It’s the beginning of a new year, and as per tradition, I have to let a few clients go. I got to thinking that you might also have the same problem at some point in your career, and being less experienced than I am at this, will ultimately fuck it up. So, let’s save the drama and anguish and I’ll teach you how to let clients go with poise and fucking grace.
Reasons to Let Clients Go
There are a number of reasons you may feel inclined to let clients go, ranging from the infantile to the practical. If you’re pissed off that they asked for an edit, grow the fuck up and don’t throw away someone who’s trying to teach you something. If you’re chronically overbooked and have no room to breathe, well, that’s another thing. This blog entry is for the writer who spends too much time writing because they’re in so fucking much demand they can’t beat the offers off with a very large stick and bear mace.
First of all, before you ever contemplate firing your client, make sure you really have to. A temporary bottleneck is inconvenient and stressful, but it will pass. If, however, you’re writing 60+ hours a week and can’t remember how to spell “that” properly, you need some down time. Downtime is crucial for your healthy existence and while having all the clients is tempting and makes you feel like a Goddamned superstar, it’s not really good for you. You can chain smoke all the cigarettes and slam down all the coffee and the damage won’t amount to what pure stress-fueled insanity will do to your body.
It’s important to know when it’s time to let go. That’s more of an art than a science, but when you’re chronically overworked and you don’t need the money bad enough to deal with it, it’s a sure sign that a change is a-comin’. Understand that a client purge isn’t a bad thing. For your remaining clients, it’s a very positive experience. They’ll benefit from your increased attention span and ability to string words together in a much more coherent way. So, trust me, you will get better if you do this. Thin the herd, my friend.
How to Say Good-bye
Once you’ve decided which clients get the axe, whether by lottery, by seniority or by their fucking eye colors, it’s time to do the deed. Write a very polite, but short message explaining that you’ll no longer be able to provide them services starting on a certain date. Allowing about a month for your future former client to find a new writer is only polite, but expect to be fired right away.
If you’re on short notice, or you know someone who would be happy to write those blogs or landing pages or whatever, make sure to recommend another writer. I find this is generally much better accepted than a short letter that says, “GO FUCK YOURSELF! I’m not your little dancing word monkey to be teased and toyed with as you see fit!” After all, you never know when you might need that client again for a recommendation or for work when things thin out again. So leave on good terms, don’t be a fucking moron.
When I find I’ve collected a lot of extra clients through the year, I tend to let the problem sort itself out by raising my rates. I send out an all-points to my clients, with each hidden behind a BCC, explaining that due to rising costs, blah blah, I’ve had to raise my rates to so many dollars. Sometimes this doesn’t work, though, so be prepared to pick and choose if they’re all ready to pay you double of what they did last year.
I do play favorites, I admit it. Clients who are easy to work with, who are always glad to read my work — even if they don’t pay the best — will always get preferential treatment when I have to sort out the pile. The nicer you are to me and the more you challenge me, the more likely you are to stick around for the long haul. Now, that’s not to say that I’ll write for nothing, because that’s not even remotely true, but if I have two clients who are in the same rough ballpark pay-wise and I love one as a person and detest the other, it’s no contest.
When Firing Goes Wrong
Once in a great while, your client won’t accept that they’ve been fired. “Haven’t I been good to you, baby? Haven’t I given you all the monies?,” this will be their battle cry. For whatever reason, they feel like you owe it to them to stick around. They probably kick their dog and beat their spouses, but you know, I’m only guessing. These are the times that try men’s souls, but you have to stick to your guns, no matter how much they beg, coerce or threaten.
Do you remember how you had no weekends off in 2014? That’s because you’re a sucker and you let them get to you. This is business, it’s not personal, and you have to tell your clients so. No, Client B, you didn’t give me all the monies, if you must know, and I’ve got to reduce my client load or I will literally die — you gave me the same monies as the other suckers, but you’ve been here for a month and they’ve been here for six years; you gave me the same monies as the other suckers, but they don’t demand I shout out their name during sex with my spouse; etc.
If you hope to ever see your family again, you have to master this skill. And all it really requires is that you put your big girl panties on and suck it the fuck up. Winter’s the season for panty-wearing, so go out there, fire some clients and knock out some free time for yourself. Report back here and tell me how it went.