A while back I didn’t think it would be conceivable that I’d want to “break up” with a client. The idea of “firing” someone wasn’t something that I thought would come into my life as a freelancer.

This post has been turned into a quiz…you can use it to check your (client) relationship status. Click here to download the quiz. I’m not sure if this was because I thought that I would just always work with wonderful people or whether I associated letting someone go with the “employed” side of the world. What was probably closer to the truth was that I couldn’t imagine it because I thought I would put up with most things a client could throw at me. Your (Client) Relationship Quiz - Copy

It’s not me, it’s you

Like any relationship, there has to be give and take. If you’re the one doing all the giving, then the balance of the relationship needs to be redressed. Alarm bells should start to ring if you notice some of these behaviours from your client, whether they’re an agency, a company or an individual you work with directly:

      • You just haven’t “clicked”. This is a strange one, as it’s often hard to pinpoint the exact problem, but sometimes in business, as in life, people don’t get along. It’s not perhaps the only reason for firing a client, but it could be a contributory factor.



    • Every job is a rush job. The last minute nature and stress of working with a client who only deals with these types of jobs is not good for your business planning…or your sanity.



    • Rates are lower than you receive from other clients. You’ve got to ask why. No, really, ask them!



    • They refuse to negotiate on rate – often because their “hands are tied”. Well, so are yours, usually to paying your rent, living expenses, business costs…



    • They have little regard for your time, chastising you for not responding in 0.026 seconds but taking hours to respond to your queries.



    • They ask a lot, but offer little. Rush job? Check. Unwieldy format? Check. Extensive edits, updates and additions? Check. Increase in rate? Er, no.



    • They ask you to work for free. Unless it’s something that will genuinely only take a few minutes and/or it’s a one-off request from a client who is both brilliant and clearly in a bind, then this is an enormous no-no.



    • They pay late. If you delivered your work on time then you should expect payment on time. Simple.



    • They don’t pay you at all. I don’t really need to tell you this one, do I?



    • Abusive behaviour. I’m not even going to tell you that I don’t need to tell you this one. Oh. Oops.


     Did you download the quiz?

Dear John/Juan/Jean/Jan….

When it comes to the actual breaking up – I have good news! It’s not as hard as breaking up in the world of romance. Of course, some of the tips for having a healthy break-up (if there is such a thing) still stand when it comes to dumping a dodgy client. If you’ve tried and failed at negotiating on some of the above points, and assuming that you have no outstanding work with them, then it’s probably necessary to call time on your business relationship. Here are a few pointers:

  • Be civil – don’t resort to insults. I think this is a no-brainer, but just in case it needs reinforcing; remember that this is (or was) a business relationship, so approach it in a business-like fashion, choose your words with care and try to remember that although you want to be succinct and communicate the reasons for you parting ways, it is a person on the other side.
  • If you’re going to do it over the phone, write your reasons down beforehand, so as not to forget. If you’re opting for an online delivery, list your reasons carefully and briefly.
  • Tell them why you feel the reasons you outlined make a continued partnership unfeasible – it might be that their deadlines mean you can’t plan your work out, or their rates just don’t match the standard rates you receive from your other clients. Making sure to emphasise that this is the way you feel makes arguing against it pretty difficult.
  • If you can, suggest an alternative, although if even a few of the reasons above apply then you might not want to inflict them on the wider industry. However, if it’s a personality thing, then it might be a nice gesture.

Regardless of how thick skinned you are, this type of communication is tough, so I created a template for your break up letter too, just download the quiz and the template for your “client breakup” letter is there too.

I hope we can still be friends….

You probably don’t want to still be “friends” with your ex-client, but burning bridges is never a good idea in life. However, as you’ll have been civil and respectful then you won’t have this issue. Translation is an industry with few absolutes – it may be a necessary service around the globe, but it is poorly understood and can be poorly paid if we allow damaging practices to persist. Therefore, the decision to fire a client isn’t just one that should hopefully improve your business experience, but it should help and inform users of the translation industry what is acceptable and what is not. It might not seem like it at the time, because breaking up is hard to do, but by cutting ties with a toxic client you are doing something good for yourself and your profession.

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