As a freelancer, you spend a lot of time worrying about winning and keeping clients, but not so much thinking about when and how you might want to call it quits. Admittedly, it isn’t a problem that comes up too often – loyal clients are worth their weight in gold after all.
But all client portfolios require some pruning every now and again, whether it’s to enable you to try something different, move up the pay scale, or focus on the kind of work that you’re most interested in.
Here we outline the main reasons you might want to resign a client account, and most importantly, how to go about it in the right way.
Why it could be time to say goodbye
- Lack of responsiveness: We’ve all been there. You start the client relationship full of excitement about the potential for creativity and success, only for the client to lose interest or get too busy, so your emails and calls go unanswered. This can be extremely disheartening, leaving you unable to do your job properly, and resulting in missed opportunities and time wasted chasing to no avail. What’s more, it can be hugely stressful, as you’re unable to meet your targets and have nothing to show the client for their investment. It might be neither party’s fault, but in this situation, it could be time to knock the relationship on the head.
- Retro rates: It’s normal to charge a lower rate when you first start freelancing. But the danger is that those early clients will stay on those low rate for years afterwards. Maybe you’ve tried to broach the idea of a rate review, or looked at ways to increase your fees, however if these have fallen on deaf ears, you’re really only left with one option. Even if they’re a great client in all other respects, you need to value your time and earn what you’re worth. And by focusing on clients with more budget, your work-life balance should improve too.
- Prioritise your passion: Every freelancer sometimes takes on work that doesn’t necessarily float their boat – that’s all part of surviving the ups and downs of the independent lifestyle. But as you become more experienced and start to become choosier about your likes and dislikes, it can be frustrating saying ‘no’ to new, interesting projects, because of legacy clients that you don’t love. So, if your heart really lies elsewhere, it could be time to make the jump.
- You’ve grown apart: If you’ve worked for a client for a long time, it’s normal that the nature of the relationship will change over time – whether for better, or for worse. This is often the case with startups, for example. In the early years, you’re likely to be working directly with the founder, having an intimate knowledge of the business and the excitement of building something new. But, as the business grows, that dynamic can change quite rapidly, with new team members joining and new layers entering around you. You may enjoy the new challenge, however if you feel like it’s lost some of its magic, it could be time to take your skills elsewhere.
How to handle it
Of course, whatever your reasons, this isn’t a situation to take lightly. Giving up a loyal client is always going to come with risks, and you don’t want to burn your bridges in the process. Here are a few tips on how to approach the situation sensitively and diplomatically:
- Check your contract: Before you raise any issues, make sure you know where you stand from a legal perspective. For example, what is your notice period? Do you have any outstanding obligations to think about? Getting acquainted with all the fine print ensures you’re fully prepared for any questions or concerns the client may have.
- Have a frank open conversation: If the issue is a lack of responsiveness or some other problem on the client side, start by having an upfront, honest conversation about the issue, in case there is any way that the situation can be remedied. Be clear that you won’t be able to continue working with them if things stay as they are. This may push them into making the changes required.
- Be firm: If this doesn’t work, or your reasons are more personal, then be clear and firm about your decision, and explain your reasons briefly and honestly. However, remember to also keep things positive, by thanking them for the opportunity and experience. And reassure them that you will make the handover as seamless as possible.
- Give plenty of notice: Timing is everything, so make sure you give the client plenty of notice and don’t leave in the middle of a crucial campaign. Your contract should state how much notice you’re required to give, however a month is usually considered a reasonable amount of time for handovers, to enable the client to find a replacement, not to mention enabling you to line up another project.
- Help to find a replacement: Another way you can help to smooth the transition is to recommend or help to find a replacement. You may know a freelancer who fits the bill, or you can help them to use The Work Crowd to pinpoint the perfect successor.
- Stay in touch: Finally, you never know what the future may hold, so be sure to stay in touch on LinkedIn, and keep an eye on what the client is up to. The stars may align again in the future!
Freelancing inevitably comes with its ups and downs, but variety is part of what makes it such an exciting career choice. So, if you’re on the lookout for a new challenge, check out the latest jobs on The Work Crowd. Our online system means that you can keep track of client correspondence, agreements, targets and invoices, so that managing your projects is easier than ever.