When a Client Doesn't Want to Work with You Anymore….

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.

Comments

  1. I always offer free revisions up-front, letting the client know that I’m willing to work on it until it’s to their liking. I’ve yet to have anyone take advantage of that. Most revisions take only a few minutes.

    I did have a client that hired me on a freelance writing site by going back to a job I’d done for her over a year ago. It was when my rate was significantly lower. I completed about 10 or 20 jobs for her before finally speaking up and saying that I couldn’t write at that rate anymore and if she wanted to find someone else, I’d understand. She said, no, the new rate was fine–then proceeded to tell me a day or so later that she’d do one of the two new jobs she’d assigned herself. I did the other one, submitted it, and got one of those (rare but devastating) e-mails that read, “This one isn’t working for me it all. It’s not at all what I want. I’m afraid I’m going to have to redo the whole article.” She’d never had a problem with my writing before–at ALL. It was pretty obvious she just was unhappy with the new rate but her pride (?) wouldn’t let her admit it. I said, no worries, I will just keep the article and she didn’t have to pay me for it. Suddenly, her tune changed and she said she’d pay me half because she might be able to salvage some of it. That was fine by me–but, needless to say, I never heard from her again. Sometimes you have to read between the lines of why a client is suddenly unhappy with you, especially if there’s never been a problem before.

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