6 Signs It May Be Time To Break Up With a Freelance Client

break up with a freelance client

Relationships require effort from both sides — especially when it comes to your career.

Most professional writers work with a few different clients. Sadly, these relationships don’t always go as planned. If things are getting rough or have been for a while, how do you know when to part ways?

As professional and determined as you may be, some clients are simply hard to work with. No one likes the thought of losing a business relationship, though sometimes it’s for the best. Here are six signs it may be time to break up with a freelance client.

1. Your Payments Are Consistently Late or Short

As writers, we love to tell our story to the world and help companies translate web copy into a sustainable competitive advantage. We also love to eat.

Even if the client you’re working for is friendly and deals with an industry you’re passionate about, things can fall apart quickly if your money isn’t right. An occasional invoice delay is common, and incomplete payments even happen in salaried jobs. However, repeat instances should be considered a red flag.

Some clients want web copy even though they aren’t great at working with freelancers. If you have to hound them constantly just to get the money you’re owed, you may want to consider moving on.

Luckily, a simple email is usually enough to get an issue with your pay corrected — but what happens when you don’t receive a response?

2. Communication is Becoming More Difficult

If you work with a freelance client, you probably start your workday by going through your inbox to check for anything new. If you work with multiple clients, you probably find yourself checking every hour — and maybe in your sleep if the week is frantic enough.

Whether you’re waiting for an update about a new project or getting clarifications about something you’re currently working on, communication is everything. This is especially true if you work remotely.

We all know life happens — sometimes companies go through changes and your contact’s inbox could be flooded with thousands of emails each day depending on the size of their company. The issue with communication is like that of pay problems — if a problem occurs regularly, you may be better off ending the agreement altogether. 

3. You’re Not Getting the Feedback You Need

If you’re looking to write on a full-time basis, you need two things: coffee and a willingness to accept feedback. A good client will tell you when something isn’t right and provide you with guidance on what they’re looking for instead.

If you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, you won’t have the chance to fix it. But doesn’t this tie into the whole communications thing? Well, not exactly.

I once worked with a client who sent timely invoices and answered any specific questions I asked by the next-business-day. They even had their hub set up to update you when tasks were assigned — just not when they were completed.

The result was a system where only management could see assignment notes and feedback from the editors. The relationship didn’t last, though I still see the client posting about openings every so often (I see you).

Knowing what is expected of you makes your job much easier — so long as those expectations are fair.

4. Your Freelance Client Has Unrealistic Expectations

Even if you’re the type of writer who balances SEO mastery with exciting flow and zero grammatical errors, sometimes clients will still have problems with your work.

Revisions are a part of the writing life. While this is true, there is a big difference between asking for a little less passive voice and demanding a dozen revisions with no extra payment. 

The same can be said of unrealistic expectations related to deadlines. Clients want their copy quick, especially if the topic is time sensitive. If you aren’t given enough time to complete things, you’ll find your schedule is jam-packed and your mood is soured.

Good clients may ask you for a short-notice project on occasion, like when there is a breaking news story. But they won’t consistently push unreasonable deadlines. Once you’ve got a good client or two, you can afford to be picky.

5. They Don’t Measure Up to the Others

After you’ve gotten the juggling act down, you can move from one freelance client to several. If one of them isn’t on par with the rest, it could be time to part ways.

As you get better at writing, your time becomes more valuable. That increased bargaining power comes into play when you begin to reach your max number of clients — and you still have more asking you to work for them

In situations like these, you may have to drop a current client to pick up another. Even if a freelance client pays consistently and communicates well, you may find they simply don’t offer what the others do.

No one likes the thought of ending a relationship, but sometimes it’s simply what’s best for everyone involved.

6. You’re Being Given New Terms

Change isn’t always a bad thing. In some cases, a client you’re working with may offer additional work or the opportunity for you to earn more pay per piece. Unfortunately, the opposite can also be true.

Some clients attempt to modify agreements with freelancers which can, in some cases, be to the freelancer’s detriment. Are you being asked to take a lower pay rate? Are you being asked to add things to your work without any increase in compensation?

Whenever you get a new agreement, you’ll have to evaluate it personally. You know what you’re worth and what your options are. Sometimes an updated agreement from a client can mean more money and a better schedule. Sadly, it can also mean a once-good relationship going downhill fast.

If you’re getting the type of offer that has you raising your eyebrow, you may be better off ending the agreement right there. Don’t worry, though — we’ve got your back. Here are our tips for breaking up with a bad freelance client


Josh Stanley

Josh Stanley has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. In addition to business, he also specializes in writing about technology, the writing industry, and the freelance lifestyle in general.

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One comment

  • too much changes in a project also causes relationship problems.It’s frustrating when you get a set of project details from a client one day, and then the next week, while you’re in the midst of the work, you suddenly get a whole new set of instructions.
    Sure, clients can change their minds, but if it happens frequently enough to disrupt your focus and energy on the project and basically makes no sense anymore, then its time for you to change your mind about working with this fickle client. If you’re set on keeping the client for financial reasons, be sure to require change fees if (and when) the scope of work is adjusted.