Trim Branches—Not Bridges

Sometimes your happiness, not to mention success as a freelancer, depends on you breaking up with clients that are holding you back.

Today, we’re going to discuss how to do this without burning any bridges.

In fact, my goal is to get you to the point where your ex-client will not only be fine with you leaving, but also be inspired to give you a glowing testimonial or referral.

If you’ve been following along this week, you should have already decided whether you’re going to break up with your client.

Ready to take the plunge?

First, I want you to write the first draft of an email telling your client that you’re going to have to move on.

Here are a few tips:

  • Be short and to the point
  • Don’t give too much detail … they can ask for it later
  • Be professional, not emotional
  • Say that you will continue for two weeks or until they find a replacement, whichever comes first

If you need help, you can use the template I provide in my article “How to Lose a Client in 10 Days.”

The key part to this is not burning the bridge you built.

Here’s how:

I don’t want you to just break up with your client. I want you to give them something first.

For example, when I broke up with my client Mitch, he was pretty upset. I was a cool, collected cucumber—all business, just like you’ll be.

Mitch is an Internet marketer that was accepting work from start-up companies within every niche available.

When I told him that this variety of niches wasn’t something I loved writing about, he told me that I was never going to find clients if I couldn’t write anything for anyone.

As AWAI members, we know that copywriters who specialize make more money and are happier with their work. But most people don’t realize this.

I told Mitch that there were clients everywhere who would be willing to pay top dollar for his services if he was willing to niche himself, look for those clients, and ask for the fee he deserved.

He walked away from our conversation not only fine with the fact that I was breaking up with him, but excited about the future of his business too.

Now, that’s what I call a smooth breakup! And it’s because I gave him something in return.

The benefits of the breakup were tangible immediately. I was no longer stressed out. I didn’t dread checking my email. I had energy to work with my other clients.

It was absolutely the right decision.

So, my friend, this is your task for today:

  1. Come up with something that you can give your client. It might be knowledge. You might offer to train their next writer or offer to find your own replacement.
  2. Write your email. (If you’ve always communicated by phone or some other manner, use that medium—but write down what you’re going to say.)
  3. Walk away from it for a few hours, look over it again, and revise if you need to.
  4. Then … send it!

Tell your client you will finish any projects you’re already committed to doing if they still want you to.

And, of course, be confident. You’ve already decided that this is what you must do for the growth of your business. This is your writer’s life! When you complete this task, feel free to comment below.

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The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: May 3, 2012

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