are worth the time when freelancing; there are plenty of other clients in the sea, so to speak. If you have one of these clients, politely explain that you cannot stick to the required schedule and walk away.

When They Don't Stick to the Contract

Contracts are one thing that I believe must be kept. They are not only legally binding but they form a trust between client and freelancer. Most of the time, it isn’t worth taking a client to court due to breaking a contract but it would definitely make me think again about working on their projects in the future. If a client fails to stick to terms in the contract, there are high chances that he will be trouble later.

If you really can’t afford to lose the client, you may want to look into revising the terms. The client may not realise at first that he has broken the terms so explain them to him. Contracts can be negotiated so consider and you can add your own clauses to protect yourself.

 So, those are my 5 terms when I believe a client needs to go. There are times that things happen by mistake – there may be a problem with a PayPal account or the client may have misread the terms. If it happens just once, then I often give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if they are longstanding clients. If the same problem happens on a regular basis, I will definitely let them know that I can no longer work with them. It can be worrying letting a client go but there are more and you deserve to enjoy your job and not resent every piece of work that comes through your email.



Jan 16, 2013 5:45pm
Good advice, but it can be hard. Last year I gave up my best source of income over payment. I had been underpaid by about $80 due to a clerical error on my client's part. Then, apparently for family reasons, the client (up till then a first class employer) failed to answer my emails for several weeks. At this stage I was angry enough to track down my last article (which my client had onsold) using Copyscape. I contacted the site owner and explained the situation. By coincidence or otherwise I had the money two days later. The sad thing is that I am sure my client had every intention of paying up and the the reasons for not paying were genuine, but the lack of contact clinched it for me.
Jan 17, 2013 9:15am
I understand. Lack of communication annoys me too. I had one client who failed to communicate until I stated that I would be using the posts for myself. I still didn't receive payment and have ended up making more with the post in residual income than I would have done for the client! I think we all have to have a poor client though to learn from and grow.
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