While freelancers are ultimately in the business of attracting and keeping clients, that doesn’t mean that you need to sacrifice your dignity, self-respect, or flat-out happiness in the name of retaining a troublesome client. In case you missed the hint in the title of this post, it is absolutely okay (and sometimes quite necessary) to drop a client if you’re simply unable to maintain a healthy working relationship with that individual or company. That said, there is a right and a wrong way to do so. Read on for a few tips I’ve learned along the way.
1. Take a Deep Breath
Before acting rashly out of anger or frustration, take a moment to step back, breathe, and maybe even sleep on the situation. While you shouldn’t feel controlled or manipulated by a client, you also don’t want to act unprofessionally.
2. Be Polite, Yet Firm
Once you’ve had a chance to think reasonably about your relationship with this client and have decided that it’s best that the two of you part ways, it’s time to deliver that message firmly, while always remaining polite. There’s no need for insults or even an argument at this point. If you’ve made up your mind and feel that this particular client is impeding your happiness, sanity, quality of life, etc., you don’t owe them a drawn-out departure.
For this, I like to follow the 4th Law of Power: always say less than necessary.
3. No Regrets
Don’t feel guilty about “firing” a client, especially if you did so to preserve your own happiness. It’s also important not to fall into the trap of letting the client make you feel guilty or bad for ending the relationship. Dropping a client isn’t the end of the world, and if it means being able to devote more time and energy into positive aspects of your freelancing business, then it’s really a win-win.