By: Tamara Rice
In freelancing -- much like in conventional careers -- there will be times when you and the people paying your salary are just not a good match.
While being half a world away from a difficult client may give you an advantage over an employee who works 10 feet from the boss he can't stand, it doesn't mean you need to put up with the challenge. Ideally, "this-is-a-bad-fit" red flags would come up during the interview process, when you have time to decline a job before becoming too involved. However, sometimes it's impossible to know how you and a client will work together until you have been contracted and are on the job for a certain length of time.
If you and the client are not a good fit, one or more of these red flags will eventually be revealed:
- Difficulty communicating ideas and concepts to the client
- Difficulty understanding the ideas and concepts described by the client
- Lack of prompt payment for services rendered
- Problems getting in touch with the client by email or phone
- An ongoing need to redo your work because it hasn't met client expectations
- Inadequate or "too fuzzy" answers to your questions about the project
- Lack of respect for your time (missing conference calls with you, keeping you waiting on hold, delaying email responses)
- Unreasonable expectations of your work
- Demands not initially discussed in your contract or added to it by mutual agreement
- Lack of feedback on work completed or acknowledgment of work completed
- Illegal activity or activity that is ethically uncomfortable for you
- Disparity between the interview/contract agreement and reality, regarding the nature of the work and compensation
- A general lack of professionalism on the part of the client
- Overall sense of dread or boredom about working on the projects for the client
Any of these reasons would be reason enough to end your contract with a client. A few of the above issues may be resolved with a frank conversation, but - most of the time - these are problems that aren't going anywhere and waiting them out will only make things worse. While it's not always advisable to immediately cut and run, it is advisable to begin working toward a clean break as soon as possible.
- Begin by seeking a project with a different client. It's time to make up for the financial loss you will incur when you part ways with your current client. Start looking the moment you decide it's not going to work out.
- Wrap up any current projects and inform the client. When your income and financial stability is no longer an issue, it's time to graciously head for the door.
- Be honest, but brief. There is no need to hand over a list of complaints. This isn't a marriage and you are not going to counseling together. Simply state that it isn't a good fit and you'd like them to have the opportunity to find a suitable match.
- Give a clear end date and stick to it. Two weeks notice isn't necessary, especially if you are completing any outstanding assignments and meeting your contractual obligations.
- Remember your reputation. Remember that your reputation is on the line whether the client is two cities away or two continents away. The online world is flat and often surprising. If you can avoid burning bridges, then do so. For a smooth exit, admit no faults and accuse of nothing (unless it's going to keep you up at night).
Freelancing is about the freedom to make a living on your own terms. So, when a freelancing gig begins to feel like a burden, it's time to reevaluate your relationship with the client and the viability of a long-term commitment.
For more on how to end a client relationship, check out When (And How) To End a Relationship With a Client.