3 Signs you should leave your client + tips for a smooth breakup

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Breaking up is the hardest thing to do—especially when you’re a freelancer.

But, sometimes, you just need to do it. The reasons, of course, vary depending on exactly why you decided to become a freelancer in the first place.

For most of us, it’s probably because of two main things.

1. The money! You wanted to be able to make as much (or as little) as you like and keep all of it.

Sidenote: Once you finish, read how 4 freelancers built recurring revenue models that changed their business. You'll love it.

2.  More importantly, the freedom. The freedom to decide your fate, to choose when and where to work.

And with whom to work—or not work.

Leaving your freelance client will probably boil down to the following 3 reasons, all related to the shrinking sense of freedom you’re feeling.

1. Your client is too demanding

Yes, this can happen. When you have an overbearing, micromanaging type of client, it can make life very difficult.

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And it is unfortunate that the demanding client also happens to be the serially unhappy client.

Not only does this client expect a lot from you, including daily reports and long Q&A sessions, but is also very critical of anything you do.

No matter what you do (or don’t do) for this particular freelance client, you’re always coming up short and it can frustrate you and even make you feel like a failure.

With this kind of client, there is no joy other than to not have to deal with him or her again.

2. Your prices have increased and the client doesn’t want to pay

This one is a bit more on the business side of freelancing, but it is a real concern.

You should be raising your prices on a consistent, yearly basis. The reasoning is probably two-fold.

First of all, there’s inflation (and the economy in general). $10 today is not the same as $10 last year.

Secondly, your experience has a monetary value. You now have one more year of experience than you did last year.

That year’s worth of experience can be defined in monetary terms, because you’ve gotten better, faster, stronger.

If your client doesn’t want to pay for that, then maybe it’s time you leave and look for greener pastures.

3. You’re overworked

This last one is a big problem. This happens to a whole lot of freelancers, and it could be because of the lifestyle.

Freelancers often calculate: more work = more money = more happiness.

However, that’s just wrong. The last part of the equation is not necessarily true and can sometimes be the opposite.

The first part, however, is only true with linear thinking and the condition that everything else is equal. But everything else isn’t equal.

The psychological toll of more work

With each new each client and with each new job, you don’t get the same output. If you can write two 500-word articles in 4 hours, can you do 4 in 8 hours?

The psychological toll that new work takes on you should be accounted for, and it’s a cost. So while you are getting paid the same (or similar) for extra work, your costs are actually going up.

That’s why sometimes, at the end of the day, you’re tired.

You didn’t really do that much. You’re already late with some of your main tasks, and the extra work you picked up means you can’t even sleep well.

You feel guilty and useless, and then you feel worse and much less motivated.

You are now in the ‘overworked’ phase of freelance-hood, and it is not a great place to be.

‘Overworked’ is a door to the house of ‘burnout,’ which isn’t a house at all. It’s a cave—a deep, dark, near-infinite cave that can lead you to some pretty rough places, including depression, alcoholism and worse.

Save yourself by cutting your client(s)

When you get to this place, it’s time for you to take a step back—in fact, a few steps back—and reevaluate where you are and where you want to be.

Do you have enough time for yourself? For your friends and family? Do you feel accomplished when you go to sleep and happy (though groggy) when you wake up?

If the answer is no, then you should cut down on client work and work on yourself. In this situation, it’s sometimes necessary to not just have less work, but also to have fewer clients.

Who you decide to cut is your choice, but cut you must.

How to break up in a good way

Now, just because you’ve decided to leave a client, doesn’t mean you have to leave them high and dry.

After all, you’re still a professional and you have a reputation to uphold. The following steps are crucial when you’ve decided to leave your client.

1. Call them (if possible)

When you’re breaking up with someone, it’s better to do it to their face. When you’re breaking up with your freelance client, it should at least be on the phone.

My first ever girlfriend broke up with me through a Facebook message. While the breakup wasn’t fun, the medium that she chose was just offensive.

It can also look quite cowardly, which will lower your professional reputation.

It’s of course much easier to do it through email, but it is by no means better.

2. Always be professional

No matter what the situation, you should try your best to be professional. In your emails and communications with your client, try to remain professional.

Essentially, this means you should remain non-emotional. Not unemotional, just not reaching the emotional outburst level that can cause a situation to get much worse.

3. Provide a two-week notice

The standard notice for quitting is two weeks, for a good reason.

It’s long enough to give the client some time to find someone new, but also not too long that your life becomes unbearable.

If you can, offer other freelancers to continue the work—unless, of course, this particular freelance client is horrible to work with. Then you probably don’t want to put that on anyone else.

4. Finish up your tasks

In the meantime, you should make sure to finish up as much as possible before you part ways.

If you run their social media, don’t just leave them high and dry. If you’re still working on maintaining their website or providing regular content, keep on with your work until your final day.

Even if the client is a two-eyed monster, at least you’ll be blameless in that you did what you promised. And in business, as in life, all you have is your word.

With at least one less freelance client in your life to worry about, you can focus on your higher paying clients (and getting more of those while working less), or simply focus on giving yourself a well-deserved break.

Have you ever had to leave your freelance client? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below!

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About Bernard Meyer

Bernard Meyer is a freelance writer and photographer at the Meyer Food Blog, a website dedicated to delicious food for busy cooksYou can also find him on Facebook and Pinterest.

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Comments

  1. Hi,

    Very good article. I was hesitating to leave clients during initial years of my career. But now, I understand Power of less.

    Focusing on few clients and providing high-quality work to them really increases reputation, sharpen your skills and boosts career growth.

    More is not good always. Once we understand this in life and career, everything will be easier and simpler.

  2. Thank you for this article! I’m in the startup phase of my business, yet already had an interested prospect. This prospect seemed perfect at first. But right from the start, was abnormally demanding. During messaging, the prospect stopped communicating without stating she was leaving. I let that go. Later, I was given a tight deadline, yet the prospect was unreasonable in requests and in getting back to me in a timely manner. I let all of those things go, too.

    I stayed up nearly 48 hours without sleep to finalize, then send my proposal, as I hadn’t finished creating my template or finalizing my policies yet. I didn’t get a response, so had to inquire after a long time period. Then the prospect wanted to negotiate without having read the proposal. This told me that this client likely wouldn’t honor an Agreement or pay on time, either. So that was the last straw. I finally gently and kindly let the client go via email, offering the services of another company instead. I was lucky that we weren’t locked into an agreement yet!

    Lesson learned… don’t’ start until all systems are in place, qualify prospects with better questions, have templates in place to respond to common problem scenarios, watch for warning signs that indicate client doesn’t respect you nor will likely pay on time, and don’t be afraid to let the client go – in a professional manner, of course. Nothing like getting thrown into the fire before you’ve even started!