Ever had to drop a client? It stinks. I don’t know of a single writer that likes to do it. First of all, writers are usually very paranoid about dropping clients because they’re always afraid they won’t find another one. (Or maybe that’s just me.)
Second of all, ending a client relationship is a form of conflict and who likes that? Nobody.
In the past I’ve had to drop clients for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes my schedule was just too full and since I had too many projects, I couldn’t give the proper attention to certain clients. Other times, the client didn’t pay on time (which as a business person I can’t deal with), and other times a client may be have been just too difficult to continue working with.
Regardless of the reason, ending a client relationship is never easy. Freelancers need to be especially mindful of how they say goodbye to a customer.
Freelancers should treat their client relationships the same as if they were an employee of an organization. Proper notice of at least two weeks is customary, but may be much longer depending on certain project work.
A letter of resignation can be just as important as the initial contract. Writers should state when they are leaving, which projects have been completed, and any other pertinent information that may help a client move on from the situation. Writers should make sure the resignation is respectful and positive, as it will likely be one of the last pieces of communication the client keeps.
Reasons for Ending the Partnership
As with romantic breakups, ending a client relationship is all about form. Never use it as an opportunity to trash the client. Word-of-mouth can always help a freelance writer get new jobs, so they should prevent burning a bridge even when ending a relationship. Freelancers can be honest with a client, but must do it in a professional and respective way.
For example, it’s perfectly acceptable for a writer to tell a client that he or she is moving on from the relationship due to financial circumstances. Clients that consistently ask for more work with less pay need to understand that writers have to make a living. If the client cannot pay the writer, the writer must get clients that can. This is a lesson for both the client and the writer.
In the case of a problem client, the writer should merely say that he or she is moving on to focus on a select number of clients for the time being. Never complain about a client’s behavior unless it is completely unprofessional, such as: excessive calls during off-hours, sexual harassment, inappropriate comments, or refusal to pay for work. Even then, writers should handle the situation with grace and resist the urge to angrily tell someone off.
Get a Referral Letter
If the client relationship has been a positive one, freelance writers should ask for a referral. I’ll admit, I never think to do this myself. It isn’t until I’m applying for something else that it comes to mind. So if you can get one before you walk away from the client, that’s probably better than after.
A good way to do this is to draft a sample letter of reference that a client can copy and add his or her personal remarks to. This can also speed up the process of gaining a reference since the client does not have to write it from scratch. Drafting up a sample is also an easy way to show exactly what the writer is looking for in terms of a reference, and it helps reinforce the ending of the relationship.