We regularly recommend that freelancers do a regular review or audit of their client list, weeding out those who are stingy, vague, uncommunicative, unreasonable, aggressive, or just generally not worth the time and effort you expend on working for them.
But how do you say goodbye – particularly to those that aren’t troublesome, but just don’t bring in enough money, especially if they genuinely can’t stretch their budget? How do you suddenly end your business relationship with someone you may have worked with for several years;– someone who puts a smiley at the end of every email and asks how your cat is after that nasty accident?
Rule 1: Remember they’re A Client First
Even if your client has become something of an internet friend, remember your primary relationship with them is a business one. It’s fine to mention that you’ve enjoyed working with them and even to express a little regret that you’ll not longer be able to work for them – providing you don’t break rule 2.
Rule 2: Don’t Grovel To Your Client
Does the customer service assistant in your local supermarket grovel profusely when they explain they no longer stock your Fierce Fiery Chicken Vindaloo with Hot ‘n Spicy Rice? No – and or should you. You are providing a service; you’re a business. So don’t grovel, because you’re doing nothing wrong. Don’t apologise, squirm and repeatedly try to justify your decision in the course of a fifteen-page essay/ hour-long phone call. You are not responsible for your client’s success or happiness and you haven’t left them in the lurch… have you? Unless you’ve broken rule no 3…
Rule 3: Give Your Client a Notice Period
Resentment will definitely set in if you abruptly declare you can’t work for a client any more. Of course, there may be a notice period written into your contract, but if no such binding agreement exists, then let common decency be your guide. Give them a month’s notice so that they have time to search for and hire a replacement. If you’re so inclined, you could even recommend someone suitable.
Rule 4: Wish Them Luck As You Wave Them Goodbye
Otherwise known as, Be Polite to Them. A little courtesy costs nothing, even when extended to the most aggravating, stress-creating nightmare of a client, so wish them well for the future. There’s nothing to gain by being rude and however awful they may be, they may have less awful contacts – you don’t want them bad-mouthing you to potential clients.
Also, remember that writing in a business-like manner doesn’t mean being abrupt. Just keep it professional. If they react badly to your announcement, try to keep calm – and follow rule number 5.
Rule 5: Don’t Get Involved In Pleas or Rows
You know your clients, so if a reasonable client asks if you wouldn’t mind giving them two months’ notice rather than one, you may be inclined to say yes. You may also agree to a change of work quantity or type if it suits you better and makes working for the client a more viable proposition. If a client comes back to you and asks if finance is the issue and is suddenly prepared to pay a higher fee (which you’ve requested already, right, because you know to review your rates regularly?), then you may feel you want to carry on working for them at the higher rate you’ve agreed.
But do beware becoming embroiled in rows, rising to taunts or being emotionally blackmailed into carrying on working for a client.
Respond with a final firm but professional email, explaining that you regularly review your workload and regretfully, it’s sometimes necessary to bring contracts with clients to an end – however, you wish them all the best for the future.
And I wish you all the best with your new, pared-down client list!