This post is meant to be a way for you to know whether or not the client is worth the stress. I’ll be listing the warning signs that signal it may be time to part ways. I’ll use real life experiences as examples so I hope you enjoy. Let’s get started:

You Begin to Question Your Career Choice

If a client is so bad that it’s making you question whether or not you’ve chosen the right career, it’s time to say goodbye to them. One bad apple shouldn’t sour your entire career. Instead, pluck that apple out of the basket. If you’re doing well with many other clients, don’t let one bad client make you question everything else. It’s important to believe in yourself. Realize that overall, people love you and you love them! Don’t let one negative client get in your head.

They Have No Respect for Your Time

When I hire people, I understand their time is valuable. I come to them with a plan and tell them how that plan can be executed. There’s no time wasting. This is how freelance relationships should work.

But if you have a client who enjoys talking to you for hours (email, phone, video calls, etc.) before paying you, it’s probably time to move along. They may just be trying to bleed industry knowledge out of you for free. You always want to be paying attention to the clock. Only if the client is extremely reputable and is willing to give you a lot of work, is chatting for hours okay.

They Mess up but Don’t Pay for It

This just happened to me. Only this time, I was the boss. I assigned an article that was nearly impossible to write. It was for an insurance program that was no longer being offered! Since the freelance writer had to hit his head against the concrete for awhile before realizing this, I paid him 1/3 of what I would have paid for the completed article. For his frustration. That’s what all clients should do. If they mess up – they should pay up.

They Call You at Off-Hours with No Emergency

I get it. If you want to make something of yourself, you’ve got to hustle. I work a lot too! But I don’t appreciate when a client calls or texts at 11 PM on Saturday with a completely non-urgent issue. And yes, this has happened. I’m a freelance writer – not an ER doctor. If it’s an emergency – definitely call me! If not, you may find your way into this article.

There’s No Future

If you’ve been in the game long enough, you’ll be able to size up a client pretty quickly. Some clients have a master vision that inspires you to work alongside them. It’s brilliant. Other clients have no idea what they are doing but they want your help. While it’s good to help someone, that doesn’t make a very good client. A client should have a clear vision on what they want to achieve and how they are going to achieve it.

Some people aren’t overly concerned with this. If the client fails, they fail. End of assignment. No big deal. But if you’re freelancing as a career, you want to stay in good company. You want to only have clients where you can see a long-term future with them. Plus, it can get very depressing working on a futile vision.

How have you known?

Have you parted ways with a client? How did you know when to do it? How did you do it?


William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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