To preface this article... I think that good communication up front is key to avoid working with a client that you will end up firing in the first place. You want to have a good conversation with the client to get a sense of if they will end up falling into one of the categories below. But, sometimes you just don't know until you're in. So, without further adieu, here are 4 good reasons to fire a client.
1. They pay you less than other clients for comparable work and would rather haggle than discuss the value of your work.
Yes, freelance rates for artists or other creative people is a hard thing to figure out when you are new. But when other clients start offering you double your asking price just to get your product, or that item you posted has a lineup of 10 people to pick it up that day... it's a sign that you are probably doing great work and deserve to be paid accordingly.
Some people may not be able to afford your prices, or they may simply not want to pay the price you're asking. They're not the client for you.
What do you say? “I am pursuing higher-budget projects, as my time is in high demand.”
2. Their work takes more time to complete than it’s worth.
When you do custom work it is sometimes tricky to estimate how long a project will take, but when you have had practice, you usually get better at time estimation. Then comes in the client. If they do not communicate their expectations properly, have poor communication, or change their mind part way through the process... you are going to have to make time-consuming changes. If their idea is above and beyond what you are used to doing... you need to accommodate for the extra planning time in your price. If they change their mind and add details to the project... make it clear that they have to pay for your time.
What do you say? “I am juggling a lot of opportunities right now and need to balance my workload.” OR the above suggestion.
3. You hate the work.
It’s worth sticking with a client if you truly enjoy the work you’re doing, but if you dread the thought of working on certain projects, it’s time to think about dropping them. You'll be miserable and hold a grudge against them if you do it. Luckily, I love most aspects of my work, so I don't run into this very often. BUT! There are certain jobs that I enjoy less. For instance, I am not particularly fond of restoring antiques that are terribly intricate. It's time consuming and boring. If I take on a project like this, I will only work on it for a couple hours at a time. It makes the turnaround time for the client a lot longer, but if I explain that from the get-go, they can decide if they want to wait that long.
What do you say? "This type of project does not align with my long term goals and I am focusing my time on different types of projects."
4. They’re hard to work with.
Regardless of what they’re paying you, no client is worth hours of frustration spent on back-and-forth exchanges, last-minute project changes and endless revisions.
This is especially true if you’re charging a flat fee, or haven't advised them of "revision charges." (Telling someone up front that you are going to charge them for revisions is a great way to prevent them from happening in the first place.)
If you have a “give an inch, take a mile” client who continually demands more without compensating you accordingly (or worse, won’t pay up at all), let that client go.
What do you say? "I do not believe that we are suitable to work together on this project. I would love to refer you to someone that could meet your needs effectively, but I do not know any colleagues that could deliver what you are looking for. I wish you the best of luck with your project and I hope it turns out amazingly for you!"
Okay, so, I'm not great at the last suggestion because I have a tendency to speak my mind. It feels a bit cheesy to grit my teeth and say that I care about how an entitled jerk's project will turn out, but it's a "suck it up and say it nicely" situation because pissing off a crappy client might just lead to bad reviews and more annoyance down the road.
Most importantly, remind yourself that this decision is right for you and your career. Don’t feel badly about dropping a client in the name of business growth or your own sanity — sometimes, you need to clear out the weeds to make room for the flowers.