When Should You Fire a Freelance Client?

There’s no greater feeling for a freelancer than landing a new gig.

The excitement of starting a new project (and making some money) never gets old. But as any freelancer knows, some projects can sour fast, leaving you caught between a rock and a hard place with a client.

When Should You Fire a Freelance Client?

The back-and-forth of bad communication eats away at freelancers time and money.

Feelings of uncertainty are common with freelancing, so the very idea of firing a client is a hard thing to confront.

After all, if you fire a client, do you know where your next payday will come from? While passing up work may not sound appetizing, the costs of dealing with a bad client can take a much greater toll on your financial and mental well-being. To learn when to draw the line, look out for these common red flags of a bad freelance client that needs to be fired.

Payment Problems

Money should be a deal-breaker. As the old saying goes, money talks, B.S. walks. If your client is not honoring your payment agreement, that’s an instant sign to move on.

Signs of payment problems include unpaid invoices, frequently paying invoices late, multiple empty promises to pay, and under payment. If you continue to discuss these issues with your client but to no avail, stop working on the project and professionally discuss why you’re deciding to terminate the relationship.

Don’t forget, time is money and you have to pay your bills too! A client’s failure to pay only leads to more stress and financial strain, so drop the dead beats.

If you have a client that refuses to pay, check out this great post on how to take action and get the money you’re owed.

Bad Communication

As a freelancer, you deal with lots of different approaches to business, but what do you do when your client’s bad work habits take a toll on your livelihood? One of the most comm only problems among freelancer-client relationships is bad communication.

Two major red flags to look out for are consistent unresponsiveness to messages and frequently changing project details and expectations without discussion. The back-and-forth of bad communication eats away at your time and money.

If these communication issues sound anything like you and your client, that’s a telltale sign to terminate the relationship stat.

Unreasonable Demands on Your Time

Freelancing isn’t associated with the 9-5 life, so with that being said, some clients have been known for their unreasonable demands of freelancers’ time. Just because you freelance, doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have a life, or sleep for that matter.

If your client is expecting you to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 2 AM, that’s a problem.

If your client is demanding that you work on your day off, that’s also a problem. Don’t be a doormat and let clients walk all over your free time and well-being. One way to avoid this problem is to clearly outline what your hours are and not waver on your terms.

It’s important to maintain healthy work relationships, but you should never back down to a bad client. That just decreases your worth and value, and you have the right to be treated the same as any B2B professional.

Time to Let Go

To avoid these problems before they occur, give a lot of thought to your own terms and conditions. Clearly discuss what you will and will not do for a client. Be clear on your expectations and requirements for payment, hold the client to those terms, and insist on good communication from your client.

Happy freelancers are productive freelancers!

Eric Brantner is a veteran copywriter and blogpreneur who operates high-traffic sites in a  variety of niches. You can find more of his work at

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I agree. Once the client becomes unreliable when it comes to payment, it’s time to move on and find another one.Reply to Richard
Great post! Loved how you honestly discussed a commonly faced problem amongst freelancers. Most of the time, we freelancers shy away from discussing the negative experiences we face with our clients. Like you said “happy freelancers From my personal experience, I encountered a client who continued to downplay my work just so he can bargain a cheap pay. Given the prestige of the client, I was led to doubt my own skills. It wasn’t until he proposed an insulting pay that I caught to his game and, yes, he was fired 😉 Thanks for a great post.Reply to Eden
Eden, Glad you enjoyed the post. What you described is a very common tactic bully clients use against freelancers. Criticize the freelancer’s work and act like they can be replaced at any moment, scaring the freelancer into working for less pay. Glad you didn’t put up with it!Reply to Eric