Don't be afraid and don't feel guilty to fire clients when freelancing

Sometimes there are clients that you just don’t want to work with them anymore. They don’t pay on time, they constantly change what they want, they don’t value your work or their projects never seem to end, no matter what you do.

We all know that the best solution in those cases is to fire them. This is what everyone out there is suggesting. Moreover, you know that it make sense and you believe that it is right thing to do, but you are still afraid to take the next step and actually do it.

What if something changes? What if you finally get paid? What if nobody wants to work with you anymore? What if you don’t find another client, how will you pay your bills? What if …? What if…?

I can go on forever. Fear and guilt are your enemies here, but thankfully you can fight them.

However, before we do that, let’s look at why you and other freelancers like you, including me, sometimes don’t take the next step.

What is this fear and why do we feel guilty?

Fear prevents you from taking actions when you apply your will. As someone said it, fear is a good feedback but a lousy driver. This is also true for feelings in general.

Let’s look at some common reasons why freelancers are afraid to fire their bad clients.

Some freelancers fear that other potential clients will see your unfinished work and then that they will be afraid that you will abandon them, too. Moreover, we have seen on TV, in books and in all those magazines how successful people always bring their job to a successful end. So the fear of unfinished work is actually a fear that we are not good enough.

Something else that people fear is that we will be seen as unprofessional and that your fired client will tell everybody how unprofessional you are and nobody will want to work with you ever again. Moreover, we always want to be seen as highly successful professionals who can do what they are hired for.

Another fear is due to the hope that actually things gonna get better. You will finally get paid. The project will finally be done. The customer will finally be happy. What’s more, sometimes customers are presenting everything like this, that the end is near, there is just this tiny little change and then it will be all good, but then again it never happens. This is the hope that things will get better, so you fear to fire your client before they do.

We also fear that if we fire this client, but then we are not happy with our next client, are we gonna fire him again? How long can you continue firing client after client? After all, you need to get paid. You have expenses to cover. As a result we think that firing a client is not a solution and that we should avoid it, which is wrong.

But fear is not the only problem. Guilt is also preventing you from improving your freelancing business.

We have been told since we were kids that we should always finish what we have started. Remember how many times your mother told you to finish your meal? You see, this is rooted so deeply in our conscience that it is affecting everything we do.

Another reason people feel guilty is because you think that the reason there is problem is not in your client but something in you. So you feel guilty that the problem is existing because of you. Maybe if you try harder or if you do something differently it will work. Just like in any other relationship. It is actually again hope that you can change things for the better, but just like in any other relationship this is rarely the reason.

This are just some of the most common ways and reasons why fear and guilt are preventing us from firing a bad client. The good news is that all of those are nonsense and you can pass them.

Fight your fears

Let’s look again at the fears the we identified above and see how harmless they are.

It matters only what you’ve done

Everyone has unfinished projects, but they are rarely displayed and what your potential future clients really care about are actually their own projects. They might want see a successful project of yours as a proof that you can deliver, but they will never care for any unfinished business.

The world is too big

Fired clients rarely talk. So even when you fire them, they will usually first try to convince you to continue to work together, and then they will move on to another freelancer and unfortunately make their life miserable.

Even if they try to speak against you, just like you can see how bad client they are everybody will see it and nobody will believe them. Moreover, the world is way too big and your clients, are not big enough to affect your reputation. So there is no real downside in firing them.

Hope is not lost

There are so many movies about hope and the reason is that we always hope for the best. Unfortunately with bad clients there is rarely a solution.

However, when you see the same promises broken again and again after you’ve tried everything, there is no reason to continue working with them.

There is always someone who will value your work

You shouldn’t be afraid that you won’t find new clients or that you will be constantly firing them. If however, you seem to fire every client that you have, the problem is not the firing. This is actually what you are doing well.

The problem is probably the way you are looking for new clients. In this case check my articles on 4 Ways Freelancers Avoid Bad Clients and Common Mistakes Freelancers Make when Selling Themselves Online for a few ideas on how you can improve your process, but fire the clients that make you feel miserable.

Finished or unfinished doesn’t matter, results matter

As we’ve talked above the guilt that we shouldn’t leave unfinished business is rooted deeply in our minds. However, whether it is finished and unfinished doesn’t matter.

The results are the only thing that matters. Does finishing the project will bring the results you are expecting (the payment) or is it just a waste of your time and efforts without positive result for you at the end?

With terrible clients it is usually the second, so firing them is the way to go.

Fire your client, but do it properly

Firing always feels uncomfortable and that is also a reason why people avoid it, but it is also a reason why we do it badly. Don’t just cut off the communication with your client.

Don’t just leave the client hanging. Using professional words, explain what is current situation for the project and for you. Tell the client that you won’t be working with him anymore, what will happen now and what he can do next if he desires to continue the work with someone else.

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We are Stefan Fidanov & Vasil Lyutskanov. We share actionable advice about earning more and working with better clients as a freelancer and consultant.

It is everything that we have learned from years of experience working with customers from all over the world on projects of all sizes.

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