How Do I Break Up With My Freelancing Clients On Good Terms?

Life is full of changes. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing something, or how well. Sometimes circumstances will force your hand for a change.

Client relationships are no different. Needs change, budgets dwindle, editors leave. The freelance writing job you applied for, and the job you’re expected to do may no longer match.

How Do I Break Up With My Freelancing Clients On Good Terms?

When it’s not a fit, it’s time to say goodbye to your freelancing clients.

These times call for a “talk.” It doesn’t necessarily end in a break-up, depending on the likelihood of a solution that will work for both parties. But when no such compromise can be found, it’s time to say goodbye to your freelancing clients.

When You Might Need to Break Up

In my freelancing career, I broke up with clients for four different reasons:

The Project Ended

The project was completed, and I got paid.

They later changed their minds and gave up. I was too much of a newbie to ask for a testimonial; I didn’t even know what a testimonial was. But it ended as a friendly, professional break-up.

The Client Had to Give a Break

We were a great fit, but the client lost his sponsor.

I wrote one article and got paid. But before I could even submit my second post, the site got on a hiatus. I asked my client to keep me in mind, should the project continue at some point. I occasionally check the site to see if there are any changes.

Client Changed the Format

It turned from blog post writing about a variety of topics to video script writing, a skill I hadn’t developed yet. If I were excited about the concept, I could have given it a shot. But it wasn’t my cup of tea.

Editor Changed and So Did the Vision

I wrote a couple of posts, and it went splendidly. Then the editor changed, and even though I tried to write her way, it didn’t work out.

Other Possible Causes

Here are other reasons why a client may not be the right fit. These haven’t happened to me yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t in the future.

  • Scope creep: Your project becomes much more than you’ve initially agreed upon, and you need to stop or go back to the original deal. Mark this client as a “bad client.”
  • Reverse scope creep: It’s the opposite of the problem above. You suddenly don’t have enough gigs from the same client. Experienced freelance writer Lauren Tharp explains both situations here.
  • You client doesn’t pay. Obviously, you need to bolt.
  • You are no longer happy for other reasons.

How Do You Break Up With Your Clients On Good Terms?

Once you are sure you need the relationship to end, all you need is to be succinct, professional and polite. Here are five ways to end it amicably.

1. Keep it Professional

Don’t burn any bridges. Your reputation is important, and there’s no need to make a virtual scene. Even if your client is being unprofessional, keep your cool. Know you’re not the only one exposed to unreasonable people. It’s best to move on.

2. Follow the Client

Were you writing for a website? Is the client on any social media platforms? Keep tabs, and take notes of any ideas that would work for them.

If you quit working for this client because of an editor or change of focus, your new ideas might come in handy later. Depending on how you left things and how much you enjoyed working for this client, you might even want to send the occasional greeting e-mail.

3. Give them Your Notice in a Reasonable Timeframe

If this isn’t a nightmare client who didn’t pay you, you don’t want to leave them in a pickle. You might need to conclude your projects, but it will help your reputation and portfolio in the long run.

4. Ask for a Testimonial

You’re quitting in a friendly and professional manner, so why not ask for a testimonial? You make your client’s job easier by providing them a template to approve instead of leaving them to it.

5. Don’t Badmouth Your Client

If you are leaving amicably, chances are you didn’t hate this client (entirely). If you had payment delays and problems however, there are sites you can submit information anonymously, such as writer’s forums and payment databases. You can also share your entire experience without giving names.

There you go. These are the five tips I stick to when I need to break up with my clients in an amicable fashion. How do you break up?

Pinar Tarhan's been working as a freelance writer and blogger for over five years. She is a firm believer in big dreams and realizing them. Her work has been published in Women On Writing, Be a Freelance Blogger, Make a Living Writing and Brazen Careerist among others. You can share her passion on her blog, Addicted to Writing, and catch her on Twitter.

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Hi Deevra, Thanks for commenting. You’re right, sometimes you just have to leave, intact bridges be damned.:) No matter how carefully you approach your potential clients, sometimes the warning signs are just not there. You live, you learn and you move on wiser.Reply to Pinar
Love this post. Like you said, sometimes it’s just not a good fit. Sometimes your personalities just don’t ‘click’. I’ve been there! I’ve even burnt a few bridges because it just didn’t end very well. Oh well… moving swiftly along! Having said that, it’s never a good idea to burn bridges. Always try and end things amicably. But sometimes… it just happens. I’ve had the scope creep thing happen twice, and I’ve had one or two clients that I ALWAYS battled to get payment from. Both those situations had me tearing my hair out. The moral of the story for me. It’s just not worth it to work with clients I don’t like, who never pay on time and who are a colossal pain in the butt.Reply to Deevra
Hi Elna, Thanks for commenting. I do my best to keep the relationships positive. It’s in fact a tight circle, and in a world where we hear tragicomic stories about writers dissing editors for rejection and stuff like that, being professional definitely works in our favor.Reply to Pinar
Pinar, Thanks for sharing your stories! In my case, I lost a client because they wanted a break to re-group. I also dropped a client because they were on the low paying side and as I had a new threshold to prune my client list. It’s always good to stay professional in these circumstances as many bloggers and small business owners run in a tight circles. So, if you are “snarky” with one client, you may have ruined several opportunities based on who the client associates with.Reply to Elna