The Way We Work
August 18, 2009 by Tamara Rice

At oDesk headquarters in Menlo Park, California, every Tuesday is a WFHT. This Tuesday, we’d like to talk about a sticky subject: when and how to say “No” to a client or buyer. Remember, you work for yourself! You can say no. So, here are a few guidelines we hope will help you out.

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Reasons to Stop Taking Projects From a Client. Any reason is a good reason -you’re the boss! However, here are a few you really shouldn’t feel guilty about: (1) Ethical Reasons: The client asks you to do things you really aren’t comfortable doing (even if they are legal). (2) Relational Reasons: You can’t stand working with them. You just can’t seem to see eye-to-eye, no matter how hard you’ve tried.  (3) Productivity Reasons: They are experts at the art of time suckage and you are tired of taking their phone calls at all hours of the day and night. (4) Personal Reasons: You just don’t like the assignments. It’s okay to listen to your gut and move on. (5) Financial Reasons: They don’t pay — or aren’t paying enough.

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Wrong Ways to End the Relationship. While we support your need to end the relationship with your buyer, there are a few things we want you to avoid doing on your way out. (1) Venting Frustration: It isn’t in your best interest to burn the bridge, so don’t end it on a bad note – no matter how upset you may be over the circumstances. (2) Using the Wrong Medium: If you typically talk on the phone with the  client, don’t end things via e-mail. Also, no matter what, please — for the love of all things freelance — please, don’t “break up” by voicemail! (3) Ending Mid-Project: Sometimes there is no good place to make a clean break, but try (if you can) to end the relationship with a completed task.

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Right Ways to End the Relationship. Always put your best foot forward on your way out the door — just like when you walked in it. (1) Thank the Client: They gave you work. They paid you. (We hope.) Thank them for the opportunity. (2) Recommend a Replacement: You won’t always be able to do this, but it’s a real sign of professionalism if you can. (3) Give Them Notice.:Don’t stop out of the blue. Tell them it’s over at least a week or two before you really need to walk away (if possible). (4) Don’t Elaborate: They don’t need to know much; just that you are switching your focus to some other clients and won’t be able to help them any longer.


WFHT Recommended Reading
“Why I’m Trying to Become a Quitter” from Stepcase Lifehack
“Guidelines for Turning Down Freelance Work” from Wake Up Later
“How to Craft Your Personal Business Model” from Freelance Switch
“11 Tips on How to End a Client Relationship” from Men With Pens
“How to End the Client Relationship” from Writing White Papers

tamaraforodesksmaller

Much like a divorced marriage counselor, my ability to dish out advice is not an indicator of my ability to implement it. However, having worked from home for over a decade, I’ve learned what works and what just creates more work.

- Tamara


Tamara Rice

Freelance Writer and Editor

Tamara Rice is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. She joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, after more than six years on staff at an award-winning national magazine.

  • Stephanie

    Why oh why did I just found this blog entry now? XD I’m saving this for future guidance in case I end up with another buyer I’m not comfortable with.

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  • Tamara

    Oh, James, this is so totally about breaking up. It’s almost as stressful and equally awkward.

    But maybe more like breaking up with an internet boyfriend or girlfriend who we’ve never actually met.

    Who lives in another state.

    Or country.

    At least that’s what we hope.

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  • http://www.menwithpens.ca James Chartrand – Men with Pens

    Brings to mind the song “Breaking Up is Hard to Dooooo…” *refrains from singing*

    But it’s true. Telling a client goodbye is incredibly hard for many people because we feel guilty and bad. We hem, we haw, we don’t want conflict, we don’t want to hurt feelings.

    Do it. Because the hardest part is writing, “I’m sorry; this isn’t working out.” From there, within days, you’ll feel SO much better.

    And the clients you kept will benefit from your ready-to-rock-again mood.