We answer three questions posed in the freelance sub-reddit. We cover topics like how to end a client project, refusing a client refund and setting boundaries.
I onboarded a red flag client who posts requirements on short notice, lowballs me on price and is aggressive with their communication. What do I say when asking for an out?
At With Jack we talk a lot about the importance of having a contract. Not because we love everything legal, but because contracts give you a blueprint of how to handle situations like this.
Refer to the termination clause in your contract. This will outline guidelines to adhere to if you wish to end your involvement in the project prematurely. It should cover things like notice period, the handover process, data retention (if applicable).
It’s important to terminate the project in line with the terms of the contract otherwise you leave yourself vulnerable to claims of breach of contract.
Don’t have a contract or a termination clause? This is something to rectify for your next project. Make sure your contract includes a clause around ending a client relationship. And if you’re signing your client’s contract make sure their terms aren’t unreasonable and only favour one party!
If you follow the terms outlined in the contract but your client responds to your termination with accusations that they’re dissatisfied, speak to your insurer. It’s a possibility your professional indemnity insurance can assist if their dissatisfaction is accompanied with a claim for damages or threat.
I did 8-10 hours of work per week for this client on strategy consultation and research, but the scope changed and I missed a deadline. I left the project through mutual consent after receiving 1 of 3 scheduled payments, but now the client is asking for their money back. I’ve offered them a partial refund. Am I wrong for refusing the client a refund?
I’m a big believer in standing your ground with clients who ask for refunds after completing work. The 8-10 hours of work per week should be compensated, so why is the client asking for a refund? The client changed the scope part way through the project, which is presumably what lead to the missed deadline (if the scope changes throughout the project you must adjust timescale and budget accordingly!).
Offering a partial refund shows a vulnerability that clients can take advantage of. If they see you’re willing to negotiate on payment terms, it’s likely they’ll continue pushing for a full refund.
In situations like this it’s important to stand your ground and be a confident freelancer. Whilst insurance doesn’t cover refunds, it should give you the confidence to say to clients “I received payment for the work I completed. No refund is due”.
By saying this you’re backing your client into a corner where they can react in one of two things:
- Agree to walk away (this is the ideal scenario and what will happen in most cases)
- Threaten to take things further (this is why you have insurance)
I am working with a controlling client. He asked me to make an update within an hour, which I did. I don’t like to do this and even have it in my contract that I won’t respond to updates shorter than a 24 hour notice. The following day he undid the work that I’d rushed to complete for him. Do I fire him or put my foot down even harder?
Let’s talk about the importance of setting boundaries. We should all have boundaries and communicate them with our clients. This freelancer did the right thing by having a clause in their contract that states they won’t respond to requests with less than 24 hours notice… but they never followed their own terms.
By setting boundaries yet not sticking to them you’re sending a message to clients that it’s OK for them to overstep boundaries. “I’m not going to follow my own boundaries, so you don’t have to either!”
It’s important to stick to your boundaries—especially with demanding clients. If the client continues to overstep the mark once you’ve made it clear what your boundaries are (and have followed them), I’d suggest you can then consider terminating the project.
- Consider and write down your boundaries
- Communicate those boundaries with your client
- Stick to your boundaries throughout the duration of the project
Following this process won’t eliminate all problems, but it will definitely reduce client headaches.