Sooner or later, every freelancer will encounter a difficult working relationship or stumble upon scope creep, and you may soon find yourself wondering how to fire a client and terminate that contract template.
Even the most challenging projects can turn out great when you are working with a good client, but a challenging client has the potential to transform the simplest of jobs into a time-wasting, soul-sucking nightmare.
In this article, we’ll see how to know when you have a bad client on your hands. More importantly, we’ll show you how and when to fire a client.
I know, dealing with difficult clients isn’t always easy.
The thought of giving anyone the ax can be pretty daunting, especially in the early days of your freelance career. That begs the question:
How do you know when to fire a client?
Here are six signs of a bad client that you shouldn’t ignore.
The average freelancer has about 17 clients per year, many of which are in different time zones. That throws up some challenges with unusual working hours.
However, whereas good clients are often accommodating to liberal time schedules, other clients may be very demanding. They may expect you to be at their beck-and-call, taking midnight calls and jumping on work with last-gasp deadlines.
Suddenly, you may find yourself with a lot of surprise time-consuming tasks that amount to added expenses that your client won’t pay for.
Constantly dealing with freelance invoice queries, and facing resistance on your pricing is something you can do without. It will exhaust you in the short-term and stop your business growing in the long-term.
Jorden Roper of The Creative Revolt explains, “No matter how much you like your low-paying clients, you can’t hang onto them when it’s time for you to raise your rates. It’s not worth it.”
If a client understands the value of your work and is keen to invest in their own business, then there should be no issues. However, if they are pushy about prices, it may be time to let them go.
Forbes reports that more than 70% of freelancers face difficulties getting paid. Slow-paying clients may be honestly forgetful, or simply disorganized, but either way, they are a real disruption to your cash flow.
Of course, you can stay vigilant with contingency savings, payment reminder emails and by charging late fees, and you can create freelance contracts with Bonsai to avoid any hassles with payment. Ultimately though, a repeat-offender may be more trouble than they’re worth.
There will always be a client who thinks they know better, even if it is in your field of expertise. From second-guessing your work to editing it beyond recognition, and then expecting you to fix it when their butchered version goes wrong – it can make you want to pull your hair out!
Some clients can do a vanishing act after they hire you, leaving you in limbo just when you need some input or approval on a critical element of the project. Stuck, you can’t move forward, and the days tick by closer to the deadline as all your emails go unanswered.
Use automatic email reminders and take control of your freelance career - manage your clients with ease, all behind a clean UI. Sign up for your free Bonsai trial today.
Is your client constantly letting you down by missing meetings or canceling last minute? Have they been rude towards you or one of your collaborators?
People with a basic lack of respect are very hard to like and even harder to work for. As a freelancer, you have to question whether they are worth spending your time on anymore. Your business may be better off without such interference.
Individually, the signs above might seem innocuous, and as a sporadic event, it’s easy to write them off. There may be room for compromise, which makes the decision to fire a client pretty tough.
Freelancers can use the Pareto Principle to guide their decision here. Assuming that 20% of your clients account for 80% of your profits, it’s best to focus your time and effort on building those relationships.
As for the 20% that cause 80% of your stress, it may be time to let them go. It’s important to stay professional and do the deed with some class. Here are a few pointers to keep things civilized:
It’s okay to sugarcoat things a little, but don’t beat around the bush too much. You can say “I enjoyed working together on this project”, but don’t lie about the reasons for ending it.
Don’t lie, but don’t be a jerk either. You don’t need to talk about the voodoo doll in the office. Simply portray the truth in a diplomatic way like, “It’s clear we aren’t a good fit, and so it’s best you seek someone else who is.”
When you have to fire a client, it’s easy to cop-out with an email. If possible, it’s much better to meet up or call them on the phone. It’s more personal and professional, and you can reduce any hard feelings or misconstrued messages an email may convey.
Firing a client is awkward. It’s even more awkward if you both have to continue communicating about a project, dragging the whole thing out in excruciating fashion.
When the time comes, be prepared to hand over all deliverables and files right after you have fired your client – as long as all your freelance invoices are paid up!
You can use project management tools to organize your freelance projects.
This doesn’t need to become a tit-for-tat breakup – you should just take the high road by wrapping things up briefly.
However, there are exceptions here, such as when the client:
In instances like this, feel free to contact your lawyer and take that horrible client to the cleaners.
So, how do you put that all together?
There is no universal ‘how to fire a client letter sample’, but here are three common scenarios you can base yours on:
This method effectively aims to price yourself out of reach of the client.
“Jenna, it’s been fantastic working with you over the past (time), and we’ve achieved (X goals) together. My business has grown a lot and so I’ve decided to change my rate structure.
My rates will increase to (X) as of (date). Please let me know if this works for you. If not, I can refer you to someone who is in line with your budget.”
Here, you are taking yourself out of the equation.
“John, it’s been a pleasure to work together. However, in recent times, I’ve decided to pursue (new focus) instead of (current niche). Therefore, as I move in the new direction, I need to reshape my client base.
Unfortunately, that means I can no longer work with you as of (date). My sincere apologies for the inconvenience this may cause. It has been amazing, and I’m happy to help you source a new partner that will give your business the attention it deserves.”
They simply have to go!
“Mark, I’ve enjoyed working with you to date. However, after some deliberation, I’ve considered the issues we’ve had, and I’ve realized that we aren’t a great fit.
I believe it would serve both our interests if you find a partner who is closely aligned with your vision and expectations.”
Knowing how to fire a client doesn’t always come naturally. You may find yourself with somebody who can be a real handful.
Of course, every business deal involves negotiation and compromise, but you shouldn’t be bending over backward for someone who doesn’t value your time or opinion. Clients that give you more stress and headaches than money and respect are simply poisonous to your professional aspirations.
By taking the high road and aiming to remain professional, you can complete the project, get paid, and then wrap everything up with a meeting that ties everything up.
Need help with your freelance contracts, proposals, invoices, and project management? Join Bonsai and take charge of your freelance business today.
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?