The Way We Work
February 16, 2010 by Guest Blogger

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)not a good fit pencil
  • 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.

  1. 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.not a good fit quitting clients
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

  • Tamara

    That’s such a bummer, Stephanie. It always brings to mind the complexities of romantic relationships. At least in real life former flames and romantic partners can’t stamp us with bad feedback ratings and drop our overall score!

  • Stephanie

    Man you have no idea how happy I am reading this post! :) Unlike RJ, I’ve encountered several clients these past few months who’ve been so difficult to work with. I could relate to almost all of the points you listed down with the last buyer that ended my assignment, for example.

    I also ended my contract with an hourly buyer because I felt we just didn’t FIT as a team and ended things in the kindest way possible, but then he gave a feedback rating that practically dropped my good overall score all because I ‘cut things short’ between us. So disappointing…

    But anyway, it’s an experience and a lesson learned. I really hope the next few buyers I work with will be as communicative and as understanding as I am with them.

  • Tamara

    RJ, you have had a run of good luck, I’d say. And, Johnny, it’s so true. I think we all fear change and dtiching a client can seem like jumping off a cliff. But if we are going to be stuck in a miserable job, we might as well quit freelancing and return to the office, right?

    Here’s to freedom in freelancing. Including the freedom to say no thanks.

  • Johnny

    I think there is a tendency for freelancers tend to latch on to these types of clients since dropping them would mean a loss of income. It took me a while to realize this myself but dropping bad clients ASAP means there will be other clients just around the corner. And likely good clients for that matter.

  • RJ

    Thank God that thru my 2 years of freelancing,all my buyers are so kind and caring except for one. :)