One of my best friends in high school used to always tell me, “You can always find ways to make money, but you can’t always find ways to be happy.” And he was so right.
Money (and clients) will come and go, but your happiness is truly what affects your life as a whole.
I recently dropped my worst client, for three out of the four reasons I’m going to list below. If you’re dealing with any of the situations I’m about to list, I’d suggest you drop your worst client as well! Dare to make your happiness a priority in your freelance writing career.
4 Reasons to Drop Your Worst Client
1. Your Client Makes You Severely Unhappy
Do you wake up in the morning dreading your next interaction with your client?
My client liked to rag on me about issues that were completely out of my control (like technical mishaps she had on her end that had nothing to do with the writing/editing work I was doing for her). She would take every opportunity to complain — and to talk down to me. She had little to no respect for me, or my work, and it showed.
I cringed every time I saw an e-mail from her in my inbox.
If your client makes you severely unhappy, ultra stressed out, or sends you into full-blown panic attacks: It’s time to say “goodbye.”
2. You Hate the Work You’re Doing for Your Client
This goes along with point #1.
Do you absolutely hate the work you’ve been doing for your client?
Sometimes it’s the type of work you’re doing… For instance, I was hired on to do writing and editing work, but got finagled into doing a grab bag of other tasks that I absolutely couldn’t stand.
Other times, you’ll just end up hating the quality of work you’re turning in. Sometimes clients will hire you to do a writing gig, but they’ll be so controlling that your work loses all its personality and becomes low-quality mush. And that feels bad, man. Real bad.
If the work you’re doing is making you miserable, it’s time to look for other work.
3. Your Client Doesn’t Pay You Enough
Why is it that the worst clients are also the cheapest? It’s one of those “rules of life” that I’ll never quite understand…
Cheap clients like to “just one more thing…” you into the next dimension!
If the work you’re doing isn’t worth the pay you’re getting, it’s time to drop that client and look for someone who will pay you what you’re worth.
4. Your Client Doesn’t Pay You at All
Maybe you took on a job “for exposure.” Or maybe your client is just super “late” with their paychecks.
Either way, if you’re not getting paid, then it’s not a freelancing job — it’s charity work.
And charity work is nice, but it should be meaningful. Is what you’re doing for free meaningful to you? Does it fulfill you as a human being?
If not, then it’s time to drop that client and look for paying work.
You’re your own boss now. Let go of your employee mentality. As a freelancer, YOU call the shots. Make the choice to not be miserable! Drop your worst client TODAY!
How to Drop Your Worst Client
No Matter What You Do: Be Polite
No matter what action you choose in order to say “goodbye” to your worst client: Be polite. Be every inch the professional that they weren’t.
Even if you intend to never, ever work with them again, you don’t want to burn bridges. They might not have been the best client, but they may know other people who you do want to work with.
Give Two Weeks’ Notice
If you have an ongoing job for a client, this is generally the best route to take. Just like you would with a traditional employer, let your client know that you’ll be leaving them in two weeks’ time and that they should start looking for your replacement.
Be polite, but firm. Set an exact date that you’ll be leaving and stick to it.
Finish the Project, Then Leave
If you’re working on a one-off project for your client, let them know that this is the last project you’ll be working on for them. You can say something like, “I’ve enjoyed working with you, but this type of project isn’t really up my alley, so I think you should look for someone else if you need this done again.” Or you can say something along the lines of, “My client roster is full for the foreseeable future and if you need more work done, you’ll need to look elsewhere.”
Say whatever you need to say to break ties while still remaining civil. But finish the work you signed on to do. For one thing, if you’re under contract, it can be hard to break away otherwise.
Return Their Money and Run
If you absolutely cannot finish the project that you’ve signed on to do, then you’re going to have to go back on your contract. This generally means giving up the money you’ve been paid. Ouch.
I’ve never been desperate enough to do this, but, if you really, really want out and/or cannot finish the work (maybe it’s out of your skill set?), then this might be your only option.
In some cases you might be able to keep the money for the work you did finish; however, that’s something you and your client will have to have a hard discussion about. Best of luck to you if you choose this option!
Recommend Your Replacement
Unless your client was absolutely incorrigible and you could never imagine passing off such a terrible person onto someone else, then it’s always a nice idea to recommend a replacement on your way out. That way, you can remain helpful and not leave your client hanging. Which could help you get a testimonial out of them, if you want one. Try your best to leave on good terms!
For example, my “worst” client had a lot of issues, but they were things that someone else would likely find easier to brush off. And the work that I hated doing were things that I knew others loved. I had been hired on to do writing and editing, but got stuck doing virtual assistant duties — which I knew a real VA would totally dig.
However, only do this if you’re sure the person you’re about to recommend is a good fit for the client/job. It’ll weigh on your soul if you put someone else into a horrible position.
In the end: Do what you know is right for you. Be happy.
Have you ever had to ditch your worst client? How’d you get out of it? Let me know in the comments!
Lauren Spear (née Tharp) is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She’s written hundreds of bylined posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers. Thousands if you count all the articles she’s ghostwritten (but she’s not allowed to talk about most of those).