today’s question: “how do you end things with a repeating client?”

it is never fun to break up with someone. just be honest with your client and rip the bandaid off. if you let it linger you will only resent those weekly/monthly requests and it could start to show in your work. you don’t have to go into detail about what you don’t like about working with them. just explain that it’s not working in your current situation. you could say you’re taking your career in another direction or that you’re no longer offering those services. you could say you’re taking on full time work and you no longer have the time to work on side projects.

before you cut the cord make sure all your ducks are in a row. do they owe you payment for anything? will they continue to use your past work with their branding? do you want to charge them for rights or are you just ready to let go? hopefully when you started working for them you had all of this written up in a contract.

when you’re telling them that you’re moving on suggest other designers that you think would work nicely on their brand. list 2-3 people and try to provide links to their website or contact. i also suggest giving them a month or two weeks notice so they have time to find someone to replace you. if you usually communicate one way (email/skype/phone/in person) I think it’s okay to resign in that same form.  just be nice. end on a good note. you never know when you’ll meet again or need their connection to something or someone.

it’s hard when you feel loyalty to someone or something to just throw in the towel. right? remember when i resigned from rue a few months ago? life shifted for me and it was just a time commitment i couldn’t take on anymore. i gave notice, did another issue so that they could find a new art director, and we cordially went our separate ways. it was a decision i was dreading because i felt like i was giving up and that i was letting people down. but people understand…that’s how life goes.

if you are anything like me, you will stay with a project even when it is time to be over. you stick it out. but that’s when resentment starts happening. and when you aren’t enjoying what you are doing or creating…it’s just not going to be the best it can be. you start to put it off…dread it…and then do a rushed design that just gets the job done. this has happened to me a couple of times, and finally i am starting to realize that in those situations it would be way better for both of us to just move on. they deserve someone who is putting their whole heart into the project, and you deserve to be working on something that inspires you. really think about how this relationship is helping you. is it money? good exposure? good experience? you should always feel like at least one of those is happening.

and sometimes! you don’t have to call it quits. maybe you switch it up and take your collaboration in a new direction? maybe you work together less often? think about what the ideal situation for you would be and just be up front about it. for example, let’s say you are a photographer and you are working with a blogger on a column…and you aren’t loving the content you are shooting anymore. you are bored and not really benefiting from it. instead of just quitting the gig, offer up some new ideas, think of a new column you could shoot for them. it couldn’t hurt, and the new ideas will probably be exciting for both of you.

but sometimes…it just has to end. they will find someone else and everything will be just fiiiiiiine. put your energy into something that you’re excited about!

(illustration by katie evans. read more freelance advice posts are over here! have a question? leave it in the comment box for us.)



Add your own

  • 1. Joy  |  November 28th, 2012 at 6:03 am

    This is such good advice! It is hard to do. I can totally relate to “sticking it out”. I always see value in finishing a project until it’s final end, but sometimes you just have to let it go. Thanks for addressing something not a lot of people like to talk about!

  • 2. Kenzie Lee  |  November 28th, 2012 at 6:04 am

    Great advice! Thank you!

    xo, Kenzie


  • 3. Brooke  |  November 28th, 2012 at 8:18 am

    This is so great and helpful. I definitely agree with the advice to try and change things to make it better before just quitting. Also agree that you shouldn’t just leave them high-and-dry, and should suggest some other designers that may work for their brand. We all tend to forget how important it is to make sure we’re putting our time and energy into something we are really passionate about, since time is such a valuable thing.

    Thanks for the advice!

  • 4. Kristina  |  November 28th, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Great advice, thanks for sharing :) x

  • 5. Rebecca  |  November 28th, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Hi! I’m not sure if this would be too broad of a question to tackle…but I’ll give it a shot. Just the other day I was thinking about appropriate interview outfits that aren’t either too casual or too professional but fall somewhere in the middle. An outfit that says you take the job/company/studio seriously, but that you don’t take yourself TOO seriously. Finding the right balance between letting your personality shine through while still staying professional. If you have some advice to give (I know this question varies with each individual’s style…) maybe you could mix this with a style post. That might be too much to ask, so no worries at all if you can’t :)

  • 6. katie evans!  |  November 28th, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    @rebecca: that question is totally on the list we’ve gathered! and we will definitely enjoy answering it soon.

  • 7. Lillian-Marie  |  November 28th, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    I have a question:

    How does it work when you guys collaborate with other designers/artists on a project? Say you design a website and hire someone to code it, or someone hires you to design the logo for the client they are re-branding. Do you work it into the estimate? How do you give credit?

  • 8. Leanne  |  November 28th, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    Hi! This is totally a questions for a newbie, but I was wondering how you draw the line between dealing with clients who give very specific ideas, while still being able to make the ‘designy’ decisions yourself. I’m working on something at the moment where I’m being told to make just tiny adjustments to colour and typography but it’s resulting in something that just doesn’t look very good. Should I give in because at the end of the day it’s for them, or should I continue to fight the good fight for design?

  • 9. Leanne  |  November 28th, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Okay… Now I’ve been handed a typeface that makes me want to vomit. Help!

  • 10. katie evans!  |  November 29th, 2012 at 9:24 am

    @leanne we’ve answered this one. check it out here: http://www.designlovefest.com/2012/04/advice-12/

    good luck.

  • 11. Kerry Grolle  |  November 29th, 2012 at 9:28 am

    As your businesses grow and more people begin to interact with you via a blog, social media, or email, do you ladies ever get curious and check out (via their own website, blog, etc.) those who you haven’t heard of before? Just curious. I do it and have found some great creative people that way.

  • 12. Chick Tyler  |  November 30th, 2012 at 12:59 am

    Great post! I’ve had to “break up” with clients before! But, it had to be done!

  • 13. Anahi  |  November 30th, 2012 at 2:21 am

    I have a question:
    What do you do with an over competitive friend\coworker?
    cause it really sucks :(

  • 14. Business Bites: Getting y&hellip  |  November 30th, 2012 at 5:14 am

    […] ♥ (An oldie but a goodie) What do you do when doubt everything and just want to stay in bed? ♥ How do you end things with a repeating client? ♥ Soul Selling – My position on sponsored posts and advertising – really interesting […]

  • 15. Friday Links 11/30/12 | E&hellip  |  November 30th, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    […] Breaking up with clients – on Design Love Fest […]

  • 16. gloria waters  |  December 30th, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    had to come back to this post for some reassurance… taking a deep breath and letting go.



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