Why you should fire bad freelance clients

We’ve all had them or at least heard the horror stories about them. Bad clients. They don’t pay on time, they don’t explain what they want, they ask for endless changes, and generally give you a pain in the neck. These people make you question the reason you decided to become a creative freelancer in the first place.

Halt! Don't hire that bad client!
Halt! Don’t hire that bad client!

But why is it that creative freelancers often keep these bad clients on their books, accepting work from them time and again. When what they really want to do is tell them, in no uncertain terms, to take a long hike.

Freelancing can be a precarious existence. So, when an elusive client pops up, freelancers tend to do all they can to hold onto that source of money. Even if that client turns out to be a client from hell.

Starting to lose your mind? Fire those bad clients.
Starting to lose your mind? Fire those bad clients.

It’s understandable. It’s hard to say no to that money when you have bills to pay. But, as Addison Duvall explains in her article Why you should fire your worst freelance design clients, keeping hold of those bad clients could be doing you more harm than good:

Every crap job you take puts you that much further away from your true goal of doing work you love and are proud to display to others

What if it’s the bad work that’s keeping you from progressing further in your freelance career? The work you do for bad clients tends to be poor quality. It often can’t be shown in your portfolio because the client has destroyed it with their overbearing ‘creative vision’. Ask yourself this: is it ever something you’re proud of? If the answer is no, you should seriously think about ditching that client.

Bad clients can make you lose the will to live.
Bad clients can make you lose the will to live.

Don’t hold onto the notion that eventually your bad client will change. As Addison states:

A bad client will never, ever, ever, ever change into a good one

Why should they change their ways? You’re letting them get away with treating freelancers however they want. They’ve got it good. Plus, a bad client probably wouldn’t recognise quality work if it hit them in the face.

But what about the money? If a steady income is all you want, perhaps freelancing isn’t for you. Look at getting a full-time job instead. With freelancing, you need to take some risks in order to reap the rewards. It might seem scary, but in the end it’ll be worth it. If you make sure you’ve got a financial safety net in place, it’ll be easier to fire those bad clients and start seeking out good ones.


Is the money from your bad clients even that great? If you take a good look at how long you spend working on their projects and the amount of work they ask you to do, they could actually turn out to be poor value for money. Bad clients can take up a lot of your ‘un-billable hours’, such as pestering you with multiple phone calls, texts and emails. Plus there’s the numerous change requests they send when the project should have been finished and put to bed long ago. If any of your bad clients exhibit this behaviour, it’s time to swap them for better ones.
At the end of the day, confidence and experience will help you wake up from your bad client nightmare. New and inexperienced freelancers will often take on bad clients and then end up keeping them for life because they feel like they can’t fire them. The freelancer – client relationship is a two way street. You’re hiring your client as much as they’re hiring you, and if it isn’t working out, firing them will set you free.




After studying English Literature at university, Vicky decided she didn’t want to be either a teacher or whoever it is that writes those interminable mash-up novels about Jane Austen and pirates, so sensibly moved into graphic design.

She worked freelance for some time on various projects before starting at Twine and giving the site its unique, colourful look.

Despite having studied in Manchester and spent some years in Cheshire, she’s originally from Cumbria and stubbornly refuses to pick up a Mancunian accent. A keen hiker, Vicky also shows her geographic preferences by preferring the Cumbrian landscape to anything more local.