Have you ever fired a client?

In this issue...
--> Good Reads
--> Saying No to Clients [Featured Discussion]
--> Classifieds
--> Quick Tip!

Saying N.O. when a client isn't respecting your boundaries can be intimidating, especially if it's the first time. Why can't they just play nicely??  Dealing with a wide range of client personalities and actions is part of the freelancing gig that doesn't get as much air time as other aspects. Reframing a disrespectful client (or potential client) as an opportunity to strengthen yourself and your freelancing practices is a powerful way to use the not great situation for good. Deep breaths. You're in control.

Best of luck,
Devin, Editor

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Good Reads
  1. "How to become a more curious person"
    "...with the rise of automation, skills that machines and robots simply can’t do—skills that are “unautomatable”—become all the more important. Curiosity and imagination meet these criteria perfectly."
  2. "How Do You Find Clients? Designers Share Their Best Advice"
    Answers include: Be shameless about outreach. Do what the apps cannot. Put a zany idea out into the universe. 
  3. "Is your mentor actually hurting your career? How to fire a bad mentor"
    Not all mentorships are meant to last forever.
  4. "Why you don’t need a clear path to be successful"
    So if you're feeling lost, don't panic.
  5. "The Personal Business of Being Laid Off"
    "As I was packing up what I could, trying to blink back tears while also not alerting my coworkers I had been let go, I couldn’t believe it was over in such an unceremonious way. I meant nothing to this job that had meant so much to me." 
Featured Discussion: Saying No to Clients
Whether that means turning down a potential client or actually firing a client, this is a topic that comes up a lot on FF (we even wrote about it in a past newsletter.) Here are some highlights that still ring true AND some new takeaways from a lively discussion on firing a client: 

On Firing a Client...


Some relationships aren't meant to last

Don't expect to work with every client forever. If the relationship isn't working, give the client reasonable notice so they can find someone else, and then walk away. You aren't leaving the client hanging--you're opening up the door to new opportunities for both of you.

It can be helpful to think about breaking up with a client is like breaking up with a partner. You can ever use some of the same language: “You seem to need more attention than I can provide,” “I’m trying my best to give you what you need, but I’m frustrated as you don’t seem satisfied. Perhaps someone else would be a better fit.”

Consider a client probation period

There's a reason that new employees are generally on probation for the first 90 days -- sometimes it's not a good fit. You can establish something similar with your new clients by letting them know (and including it in your contract) that you have a 'probation' period at the beginning of your work together.

Also, if you're in the thick of it already, you can tell the client that now that you've been working together, you have a better sense of how they work and what they need and you can see that you're not the best person for the job and that you can't keep working at the rate you quoted. Tell the client you'll work until a certain date and that you'll be happy to help transition the work to someone else during that time (but not after.)

Kill them with kindness

It's entirely fair to simply state that the relationship isn't working because of x,y, and z. And that you'd like to save the client money and let them take their business elsewhere because you cannot provide the value they need. Come at it from a point of trying to make sure the client gets the value they needs.

On Saying No...


Templates are your friend

It's a good idea to have a canned response ready to go for clients that display too many red flags. Expect that as your freelance career continues, you will have many opportunities to say, "No, thanks" to potential clients.

Here's a general version:
  • "Thanks for reaching out and for your interest in my services, but I'm not able to take you on currently. Best of luck finding a [designer/writer/etc.]!" 

If you want to be more clear about why you're saying no (and give the person a hint to not inquire again), use this version:
  • “Hello, thank you for reaching out and inquiring into my services. After research and thinking about the potential project, I think a partnership between our businesses would not be prudent as I feel our missions do not align. I wish you the best in seeking talent."  

Get clear on protected classes

A reminder: You cannot legally turn away clients because they're part of a protected class (for example, race, religion, gender identity, etc.) But if you're saying no to a client based on a bad fit or misalignment or they've been a jerk -- handle it professionally and you're in the clear. One FF member commented that they had heard it put this way: "Being an asshole is not a protected class."

Demanding an explanation is a red flag

You don't owe a potential client the whole reason you're turning them down -- they aren't entitled to that explanation. And, if you do take on clients others may not, you don't owe an explanation to fellow freelancers. It is true that one of the wonderful parts of being your own boss is the freedom to say no to bad clients. That said, if you need to put food on the table sometimes dealing with an unideal client becomes necessary.

If you're still feeling unsettled about the idea of turning down or firing a client, know that all long-term freelancers have done it and are still standing. These situations pop up and learning how to deal with them will become another tool in your freelancer tool kit. You've got this, friend!


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- Dana Detrick, FF Member
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