When to Fire a Client

Is it time to fire a client? Here's how to tell.

One of the hardest decisions to make as an online freelancer is to fire a client. In some cases, you might just need to move on in order to grow your business or develop as a person.

In other cases, a client might have become intolerable. When you reach that point, it's vital that you assess your options. You don't want to keep trying to work in a situation that sucks the passion out of you and makes it difficult for you to accomplish other work that is more meaningful to you.

When to fire a client

The unfortunate reality is that you might not be able to fire a client if your livelihood depends on the gig. Carefully think through the situation, and figure out what steps you can take as you begin to prepare to fire a client.

As you build your freelance business, make it a point to seek out clients that you are comfortable working with, that pay on time, and that you trust. I'm fortunate that I have wide enough variety in my clients, allowing me to move on when necessary.

Long experience has allowed me to discern better as well. This means that, even though I do still occasionally fire a client, it happens less and less.

Here are some red flags:

  • The client asks you to do something illegal
  • You keep getting asked to “add more detail” or add more sections, bringing a higher word count
  • Excessive revisions
  • You have other, higher-paying clients that you can switch to
  • You're tired of working with them

There might be other red flags as well. The main thing is to understand yourself, look for other gigs, and get rid of clients that no longer serves you.

0 thoughts on “When to Fire a Client”

  1. Nice post! Years ago I did quite a bit of software contract work. The difficult clients was what eventually drove me away from that work.

    How would you actually go about firing a client? What would you say? What medium would you use?

    I found whenever I was specific about why I didn’t want to work with someone, they’d get angry with me. It didn’t seem productive.

    1. Normally when I fire a client I just say I have other projects to work on, or I say that it’s not working out. And I use email. Almost all of my communications with most clients are via email. I’m usually vague and not very specific. Just try to make it sound like things aren’t working out and it’s time to move on. If it’s especially sensitive, I provide a refund or partial refund and move on.

      1. Ah, cool. That’s what I eventually ended up doing too.

        I always felt like there must be a better way to be more direct with people (I place a high value on honesty), but I guess this is one of those situations it doesn’t pay to be too frank.

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