When is it time to walk away from a client?

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One of the most asked questions by people starting out as a freelancer is where do you find your clients? From that mind-set it must be difficult to imagine turning clients away. Sometimes you haven’t got the capacity to take on new work. But on occasion a relationship just doesn’t work out. So, you have to ask yourself, when is the right time to walk away from a client?

This past week has been a rollercoaster of emotions for me. I hit breaking point mentally and needed a mental health day to let myself just feel everything I was feeling. There is no shame in that. When I took a look at the main cause of my mental health “relapse” there was one client in particular that had been making me feel on edge for quite some time.

The communication was not where it needed to be. When asking for all communication to be done via email they would continue to text me. I don’t have a business number for clients so they were texting me several times a day on my personal number. When they had emailed they would text to say they had emailed. This was a relatively new relationship but we had been working together for a few months so there shouldn’t still be these teething issues.

My mental health, and yours too, is not worth sacrificing for a few extra bucks at the end of the month.

Understandably some clients need a little more reassurance than others, we need to start understanding customer centric. Some are very happy to let you just get on with things – others require a play-by-play update on a daily basis. These are the kinds of clients I try to avoid as they do nothing but add to my mental health stress. It’s unnecessary pressure when there is already enough internal pressure coming from yourself to keep the business afloat.

This one client had an in-house designer so they should be used to the way designers work – albeit we’re all slightly different. They used me for bigger projects and urgent last-minute jobs. Usually I wouldn’t mind the urgency but their definition of urgent did not match up with mine. Of course, from time-to-time last minute jobs do come up and something needs to be turned around in a couple hours. But when there’s an urgent job almost every day then you know your client isn’t planning far enough ahead.

If your client isn’t planning ahead then how are you supposed to? Freelancers will work on more than one job at a time unless contracted to a particular business for an extended period of time. Therefore, it’s not always possible to focus solely on one client at a time.

When the client’s expectations don’t match with yours, that is the time to walk away. Have a conversation with them first to outline the issues. But if things don’t improve then you’re within your rights to walk away. You should always walk away from a client if your mental health deteriorates as a result of avoidable stress.

If your client isn’t planning ahead then how are you supposed to?

Freelancing is ruthless and cutthroat at times but you should always do what’s best for you. It’s hard not to feel disheartened when things with a client don’t work out. Ultimately though, what’s more important? Working for a client that does not fit your working style and hinders your mental health for the sake of a bit of extra money; or being happy and confident with less clients whom understand and respect you?

It’s a no brainer for me. Quality over quantity every time. That’s something I constantly have to remind myself but my mental health, and yours too, is not worth sacrificing for a few extra bucks at the end of the month.

Stand up for yourself and walk away from those clients that drive you crazy. If I can do it, you can too.

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fuck this: living with mental health