Know When To Fold ‘Em: How to End a Toxic Professional Relationship

Fly Free Lil WriterFreelance writers are often reluctant to let go of any paying work, especially when they’ve locked in decent content writing prices for their work. The life of the freelancer is often one without much job security, so it can seem like a fool’s errand to cut ties with any paying customer, even when the job becomes more trouble than it’s worth. How do you decide if a troublesome client is worth keeping? And if it’s time to end your working relationship, how can you do it with grace and professionalism?

The Writing on the Wall

If you’ve been writing for some time now, chances are that you can recognize a doomed professional relationship purely by a certain gut feeling that things have gone awry. Here are a few more telltale signs that it’s time to move on:

  • The Client is Always…Rude. We all know that the client drives the copy, but when things go from the “customer is always right” to “the writer is always wrong,” it may be time to pull the plug. Just because a client is paying you doesn’t mean they’ve earned the right to treat you with disrespect. Beware of inconsistent deadlines, curt feedback, or insulting remarks in revision requests, all telltale signs that this job isn’t worth your valuable time.
  • Time > Money. When a demanding client starts cutting into your writing time, you end up losing money. Revisions are par for the course, but when a client starts requiring several rounds of revision or building in complicated instructions that require lots of time to read and unpack, then your per word rate may not be worth the time you could be spending on other, simpler, more profitable work.
  • Pushing Boundaries. As freelancers, we’ve chosen a career where, for the most part, we get to make our own rules. If you’ve stated clearly to a client that you’re not interested in writing about certain topics but they push you anyway, then it’s time to move on. A client who breaks your boundaries around communication is also worthy of a spot on the “out” list; be clear about how and when you prefer professional contact and draw the line at pesky texts or late night calls.

Exit Strategy

Ending a professional relationship should be done as gracefully as possible. Putting your words into writing can be a good way to modulate your tone and give you time to gather your thoughts and present them calmly. It will also allow you to be straightforward and concise so as to not allow a persuasive client to reopen the door. Be sure to grit your teeth and say thank you for the work you’ve completed. This can be hard, but it ensures that you end the relationship on a positive, professional note to give yourself some closure and the confidence you need to go out and snag some new clients.

Caitlin C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.


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