How to Fire Your First Client (and How to Know You Should)

Photo by Dustin Tramel on Unsplash

I am officially one year into my freelancing journey. Hurrah.

But how could I possibly reach this milestone without experiencing the firing of my first client?

Well, I almost made it.

Alas, the job hopper within me started yelling out that it was time to move on from anything that wasn’t serving me well.

And so, that’s how this story goes.

Freelancing during a pandemic has been a whole other ball game.

When we went into the first lockdown back in March, I instantly lost three clients.

I went through a few weeks of wondering if work would ever pick back up again and if this had all been a really bad idea — especially as I couldn’t access any benefits.

But, before I knew it, work really did pick up — and then some. Two clients took me back, and I gained more work than ever before. Any time I was offered work, I kept saying ‘yes’.

And ultimately, that’s where the problem came in.

Before I made the decision, I read all the manuals out there on the web.

Interestingly, one thing stuck out to me, and it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

You see, the majority of the blogs on the internet started with the title, “how to fire a horrible client”, or a “toxic client”, or when they gave the reasons why, they were all on the extreme end.

Obviously if you’re working for horrible or toxic client, let them go. No money is worth that. Freelancing is a lifestyle after all, and we didn’t give up employment to be just as miserable.

But what about it you simply need to do it for you?

“It’s not you, it’s me” springs to mind.

And that’s pretty much exactly what I told my particular client.

You see, they required fairly speedy responses, and the workload had picked up since I’d first started with them.

I didn’t feel like I could leave my desk for any extended period of time, and with all my other clients on top of that, I felt like I was running myself into the ground.

I was working from early in the morning until late at night, and I wasn’t exactly pleasant company to those in my household — namely my husband and cats.

I was burnt out — and I needed to do something about it.

There are a million reasons to fire a client — but sometimes that doesn’t matter. If you’re like me reading articles on the web, then your answer is pretty much made.

I get it. It’s scary.

I made my decision but didn’t implement it straight away. I sat on it for a couple of weeks. And let myself drain away even more.

Silly idea.

Once you’ve made your decision to fire a client, stick with it, and move forward. You’re not doing anyone any favours by stewing over it.

Put it in writing

As a serial job quitter before I became self-employed, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Not putting it in writing was my first. When I quit the job before my freelancing career, I pussyfooted around for months. I spoke to my boss with the intention of quitting, and before I knew it, I had been persuaded otherwise — even though it wasn’t what I wanted. Put it in writing first and make it official. Then you can follow up with a conversation. It actually benefits the person at the other end, as they can deal with the element of surprise and order their thoughts before speaking with you. It’s a win-win for everyone.

If you can, give some notice

As a freelancer, we’re not required to give any notice (depending on what your contract says). In my case, there was no notice required from either party. However, I knew that by doing that, they’d be left in the lurch. Things were busy (hence my reason for letting them go) and as other members of employed staff had left recently, there was no-one to take my place or do a handover. I chose to give 2-weeks notice so that there was ample time to tie up loose ends and find my replacement. My advice? Don’t burn bridges if you don’t have to.

Don’t go into detail about your reasoning

It can be tempting to provide your client with a long list of reasons for why you’re letting them go — but honestly, they’re probably not interested. They’ve heard that you’re leaving them — they don’t need a detailed explanation of why. In my case, I told them that I was burnt out and needed to gain back some time to focus on my personal projects. You also don’t want to get into a situation where they try to persuade you to stay. Keep it short, simple, but firm.

When you know, you know

You don’t need to do any research about it. If your gut tells you so, then listen to it. Stop torturing yourself. Bite the bullet and let yourself be open to new opportunities. Freeing up your time means you can put your energy elsewhere — and who knows what could come from that.

Freelance writer, procrastinator, and lover of cats. Avid traveller pre-lockdown. Future best-selling novelist post-lockdown🤞 Find me at

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