If you’re starting your copywriting career, it might seem strange to think of being gung ho and sacking a client. Building a client base takes time and as a freelance copywriter, you have to earn your own living, so walking away from a source of revenue might seem unlikely. But at some time in your career, you probably will have to take the drastic step of sacking a client.
In my experience, most clients are delightful and a pleasure to work with. They will value your skills and expertise, and you will have a long and fruitful working relationship with them. But there are always exceptions.
There are many reasons why you might need to sack a client and it would be impossible to cover all of them here. But if you’re reading this and you’ve been in the position of ending a client relationship, I hope you’ll leave a comment and tell us about it.
Clients who don’t pay their bills are not worth having. There, I’ve said it! Even copywriters have to pay their bills and eat. Starving in a garret for your art went out of fashion many years ago.
The longer you have to chase a client for payment, the more it will cost you in time and lost opportunities. You could be working and earning instead of making repeated phone calls and sending emails in the hope of being paid.
You do have to make allowances, though. Some clients will simply be disorganised or have a lot going on in their lives and, as a result, they have just forgotten to pay you. Making sure you have good credit control procedures in place will help you in these situations.
But if you have a client who is a consistently bad payer, you will have to decide whether or not to continue working with them.
At the start of your copywriting career, you will probably accept every job that comes your way. It will take time for you to find your feet and know what type of work suits you best.
In an earlier guest blog, proofreader Gill Pavey explained the dangers of taking on something you don’t have the skills or experience to handle, and this is a common problem. It’s very easy to say ‘I can do that’ and then suffer many sleepless nights because you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.
Much better to be upfront and honest with the client and say you’re not the right person for the job than risk your reputation by underperforming.
As a copywriter, you need to have a good working relationship with your clients. Human nature dictates that we will never be best friends with everyone we meet, and there may be times when personalities collide.
This might be something you can live with, but in extreme cases you’ll have to ask yourself if you should really be working with that person. Personality clashes are stressful for everyone concerned.
If you dread the next email or find yourself avoiding their calls, it’s in everyone’s interests to call it a day. If you do end a client relationship because you don’t get on with them, do it carefully.
However tempting it might be to say ‘I’m not working with you anymore because you’re a ‘string of choice expletives”, you’re putting your reputation on the line. So be professional and extricate yourself gently. It’s always better to leave a door ajar than to slam it closed in someone’s face!
While the majority of your clients will be easy to work with, you will come across some who take advantage. They forget you have your own business to run, and some will treat you as an undervalued employee – but without the perks. Some will expect you to be at their beck and call 24/7. And there’s no doubt some clients will give you the runaround.
For example, they might not acknowledge the latest copy you’ve sent, forcing you to chase them for feedback. They might have rush jobs where you have to drop everything to meet their deadline, then take a month to sign off the copy, and another to pay your bill.
These clients are probably the most difficult to sack. You are likely to feel there is no real reason to take such an extreme measure, but at the same time, they make you tear your hair out in frustration. You will have to ask yourself if it’s worth persevering.
There’s no doubt sacking a client can be an uncomfortable thing to do. But as a freelance copywriter, you have to be businesslike. If the relationship isn’t working it will take its toll – much better to spend that time and energy on finding a client you can work with.
Blog post by Joy McCarthy