How to Break Up With a Bad Freelance Client

breakup with a freelance client

Breaking up is never easy.

Success as a freelance writer depends heavily on your ability to land good clients. But not everyone is easy to work with. Sometimes a freelance client may even cause you so much trouble you decide to end the relationship completely.

There’s just one question: How do you go about it? The freedom offered by the freelance lifestyle makes business relationships much more relaxed. Unfortunately, this can also make it a little hard to know how to break up with a bad client. There are a few steps you can take to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

1. Voice Your Concerns and Keep Records

This might be more of a step zero than a step one because it’s something you should do before the breakup process. If you have a freelance client who has caused you headaches in the past, you want to make sure they’re aware of this before you end things.

Whether you’ve been getting shorted on your pay or you’ve had questions go unanswered, make sure you have evidence. It sounds extreme, but keeping a detailed report of what happened and when will serve you in the long run. In the event a client attempts to say they weren’t aware of an issue, you can present your case and show that you at least tried to get your grievances resolved beforehand.

If you have voiced concerns about some aspect of your working agreement, you should also be prepared to tell the client what it will take to keep you.

2. Consider the Possibility of Negotiations

Talented and dependable writers are hard to come by. If you’re considering breaking things off with a freelance client who you’ve worked with for a substantial period of time, you should always be aware they may try to convince you to stay.

When you tell a client you’re leaving due to problems in your working arrangement, they may attempt to barter as a means to keep you around. To make sure you’re not caught off guard, think about what it will take to change your mind.

If there is a specific issue such as pay, determine — before you enter into negotiations —what they’ll have to offer in order for you to stay. If the issue is related to something else like poor communication or another problem that has been going on for a while, you may be opposed to the possibility of negotiations altogether.

There is always a possibility the client will throw you a curveball when you make a move to end the relationship. But once you’ve made up your mind (usually after meeting your wit’s end), you can move forward with the actual breakup.

3. Write a Formal Email to Your Contact

Whether your freelance client is a single individual or an entire company, you should have someone you can contact directly with questions or concerns about the work arrangement. This is the person you’ll write the email to when you announce your intention to part ways.

It is important to keep things formal. No matter how rough or frustrating the relationship has been in the past, remember that part of being a professional writer is having a sense of business savvy. This means you keep things polite and positive when addressing the client and telling them you’ll no longer be providing services for them.

There is always the possibility the client may change their ways in the future. If you haven’t burned any bridges, you may be able to work with them again someday. If you’ve just started out as a full-time freelancer, you’re going to find that networking is everything. Never end things on bad terms unless you have to.

What Should the Email Contain?

  • Introduction: Always list your name and the services you provide for the client.
  • Reasoning: Let the client know why you’re ending the arrangement.
  • Gratitude: Don’t forget to express thanks for the experience (even if it’s just a formality).

Once you’ve announced to your freelance client that your arrangement will cease, you can breathe easy. However, it is also important to make sure you don’t have any unfinished dealings with them.

4. Tie Up Loose Ends  

The freelance lifestyle can be a chaotic one, and not everything runs on schedule all the time (as many long-time freelance writers will certainly attest to). When you’ve decided you don’t like working with a freelance client and choose to refrain from doing so in the future, it doesn’t mean your dealings with them are completely done.

In some cases, you may have late payments still pending. You’ll want to make this known in your letter and take appropriate action depending on your situation. On the other side of things, you may have agreed to complete additional work for the client that still needs to be submitted. Again, these situations are always different. You’ll need to decide the best course of action depending on the factors involved.

Additional steps you may need to take include removing said clients from your contacts and being sure to honor any type of agreement (such as an NDA) concerning projects you’ve completed for them.

5. Learn a Lesson from the Experience

After you’ve voiced your grievances, dumped the client, and cleaned up the baggage afterward, you’re done, right? With this client, yes. However, you want to make sure you don’t end up in a similar situation in the future.

Maybe when you look back on it, there were certain things about this freelance client that caused you to be suspicious. Maybe you gave them the benefit of the doubt and overlooked certain aspects of the agreement despite your gut instinct telling you to turn and run.

In any case, breaking up with a client is always a learning experience. It helps you find out more of what you expect as a writer, and how to tell a good freelance client from a bad one.


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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