When to Walk Away From a Client

Debbie Swanson has a quick, five-point guide to deciding when it’s time to fire a client over at Freelance Switch.

I know, I know … in times like these, should you ever walk away from a paying client? The answer, of course, is yes. Look at her five points, all of them are valid reasons for closing the door on one client … and opening another for new ones.

Early in my shooting days, I was a very busy stringer for one of the big wire services. I loved the work, loved my editor, loved the staffers I worked with. The stories I was assigned were fantastic and I was growing with every assignment, every day.

Looking at Swanson’s list, though, my reasons for departing are all in items one and two. The company had budget issues, and I mean extremely weird budget issues. The finance people would tell my editor he had a certain amount for stringers at the start of each month. Then, mid-month, they’d call back and revise the number. Always down.

That lead to a spiraling problem for me – the more work I did, the longer it took to get paid. By the end of 1995, they owed me thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. But because I loved the work so much, I hadn’t been building up other clients – they were consuming 125% of my time.

Maybe there was a bit of reason three in my leaving, as well – they asked me to train a new staffer one day. Remember, I was a stringer … being asked to train a staffer.

So, yeah. We parted.

I still remember those days fondly, history has a way of taking the edge off of pain, I suppose.

Mark E. Johnson

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