Had Enough? What to Say in Your Farewell Email to Clients
Carol Tice | 10 Comments
What to Say in Your Farewell Email to Clients. Makealivingwriting.com

What to Say in Your Farewell Email to Clients. Makealivingwriting.comIt happens to nearly every freelance writer at some point. You need to drop a client. But how do you break the news? What do you say in your farewell email to clients?

There’s usually at least one main reason you’ve got a bad taste in your mouth for a client.

They don’t pay enough. Their people aren’t appreciative. Their deadlines are too crazy. Or maybe all three. Sound familiar?

Maybe things started out great, but now the situation has changed.

There’s a new editor or marketing director. You find yourself putting off their work. And you may not be doing the best work you possibly could on their account.

You know the client has got to go. But what do you say in that farewell email to clients?

“Sayonara, sucker,” “See you in hell,” “It’s been great working with you,” or something else?

I spent a lot of time thinking about this before I dropped two steady clients.

Ready make it happen? Here’s what to say in your farewell email to clients.

Unlock your potential with the ‘farewell email to clients’

Making the decision to drop a client is a positive step. But it usually comes with mixed feelings:

  • The good: It signifies that you value your time and your freelance writing career. It’s an indicator that you’re only going to associate with clients that treat you right. It’s an empowering moment, really, when you have the insight that you want to drop a client.
  • The bad: But it can also feel very scary. Maybe you fear the economic uncertainty, or you just hate confrontations. A lot of writers spend days, weeks, months of even years thinking about writing that farewell email to clients, but never actually do it.

The thing is, when you get rid of a bad client, you unlock your potential for more productivity, creativity, better clients, and more money.

So when it’s time to write that farewell email to clients, how do you handle it?

Choose, but choose wisely

When I identified two clients that needed to be cut from my list, I had two primary reasons for giving them the ‘farewell email to clients’ treatment:

  1. I felt strongly that if I dropped these two clients, I would be able to replace them with better clients.
  2. I also needed to free up more time to work on this blog.

The pros and cons of dropping a client

It might sound cliche, but when you think it’s time to use the ‘farewell email to clients’ exit strategy, weigh the pros and cons to help you make a decision. Here are the pros and cons I identified for my two clients:

  • Pros Client 1: One client had been a great, steady account for a couple of years, with a nice editor who loved my work and gave me usually two articles a month. The articles appeared on very popular sites and gave me some great visibility.
  • Cons Client 1: But the sad fact was their pay rate was lower than anyone else on my roster, and I didn’t find I got a lot of referrals from the stories. (One of my metrics of whether a client’s work is worth it is whether their clips generate referral business.) I asked for a raise a year ago, and they said they couldn’t do it.
  • Pros Client 2: The other was a steady gig with much good about it — a wonderful editor, a cool virtual chat room with all the other excellent reporters, a major brand behind it, huge website traffic, and a chance to learn tons about blogging.
  • Cons Client 2: But it also had significant negatives, including a crushing monthly workload that had to be met or pay was zero. And its per-blog-post rate was my absolute lowest. It also did not generate referrals, and would have required significant additional time to build income — time I don’t have.

Beware of Stay-or-Go Syndrome

Often, we cling to existing freelance writing clients because it’s comfortable. We know what’s expected of us. It’s a known quantity. It feels secure.

But the reality is that if we don’t keep improving our client list, our income won’t grow. If you don’t acknowledge this, you end up getting caught in limbo with Stay-or-Go Syndrome.

I eventually realized it was time for me to make some changes, which you want to do before the quality of what you’re delivering starts to go downhill.

  • What’s your gut telling you about dropping one of your clients? Pay attention to that.

Once you’ve decided a client is getting the ax, the trick is to do it in the best possible way. Here are my tips for what to say in your farewell email to clients:

1. Line up your replacement client first

This isn’t always possible, but ideally, you don’t want to see any interruption in income. Try to keep control of the situation.

Bide your time and do your assignments until the moment you’re ready to ditch them in favor of a better client.

Watch out for this: If you let your attitude or work quality deteriorate, the client may give you the ax first. Then you’re scrambling to find a replacement, and in your haste may latch onto another substandard client.

2. Give notice

Don’t leave your client in the lurch. If you know you have a contract coming up for renewal, let them know several weeks ahead that you don’t want to renew.

With more sporadic clients, it may simply be a question of turning down several assignments in a row by saying you’re too busy, then finally saying:

I think I’m not going to have time to do anything for you going forward.”

If you write for mills, of course, it’s simply a matter of not visiting that dashboard again.

