Let’s face it: The freelance writing business can be hard, and that’s often due to difficult clients.
The question is, when do you draw the line?
When is it time to break up with a freelance writing client?
It’s an internal conversation I have had before, and I’m sure you have, too.
Unfortunately, it’s also something that can hurt our careers if we’re not careful.
You see, these feelings of uncertainty – of doubt – sometimes cause us to make unwise decisions. We take on projects we’re not excited about; we accept lower rates than we should and, worst yet, we keep clients who aren’t worth our time.
Are you keeping clients around just for the sake of having something to fill your days?
A link in your portfolio?
Another hundred bucks in the bank?
If so, this post is for you. Here are 6 signs it’s time to kick those freelance writing clients to the curb and move on to ones more worthy of your efforts and talent.
1. Your freelance writing client is not paying you on time (or at all)
Always remember: Freelance writing is your job. It’s not a hobby or something you do for fun. It’s how you make money.
You can’t let payments be an afterthought, and you can’t allow clients to push them by the wayside. They need to consider it a top-of-mind, No. 1 priority at all times.
From the beginning of each client relationship, outline payment terms and schedules clearly. Let clients know how much you expect, when you expect it and how you expect to get it. If the client veers from this agreement, have an honest conversation about why this is unacceptable, and let them know if it is not remedied ASAP, you will no longer be working for them. Client management and communication should not be this difficult, especially if you are working with the right clients. If it starts to feel like it is getting out of control, you have the right to end the client relationship.
If they still fail to pay up (or on time), move on. Keep sending them invoices for those late payments, though; if you need to, have a lawyer send a sternly worded letter on firm letterhead.
2. You’re making less than you are with other clients
Keeping a client who pays you significantly less than others isn’t wise either.
For one, you’re losing money. Every hour you spend on your lower-paying client is an hour you could have been commanding a higher rate with another one. Add those lost funds up over time, and it could mean hundreds, even thousands of dollars in squandered income.
Aside from this, your rate speaks to your talent and your worth as professional. You deserve to earn a rate commensurate with your abilities and time, and if someone isn’t willing to pay the rates you set, they obviously don’t think you’re worth it.
A client-vendor relationship should be a two-way street; you need them, and they need you. If you get the feeling you’re no longer a valued part of the team, it’s time to move on and move up.
Focus your efforts on the clients who are willing to pay those higher rates, and see if they can refer you to business partners or colleagues in need of your services as well. Then, you’re grandfathered in at your higher rate, and you’re putting your time into lucrative clients that value your work.
3. They’re expecting freebies and add-ons
I’ve had a few clients like this in my day and let me tell you: they’re sneaky. Typically, it happens with longer-term clients – ones you’ve been working with for a few months or even years.
Here’s what happens: The client gets comfortable with you. They love your writing, your turnaround time and, overall, the service you provide. As they work with you more, they entrust you with additional tasks. So while you might have just been sending your blogs to an editor at first, now you are expected to upload those blogs straight to the clients’ site yourself.
From there, they start asking you to do other little things, like finding images, adding in keywords or creating a posting schedule. Though at first request, these might seem like quick, one-off items that won’t take too much time (after all, they’ve been so loyal – why not?), these tasks can add up quickly. Just think: 15 extra minutes a week means, an hour a month, 12 hours a year and how much lost income?
Set boundaries with your clients, and no matter how much you like them and appreciate their loyalty, always charge for upgrades and add-ons. If they respect you and the work you provide, they’ll be more than happy to compensate you for your time. If they’re just looking for free work, tell them they can find another person to do the job – it’s not worth your time or effort.
And if you want to “fire” a client but you are worried about where and how to find more, check out my Ultimate Client-Getting Masterclass. It’s a short video training where I show you my EXACT steps to attracting, finding and contacting clients who will want to work with you.
4. Communication is sometimes a one-way street
We’re in the communication business, and to get our messaging right, sometimes, we need a little extra guidance from our clients. That may be a simple answer to a question, access to various resources or documents, or sometimes just feedback from the right person. Whatever it is, it’s vital to the final product. I discussed the importance of communication in my previous post, 7 Tips to Communicate with Clients Like a Six-figure Writer.
If you have a client who doesn’t reply to emails, pick up the phone or answer your questions, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart. You might be the provider here, but their participation is important to the quality of your work.
Ask them if they can schedule in a weekly Skype session to discuss ongoing projects, or if they can point you to an assistant or associate who can give you feedback when needed. If they aren’t willing to do this (or they don’t even respond to your request), it may be time to move on.
My thoughts: What’s the point of doing work if you can’t do it right?
5. You’re not gaining anything from them
Every freelance writing client should offer you value. Sometimes, that value is financial – the profits and rates you earn from working with them. Other times, it’s more intangible value, like knowledge, industry connections, clout, a killer byline or even just pure enjoyment.
It doesn’t matter what that value is, as long as it furthers you and your career.
Is it helping you command a higher rate later on?
Is it giving you skills you can use with bigger, better, more renowned clients?
Do you really love and feel passionate about the work?
If you can’t find the value in one of your client relationships, it’s time to make a change.
6. It’s taking you more time than it’s worth
As freelance writers, most of us charge per-project or per-word rates. If the content is in our wheelhouse, this works in our favor. We’re able to crank out sharp, quality content in a fast and efficient manner. Other times, unfortunately, these types of rates can really hurt our bottom line – especially if we didn’t properly calculate them from the onset.
Periodically, take a few minutes to evaluate your work in light of your rates. How much time did it take, versus how much you got paid? If broken into an hourly rate, was that project really worth it? Would you accept that hourly rate if offered it right now? If not, speak to your client about adjusting your rates. For a freelance writer, time is money. If your work is taking more time than it’s worth, take charge and make a change.
If you notice any of these issues when working with your freelance writing clients, consider it a red flag. It’s time to make a change, move on and move up – before it’s too late.
Are there any red flags you’ve seen with past clients? Share them with me in the comments.