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Losing and firing clients

From: Freelancing Fundamentals

Video: Losing and firing clients

Into each life, a little rain must fall, and every freelancer eventually has to deal with a bad client. Sometimes, they're unhappy with you, in which case the burden is on them to end the relationship, but there are also situations where you decide that things are wrong and not worth fixing. These are the clients you fire. Here are some tips to make both kinds of parting a little easier. First, let's talk about when you lose a client. You'll probably have several concerns, high among them, "Will they hurt my reputation by saying bad things about me?" "Did I deserve to lose the job?" And the big one, "Will they still pay me?" The spectre of your ex-client badmouthing you can really loom large, particularly if they're important in your field or industry.

Losing and firing clients

Into each life, a little rain must fall, and every freelancer eventually has to deal with a bad client. Sometimes, they're unhappy with you, in which case the burden is on them to end the relationship, but there are also situations where you decide that things are wrong and not worth fixing. These are the clients you fire. Here are some tips to make both kinds of parting a little easier. First, let's talk about when you lose a client. You'll probably have several concerns, high among them, "Will they hurt my reputation by saying bad things about me?" "Did I deserve to lose the job?" And the big one, "Will they still pay me?" The spectre of your ex-client badmouthing you can really loom large, particularly if they're important in your field or industry.

In my experience it doesn't happen as much as people fear. Professionals try to avoid negative talk because they know it muddies them as much as their target. In any case, it's a matter that's pretty much out of your control. The best you can do is to handle the split calmly and professionally which will encourage them to do the same. The second question, "Was it my fault?" bears examination. If it was, take responsibility, and figure out how you can learn from your mistakes. If it wasn't, don't obsess with trying to convince them that it wasn't your fault.

Even if you win at that game, you lose. Would you really want to go back to a place where you were wrongly accused? The third question, "Will they pay me?" is the one that truly deserves your attention. Absolutely, you should invoice them as is appropriate to your agreement and to the work you've done. Then you should follow your usual collection procedures if they don't pay. I talked about those in an earlier video. But throughout all of this, remain above the name calling and accusations that turbulent emotions tempt you toward.

Learn from the experience and move on to greater successes in your freelance practice. That leads us to the second scenario, where you decide that it's time to fire a client. I used the word "fire" because you hired them just as much as they hired you. Firing a client is a big decision, but it's one you'll sometimes have to make because a bad client can harm the health of both yourself and your business. Just as they can get rid of you, you can get rid of them. The power goes both ways.

Now, with that power, comes responsibility. First and foremost, you have the responsibility to honor your agreement with the client. Do as much as you reasonably can before leaving and don't expect full pay if you've only partially completed the job. This is where a well-written agreement becomes especially important because it can help determine how much you should get paid for a partial job. Second, figure out what went wrong. Then make the tough decisions of whether to tell them and how. For example, it could be that the project was torpedoed by an incompetent staff member.

Should you tell that person's boss? That depends on a lot of factors, and you're the only person who can make that decision. The boss might appreciate it and send you future work that doesn't involve the problematic staff member, or the boss might resent it, and tell you off. But in any case, figure out the issues for your own education. Third, even though you might be leaving under bad terms, try not to leave them in the lurch. Help them solve their problems, perhaps with recommendations for finishing the project without you or by referring them to another freelancer.

Of course, you should only make that referral if you believe the other freelancer won't have the same problems as you had. And you should be upfront with the other freelancer about those issues. Continuing on that theme, make the parting as friendly as possible. Give them ways to feel good about it, encourage them to remember you as someone who helped the company even though that one specific project didn't work out. I also recommend that you make it as clean a break as possible. Don't linger, and don't take side jobs with them.

When a client relationship ends, it's hard not to imagine the worst. But believe it or not, sometimes those bad experiences lead to good recommendations, referrals, and future relationships.

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This video is part of

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Freelancing Fundamentals

42 video lessons · 24635 viewers

Tom Geller
Author

 
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  1. 10m 50s
    1. Welcome
      1m 53s
    2. What is freelancing?
      2m 53s
    3. How freelancing and employment differ
      2m 33s
    4. Preparing your mindset
      3m 31s
  2. 9m 24s
    1. Defining career goals
      2m 48s
    2. Sharpening your market focus
      3m 18s
    3. Transitioning to freelancing
      3m 18s
  3. 16m 11s
    1. Preparing your portfolio
      3m 11s
    2. Estimating costs
      3m 10s
    3. Funding your startup
      2m 42s
    4. Establishing your workspace
      3m 35s
    5. Building your professional network
      3m 33s
  4. 8m 51s
    1. Getting licenses, permits, and insurance
      2m 15s
    2. Creating contracts
      4m 23s
    3. Finding professional service vendors
      2m 13s
  5. 12m 54s
    1. Setting prices
      3m 13s
    2. Establishing payment systems
      1m 36s
    3. Invoicing and getting paid
      3m 50s
    4. Keeping the books
      2m 32s
    5. Managing taxes
      1m 43s
  6. 14m 41s
    1. Announcing your availability
      3m 16s
    2. Finding work through agencies
      2m 2s
    3. Onboarding clients
      2m 59s
    4. Avoiding scams
      3m 25s
    5. Choosing assignments
      2m 59s
  7. 11m 27s
    1. Interacting with clients
      2m 11s
    2. Delivering quality work
      2m 28s
    3. Getting referrals and recommendations
      2m 34s
    4. Losing and firing clients
      4m 14s
  8. 10m 48s
    1. Deconstructing big jobs
      3m 34s
    2. Adopting time-management tools
      2m 35s
    3. Creating schedules
      2m 30s
    4. Turning off the clock for "me time"
      2m 9s
  9. 20m 6s
    1. Staying motivated
      3m 3s
    2. Increasing your rates
      2m 52s
    3. Marketing beyond your professional network
      2m 56s
    4. Growing through hires and partnerships
      3m 30s
    5. Building passive income
      3m 48s
    6. Changing focus
      3m 57s
  10. 4m 52s
    1. Case study: Publishing a book
      2m 47s
    2. Next steps
      2m 5s
  11. 12m 42s
    1. Freelancing Q&A
      12m 42s

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