3. Give referrals

A classy way to leave a gig is by giving the editor a couple names of writers who might replace you.

Connect your client with a writer in your network: This is where you can be a hero to your writer network, since there’s always someone who’s at a different point in their writing career, where your loser client might be a great client for a friend.

I was happy to be able to refer a writer to one of the clients I dropped who was a perfect fit and got an assignment right away.

4. Be professional

Even if you thought this client was a raging lunatic whose unreasonable demands drove you to the edge of madness, keep your cool. Remember, editors move around, publications change, and content budgets increase sometimes.

5. Leave the door open

The ideal is to leave on a positive note, with the idea that if things changed, you might work for this client again in the future.

This keeps you in the driver’s seat, with the possibility of coming back to the client later. It also means this client is more likely to retain good feelings about you and might refer you if they hear about other gigs.

When you drop a freelance client the right way…

My dream with the second client I dropped was to get more casual, better-paying occasional freelance gigs from them. I had to end being part of their monthly grind. So I used this ‘farewell email to clients’ approach:

I was classy, gave lots of notice, made sure my editor knew how much I valued working with him…and mentioned that I was available for any special projects. Presto: Since exiting my regular gig, I’ve gotten several fun, easy blog assignments and made a couple grand, with the potential for more work to come.

Sending a snarky farewell email or slamming out your editor’s door may feel good for a moment, but it burns a bridge. Better to keep all your options open for the future.

Have you said farewell to a freelance client? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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10 comments on “Had Enough? What to Say in Your Farewell Email to Clients

  1. Jami Fraze on

    Hello, I am enjoying your advice on writing as a freelancer. Can you please suggest an article about how to set parameters with a client about the number of revisions and time to put in for a project? Thanks.


    • Evan Jensen on

      Hi Jami,
      That should happen when you negotiate a contract with a client so there’s no surprises. If the project changes and scope creep starts to happen, you have a way to renegotiate terms and payment. If you don’t do this ahead of time, bad clients may expect vast revisions and rewrites. And that’s not what you want because it drives down your hourly rate and eats up time you could spend on working for better-paying clients or at least marketing yourself to find better clients.

    • Carol Tice on

      Don’t know if I have an article on that… and personally I don’t set limits on revisions. My policy is ‘I write until you’re ecstatic.’ I find that closes a lot of sales… and because I have been doing this a while, it is RARE that there is more than one round, so why sound miserly and say only 2 revisions?

      The time to put in on a project… is NOT something we usually set a time limit on. As I said, I work until clients love it. The most important thing is that I have clients who love and recommend me, not what the hourly rate is on any one particular gig. Make sense?

      The thing you DO want to do is track your hours yourself, and strive to become more efficient over time. We don’t usually mention in a contract how many hours something will take. Ideally, you’re quoting project rates rather than hourly rates, which makes how many hours you spend none of their business. But you want to be efficient just so your own hourly rate works out well.

      Hope that makes sense!

  2. Deb Belluomini on

    I have one client now who is way too hands-on. I have a feeling it’s going to be a rough ride and I just want it to be over. In addition, she is using a headline assessment tool that I’ve never heard of to “measure” the impact of what I’m sending her. Has anyone else ever encountered this? The tool is called the Advanced Marketing Institute Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer.

  3. Haleigh on

    I had a couple of generic writing gigs when I first started freelancing. One wasn’t paying very well and I wasn’t fond of the topics, but the client was an awesome guy. I wrote his blogs for a couple years before I started outgrowing the work and then I wanted so badly to drop him. So I simply told him I was going more niche in my writing (medical) and those new niche projects were a more productive use of my time than writing his real estate blogs. I broke the news to him tactfully and in a friendly and down-to-earth way since our relationship had reached that level of familiarity. He was so good about it! He offered to pay me triple my original rate for those real estate blogs (and even started to send along recommended source material so I’d have to do less research) all because he valued my reliability and writing quality and our professional relationship. To this day, we have a great relationship and I’m only writing a few blogs a month for him. Note: I don’t recommend letting any client bribe you with empty promises to keep you onboard if you’ve already concluded that working with them is toxic to your professional growth. But this experience taught me that quality clients are willing to accommodate the writers they genuinely care about. As long as you’re tactful and slow to burn those bridges, confronting clients about your need to move on can open up new opportunities.

  4. Cherese R Cobb on

    These are great tips. Unfortunately, I had to slam the door on one of my clients after my mom died in March. They had changed editors, crunched deadlines, and then didn’t send my check. They blamed me for moving, which I didn’t, and then charged me to resend it, saying they weren’t going to eat the fee.


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