It happens to nearly every freelance writer at some point. You need to drop a client. But how do you break the news? What do you say in your farewell email to clients?
There’s usually at least one main reason you’ve got a bad taste in your mouth for a client.
They don’t pay enough. Their people aren’t appreciative. Their deadlines are too crazy. Or maybe all three. Sound familiar?
Maybe things started out great, but now the situation has changed.
There’s a new editor or marketing director. You find yourself putting off their work. And you may not be doing the best work you possibly could on their account.
You know the client has got to go. But what do you say in that farewell email to clients?
“Sayonara, sucker,” “See you in hell,” “It’s been great working with you,” or something else?
I spent a lot of time thinking about this before I dropped two steady clients.
Ready make it happen? Here’s what to say in your farewell email to clients.
Unlock your potential with the ‘farewell email to clients’
Making the decision to drop a client is a positive step. But it usually comes with mixed feelings:
- The good: It signifies that you value your time and your freelance writing career. It’s an indicator that you’re only going to associate with clients that treat you right. It’s an empowering moment, really, when you have the insight that you want to drop a client.
- The bad: But it can also feel very scary. Maybe you fear the economic uncertainty, or you just hate confrontations. A lot of writers spend days, weeks, months of even years thinking about writing that farewell email to clients, but never actually do it.
The thing is, when you get rid of a bad client, you unlock your potential for more productivity, creativity, better clients, and more money.
So when it’s time to write that farewell email to clients, how do you handle it?
Choose, but choose wisely
When I identified two clients that needed to be cut from my list, I had two primary reasons for giving them the ‘farewell email to clients’ treatment:
- I felt strongly that if I dropped these two clients, I would be able to replace them with better clients.
- I also needed to free up more time to work on this blog.
The pros and cons of dropping a client
It might sound cliche, but when you think it’s time to use the ‘farewell email to clients’ exit strategy, weigh the pros and cons to help you make a decision. Here are the pros and cons I identified for my two clients:
- Pros Client 1: One client had been a great, steady account for a couple of years, with a nice editor who loved my work and gave me usually two articles a month. The articles appeared on very popular sites and gave me some great visibility.
- Cons Client 1: But the sad fact was their pay rate was lower than anyone else on my roster, and I didn’t find I got a lot of referrals from the stories. (One of my metrics of whether a client’s work is worth it is whether their clips generate referral business.) I asked for a raise a year ago, and they said they couldn’t do it.
- Pros Client 2: The other was a steady gig with much good about it — a wonderful editor, a cool virtual chat room with all the other excellent reporters, a major brand behind it, huge website traffic, and a chance to learn tons about blogging.
- Cons Client 2: But it also had significant negatives, including a crushing monthly workload that had to be met or pay was zero. And its per-blog-post rate was my absolute lowest. It also did not generate referrals, and would have required significant additional time to build income — time I don’t have.
Beware of Stay-or-Go Syndrome
Often, we cling to existing freelance writing clients because it’s comfortable. We know what’s expected of us. It’s a known quantity. It feels secure.
But the reality is that if we don’t keep improving our client list, our income won’t grow. If you don’t acknowledge this, you end up getting caught in limbo with Stay-or-Go Syndrome.
I eventually realized it was time for me to make some changes, which you want to do before the quality of what you’re delivering starts to go downhill.
- What’s your gut telling you about dropping one of your clients? Pay attention to that.
Once you’ve decided a client is getting the ax, the trick is to do it in the best possible way. Here are my tips for what to say in your farewell email to clients:
1. Line up your replacement client first
This isn’t always possible, but ideally, you don’t want to see any interruption in income. Try to keep control of the situation.
Bide your time and do your assignments until the moment you’re ready to ditch them in favor of a better client.
Watch out for this: If you let your attitude or work quality deteriorate, the client may give you the ax first. Then you’re scrambling to find a replacement, and in your haste may latch onto another substandard client.
2. Give notice
Don’t leave your client in the lurch. If you know you have a contract coming up for renewal, let them know several weeks ahead that you don’t want to renew.
With more sporadic clients, it may simply be a question of turning down several assignments in a row by saying you’re too busy, then finally saying:
I think I’m not going to have time to do anything for you going forward.”
If you write for mills, of course, it’s simply a matter of not visiting that dashboard again.
3. Give referrals
A classy way to leave a gig is by giving the editor a couple names of writers who might replace you.
Connect your client with a writer in your network: This is where you can be a hero to your writer network, since there’s always someone who’s at a different point in their writing career, where your loser client might be a great client for a friend.
I was happy to be able to refer a writer to one of the clients I dropped who was a perfect fit and got an assignment right away.
4. Be professional
Even if you thought this client was a raging lunatic whose unreasonable demands drove you to the edge of madness, keep your cool. Remember, editors move around, publications change, and content budgets increase sometimes.
5. Leave the door open
The ideal is to leave on a positive note, with the idea that if things changed, you might work for this client again in the future.
This keeps you in the driver’s seat, with the possibility of coming back to the client later. It also means this client is more likely to retain good feelings about you and might refer you if they hear about other gigs.
When you drop a freelance client the right way…
My dream with the second client I dropped was to get more casual, better-paying occasional freelance gigs from them. I had to end being part of their monthly grind. So I used this ‘farewell email to clients’ approach:
I was classy, gave lots of notice, made sure my editor knew how much I valued working with him…and mentioned that I was available for any special projects. Presto: Since exiting my regular gig, I’ve gotten several fun, easy blog assignments and made a couple grand, with the potential for more work to come.
Sending a snarky farewell email or slamming out your editor’s door may feel good for a moment, but it burns a bridge. Better to keep all your options open for the future.
Have you said farewell to a freelance client? Tell us about it in the comments below.