Most of your copywriting clients will be terrific, but every so often you’ll end up with a client that drains your creative resources, takes up more than their fair share of your time, and just generally makes you miserable. If that happens, you may have to “fire” that client to free yourself to take on projects that energize, rather than drain, you. Every copywriter will have to fire a copywriting client at some point in their careers (maybe multiple points!). But you want to do it the right way.
It’s something you need to dig into so you do it with care, but it’s also not as big of a deal as most people make it. Remember: you never have to work with a client that makes you miserable!
Here’s exactly how to fire a copywriting client—without burning bridges.
Evaluate the Situation and Implement Solutions
First of all, before you reach your breaking point and storm out from a meeting in a hailstorm of expletives, remember that the creative community is very, very small. Even though you want to end things with your client, remember that the most important thing is to guard your reputation. Don’t do anything that will burn bridges.
This client may still be able to refer you to other clients that are better suited for you! But, more importantly, no one wants a client spreading the word that you’re difficult to work with or any other negative comments—especially when it’s likely you just have two different working styles.
Next, figure out exactly what it is that’s making you crazy about how your client is acting. Write it all out and then try to think of possible solutions.
If your client is approving projects and then coming back later with changes, could you create a process for them that will help them to be more thorough as they review your work and give feedback?
Before you get rid of this client completely, make sure that you exhaust all possibilities to solve the issue(s).
Still Want to Fire Your Copywriting Client?
If you talk with your client and they’re still not behaving the way you need them to, you can start exploring the process of firing them.
The way you go about that varies slightly whether the client is one that you’ve done a single project or even scattered projects with versus a client you’ve done ongoing work with.
How to Fire One-Off, Project-Based Clients
Bear in mind, though, that if you’re in the middle of a project, you can’t just quit. Your client, troublesome though they may be, is depending on you for your copywriting services, very probably on a specific timeline. Leaving them high and dry just isn’t an option.
If you have copywriter colleagues who might be more willing to deal with the kinds of problems this client is posing, you can talk with them and see if they’d be willing to take over the project. Remember, though, that your client will also have to agree to the change—and they have every right to say no.
It may be that you have to grit your teeth and stick with the project until it’s finished. As soon as the project is finished, however, it’s time to let your client go. The good news is, if it’s a project-based client that you don’t do a lot of work with, you may simply wait until the next project comes along and say “no.”
Alternatively, you can let your client know that you wish them well, but the project you just completed will be the last one you’ll be available to do for them. You can suggest other writers who you think might work better with them (but, again, don’t send any of your peers a problem client without warning them!)
How to Fire an Ongoing or Retainer Client
If you’ve had ongoing or retainer work with a client, you’ll need to explicitly state when you’re no longer going to take on projects for them. These are the types of clients you have consistent work with every month. The client is relying on you as their go-to copywriter.
In this case, I want to reiterate it is worth finding solutions to what’s driving you bananas about working with them. If you’ve had a great relationship until now, what’s changed? Do you need some time off? Do you need to set better boundaries in terms of project timelines?
Of course, sometimes it’s just simply time to part ways. Your client doesn’t need to know why, but you should have a clear head about the choices you’re making for your business (plus, that information will pinpoint tell-tale signs of energy zappers and allow you to steer towards clients that fill your energy).
You can reassure your client that all the current projects on your plate are ones you’ll complete. Any additional projects they want to add to your plate, you’ll evaluate to make sure you can complete them before your end date.
Be firm, be clear, and be polite.
Prepare for Future Clients and Projects
After you’ve let your client go, think through your relationship with them. See if you can identify any signs that might have foreshadowed the later problems.
- Were they always late for meetings?
- Did they keep changing their mind about the scope of the project?
- Did they expect everything done the next day?
Then, keep these clues in mind as you begin to work with other clients. After all, the best kind of problem clients are the ones you can avoid completely.
Watch for More Tips on How to Fire a Copywriting Client
On this episode of the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, Nicki and Kate share their best practices for identifying when to split with a client, when to tell your client you’re leaving, and how to have the conversation with them.
Your turn! Have you ever had to fire a problem client? How did you do it? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on March 30, 2023
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