Breaking Up With a Client is Hard to Do

We’ve been talking about how to find new writing assignments here at Freelance Writing Jobs, and I wanted to take some time to talk about ending a working relationship. There will be times in your career when either a client will decide not to work with you any more or you will decide that it’s time to move on.

Sometimes, the end has nothing to do with your work at all. Your client’s needs may change due to economic factors or for personal reasons. A couple of months ago, one of my long-time clients had to tell me that he needed to end our professional relationship because he had been diagnosed with cancer and he needed to focus his attention on making choices about treatment options and trying to get well. Perfectly understandable in my book, and since we had become good online friends, we still keep in touch.

When someone has to tell you that they won’t be working with you anymore, the best thing to do is to stay professional and make it as easy as possible. Finish anything you are currently working on. If you have materials that belong to the client, return them promptly. Send your bill and get paid.

If the situation is one where you would be interested in working with that client again if circumstances were to change, then by all means let that person know that they can contact you at that point. Ask them to give your name and contact information to other people they know who may be hiring.

When you are the one who has decided that it’s time to move on, it’s important to behave professionally. Give some notice, if possible, that you will no longer be accepting assignments after a certain date. Finish up the work you have and submit your invoice for it.

In a situation where your reasons for moving on are that the client is difficult to work with – and I’m being very diplomatic here – resist the urge to bad mouth them. Things that are posted online can come to light long after the fact, and it really can be a very small world in cyberspace. Find another way to deal with your frustrations…..better yet, find a new client who you find easier to work with.

Have you ever had to break up with a client or has a client dumped you? How did you handle it? Please share your professional breakup experiences.





5 responses
  1. Robin Marie Avatar

    I had a client I’d been working with for a few months who was horrible to work with, constantly changing his expectations and his instructions. I was frustrated, but hoped it would get better, and wanted to find more work before giving him my notice. About a week after I made that decision, he told me I wasn’t meeting his expectations and fired me. I was frustrated, but when, two days later, he asked me to work for him again because, “I’d more than met his expectations,” I told him I wasn’t interested.

    It was obnoxious at the time, but I can laugh about it now.

  2. Phil Avatar

    I tend to build long-term relationships with clients. But at times they continue to increase the scope of the work without increasing the pay — they expects more research on low-paying work (which was only accepted because little research was required), start getting later with payments (a sign payments could stop altogether), or start making other demands that didn’t exist when relationship first started.

    I always attempt to part ways amicably and think I’ve been fairly successful in doing so.

  3. Aurora Avatar

    One constant gig I had been doing on a bi-weekly basis for the better part of four years was going downhill for me. I just knew it was time to move on. It took months to get the nerve up, and I was even a little bit scared. Not being considered for other jobs in the future was a big worry for me. I ended up just very honest about the work and my reasons for not wanting to continue with this specific project. I offered to stay on until the end of the year, giving them a little better than three months to find someone else.

    It was relief for me to do this, and the nervousness about ‘breaking up’ was totally unwarranted as, since then, I have received several new opportunities from them. The first break-up you initiate is the hardest of them all! Offering to continue your services until they can find someone else is a good (and professional) thing to do.

  4. Katy Avatar

    I just broke up with a client yesterday. This has been a long-term client and they were my first sort of big client. But they’ve always been difficult and…just really strange people to work with. Lately they’ve become increasingly rude to me and, as my business has increased, they are my lowest paying client. After a particularly shocking email string this week I just decided they weren’t worth the mental anguish anymore and wrote to them saying this current project would be my last.

    I kept the letter very positive and didn’t mention any of the things I am angry about, just told them my business was expanding and moving in a different direction. I was nervous to sever the tie and the stream of income, but as soon as I sent the letter I got a new client offer in my inbox. I took it as a sign that I made the best choice.

    We don’t have toooooooo many perks as freelancers, but getting rid of clients who don’t treat us properly is certainly one of the ones we do have.

  5. Colleen Avatar

    I absolutely love my job for this very reason. Aside from the flexible schedule, more time with my kids and getting to write (my favorite thing to do) all day long, I also get to pick and choose who I work for. Hate your boss? Fire her! (In a calm and professional way, of course)

    The first time I had to break up with a client I was so afraid. I was just starting out and I didn’t have a lot of business at the time. I stated my reasons in a very professional and straight forward tone. (They didn’t pay on time and I had a couple other gripes.) And like so many other writers, as soon as I made the break I found another new client waiting in my inbox offering higher pay, less work and more interesting topics.

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