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Want to Fire a Client? Ask These 5 Questions First

by | Aug 25, 2017

You’re an artist. A consummate wordsmith who crafts powerful prose compelling readers to take a specific action.  

To have some corporate suit and tie type question your word slinging prowess is almost insulting.

They don’t understand how your copy will help their business, and they’re wrong to question your expertise.

Or are they?

The above is a knee jerk reaction I see many freelance writers (including myself) make when receiving criticism of their work.

I’ve seen it lead writers to wrongfully “fire” clients whose only intent was to improve the deliverable with constructive criticism.

To keep myself from making hasty, rage fueled decisions, I now ask myself a series of questions whenever a client does something I disagree with. These questions haven’t just helped retain a stable client base, they’ve helped me improve as a writer by filtering genuine constructive criticism from ignorant comments.

I recommend you ask yourself the same questions the next time you’re thinking of dropping a client.

1. Is this constructive criticism, a poorly informed request or a personal attack?

Knowing the difference between the three is key.

If your client is offering constructive criticism, suck it up.

Sure, it hurts to be told your article, blog post or email isn’t perfect, but if the client’s offering advice that will help you improve, listen. Take a day to consider their feedback before responding and you’ll see they might just be right.

However, don’t blindly follow their lead. You’re the expert. They might request amendments to tone or structure which, from experience, you know will lower reader engagement.

Educate your client and explain why your proposed tone or structure is the better way to go. If you don’t and end up doing everything they tell you, you’ll end up hating the client and producing low quality work.

Sometimes clients are unnecessarily abrasive. They launch personal attacks because they’re not happy. These clients are poison to your career and have to go. This is a professional relationship.

Work related criticism is fine, personal attacks are not.

2. Are the client’s requests crazy or are you missing the big picture?

How involved are you with the client’s wider marketing strategy?

If you’ve been hired for a single deliverable like a individual blog post or company bio, chances are that’s all you’ll know about.

“Ridiculous” client requests could be the result of a clash with the bigger picture.

If you’re not sure why the client needs something, ask.

Ask why they need certain changes. Tell them it’ll help you understand the overall plan and turn in a bio, blog post, case study that better aligns with their strategy.

3. Is this a recurring problem?  

We’ve all been paid late, had a client send a curt email or waited too long for a simple response.

Clients are people too, and just as prone to crappy days as we are.

If the client oversteps once, give them the benefit of the doubt. They could be dealing with something their end and need a little slack. We’ve all been there, it’s not appropriate or professional, but it happens.

But if it continues, move on.

4. How well can you do this job?

There’s a direct correlation between your ability and your enjoyment of a task.

If you can’t do a job well, it’s often difficult to find it enjoyable.

With writing (and other creative arts) that bond is strengthened because there’s so much of you in your writing.  

If a client makes you feel like you can’t do the job, you’ll hate the task and the client for making you feel that way.

You shouldn’t take on jobs you can’t handle. I understand there’s an exception as you need to grow, but grow carefully. If you can’t perform a certain task well, it will become something you dislike.

5. Are you the first freelance writer the client has worked with?

Clients who’ve never worked with freelancers often struggle to manage outside help. They don’t have established processes for effective communications and payment.

It’s not a sole reason for dropping a client. If you are the first outside writer a business has worked with, give them some wiggle room and educate them on what they’re doing wrong. Most clients are pretty decent about this. If your work is good, they’ll want to keep you around.

Consider putting together a “how to work with freelance writers” guide. You are a writer after all and putting your own guide together will not only help the client understand how to work with you, but will greatly help future freelancers they work with.

If you have clients that are draining you of motivation, making you feel like you’re a terrible writer or having a general negative impact on your life, they need to go.

There are times when dropping a client is completely necessary, but before making a hasty decision, be sure to consider these five questions.

Have you ever fired a freelance writing client? Share your stories in the comments below.