How to Release a Difficult Client and Move On

One of the keys to my own success as a six-figure freelance writer has been identifying who I don’t want to work with and promptly avoiding interactions with those kinds of individuals.

Of course, this was a learning process that required some trial and error such as working with a number of clients who are a really poor fit for my business. However, rather than viewing those as simply failures, I chose to take them as opportunities to improve things in the future.

Recognizing who my ideal client is and working hard to only stick with clients who fall into that category has been extremely beneficial for me to wake up every day, motivated about what I’m doing and not having to deal with aggravating or frustrating clients who drain my energy and time and often, don’t even pay their invoices in a timely fashion.

In the event that you’re already in a relationship with a client and you’re providing products or services to them wheredifficult client it’s simply no longer a fit, there are several steps you can take in order to minimize the personal and professional drama and to move on effectively. A difficult client can make your life more challenging than it needs to be.

Raise Your Rates

This is a rather sneaky way to phase someone out of your business but I have often found it works with those clients who are paying bottom of the barrel prices.

This tends to happen a lot with virtual assistants or freelance writers and other service providers who got started in the industry by offering lower prices in order to lock clients in but later decided that it’s time to raise their rates.

It always seems to be the case that the lowest paying clients are also the ones who give you the most headaches which is why it’s so easy to phase them out by raising your rates.

You should be raising your rates every six months or a year anyways if you are a service provider keeping in mind the additional training and opportunities you’ve had that makes you more valuable during that time.

Most of the time the clients who are locked in at these bottom of the barrel rates will resist your changes and naturally phase themselves out.

Suggest a Change in Your Business Model

When a client is no longer right for me, I will suggest something simple such as “this project is no longer a fit for my current business model.

I wish you the best of luck and my last day will be xx.” This gives them some timeframe to find another person to fulfill this role but allows me to exit the contract gracefully. Hopefully, you are using a contract that has what I like to call an escape clause anyways that allows you to terminate the relationship at any time with proper written notice.

Hand Them Off to Someone Else Where Applicable

I never recommend passing on a difficult client to your friends because those friends will quickly get frustrated with you. However, if the person is simply no longer a fit for your business because of the type of project they are offering or because they need you to be available during specific times and you can’t commit to that, offer a referral to someone else you know in the industry.

This makes the client feel good that you’re not leaving them hanging and it also can allow someone else to pick up the project. However, if the person is extremely difficult to deal with and has been the bane of your existence during your time together, I do not recommend passing on any referrals at all.

Even when it is extremely frustrating to do so, try to maintain your composure and get rid of these clients professionally and without burning any bridges. Although you may not wish to work with them anymore, you don’t need anyone negative in your corner and it is better to close out the relationship professionally and peacefully with a difficult client.


Laura Pennington

Laura Pennington burned out teaching 7th grade in Baltimore City and realized that traditional education was not for her in the midst of pursuing her PhD in public policy. She launched a freelance writing and virtual assistant career that allows her to work from home on her own time, teaching others how to build at-home businesses and providing content and strategy for major companies like Microsoft. She is a soon-to-be military spouse who has moved four times in seven years with her Navy man. She is a former competitive tap dancer and enjoys spending time with her cats and reading books like a good nerd should.

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