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If you’re a freelancer, you know that freelance business relationships often have parallels to romantic relationships. LinkedIn becomes the corporate version of Tender. You dress up in your best writing samples and brush up on your prospective client’s interests, doing your best to make a good first impression. The client swipes right.

But sometimes, after a few weeks or months of being a “couple,” you realize that it’s time to part ways. Things just aren’t working out. What do you do then?

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

In 2017, one of the most important lessons I learned was how to identify when it was time to end a business relationship. Or as I sometimes put it, knowing when to “fire a client.”

As freelancers, we sometimes cling to business relationships past the point of them being mutually beneficial. Like people in serious romantic relationships, we may have fears, such as:

  • If we break up, who will pay the bills? (Can I find another steady income source?)
  • What if I can’t find someone else? (What if I can’t pick up another client?)
  • What will the neighbors think? (Will our short time together look bad on my resume?)

We may even feel like the whole relationship was just one big mistake.

Chances are, though, it wasn’t.

To Every Thing (Client) There Is A Season

Changing business relationships are usually an indicator of your growth, not your failure. A client that may be excellent for you in one season may not be suitable for you in the next. And that’s ok. Here are some indicators it’s time to move on.

  1. You dread seeing their emails or texts.

Like a romantic relationship, if it’s not bringing you joy (or at least contentment) most of the time, you need to reevaluate the situation. When you first signed on to that contract, you looked eagerly for your client’s messages. What’s changed?

Sometimes there’s a situation where you just need to open the lines of communication and resolve an issue or conflict, and the relationship can continue. Other times you may find your enthusiasm has waned because your skills or interests have outgrown this current project. In that case, it’s no longer a good fit.

  1. You are underpaid for your level of expertise.

When you first got the job, you may have been happy with the rate your client offered. They may have even been your best income source! But over time, you’ve picked up some better-paying jobs here and there and begun climbing the ladder of experience.

At this point you should evaluate how much per hour you are earning. Do you feel this aligns with your level of experience and skill? Could the time you spend on this client’s assignments be spent working for another higher paying client? If so, it may be time to clear your schedule to make room for better opportunities.

Remember that this isn’t anything personal against the client. Their budget is their budget. It just means you are no longer in their price range.

  1. You aren’t treated as a professional.

When you first started working with this client, you may have been new to the freelance world. It’s possible the job or project you took on was more of a hobby. It gave you some spending money, but the position was not designed for a true professional.

With a little experience under your belt, you’ve grown as a freelancer. You have a work schedule and a calendar to keep. Your time is valuable, and your opinion is valuable. If your client is still sending you rush work, failing to communicate with you clearly, or not treating you like an integrated part of their team, it’s time to rewrite your position description or move on.

It’s Not You; It’s Me

Soured business relationships and professional drama can often be avoided by periodically evaluating where you are professionally and making sure that you are still a good fit for the clients you are currently involved with.

In the past, my biggest mistakes haven’t been made during the choosing of client relationships but in letting those relationships continue longer than they should have.

Breaking up with a freelance client actually saves the legacy of the relationship. It is able to go down in the books as having helped you progress professionally without carrying the baggage of ending on an uncomfortable note.

Knowing the indicators of when it may be time to break up with a freelance client means you can now use them to evaluate a situation. And if you recognize it is time to move on because of personal growth, you will be able to say with confidence and kindness, “It’s not you; it’s me.”

Photo by Ryan Riggins on Unsplash

This post was written as part of a Pop Up Blog Carnival hosted by the Healthcare Marketing Network.  

More great posts by freelance healthcare writers on this topic can be found on the Healthcare Marketing Network blog.

If you are a healthcare freelance writer or blogger and are interested in joining our tribe and participating in future blog carnivals, sign up here to receive notice of our schedule and topics for 2018!

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