This post was inspired by the thread I spotted on an online forum where a writer had been “fired” by a client and was asking whether to ask for her “job” back. The words “fired” and “job” have quotes around them because they don’t really apply in this situation. If you are a freelance writer, you are your own boss. You don’t have a job, you have assignments, and a client can’t fire you in the same way that an employer can.
If you have received the, “this isn’t working out” message from a client, you have choices.
You can do whatever you need to do to finish up the assignment, which includes thanking the client for their business to date, and move on. That would be the easier way to go. You can always find another client, right?
I would like to propose a better way to handle the situation, which may help you get back on track and keep the client. If it doesn’t you can feel better knowing you did what you could to rectify the situation.
Treat it Like a Customer Service Issue
This is a customer service issue. There will be times when a client is not happy and feels that the best thing may be for the two of you to part ways. They aren’t going to suggest ways that you can keep their business – you need to do that.
The first thing you need to do is acknowledge the issue. No excuses; just let the client know you understand.
Now comes the challenging part: apologize and offer concrete solutions to make it right. If you go back to the client with an open-ended question like, “What can I do to get back on track?”, the easiest way for client to answer that question is to say, “Nothing” and walk away.
Part of what we do as freelancers is solve our clients’ problems. Here’s your chance to do that. Your client is not happy and is about to walk, and you can solve that problem by offering to do something like this:
- Edit/tweak/rewrite whatever the client has an issue with
- Offer to work on a small portion of the project and submit it to make sure you are both on the same page before tackling the whole thing
- Discuss the matter by e-mail by phone, IM or Skype
- Put a cap on the fees for project if the amount of time it’s taking is an issue
When you discuss the issue with the client, have a couple of solutions ready and offer a choice. You don’t approach the client with cap in hand asking for your “job” back. The worst case scenario is that the client still walks away, but you have handled things in a dignified, professional manner.