Every freelancer who works with multiple clients at once has that one client who infuriates them.
If you’re one of those freelancers, you probably have someone in mind right now. Someone who asks for nearly a well-researched book over the course of a week or takes every possible opportunity to weasel out of their contract with you. The one who spouts abuse in their poorly composed emails and doesn’t provide an ounce of feedback.
We’ve all had at least one in our time, and I’m here to tell you that they just aren’t worth it.
You might think you aren’t the type of freelancer who would “ditch” a client and leave a job behind. Shouldn’t you be grateful that you found work in the first place? Maybe the client is just having a bad week (or a bad month, or year). Are their demands so unreasonable? Surely every other freelancer has to deal with this from time to time, so why shouldn’t I?
Those are questions that lead to excuses preventing you from finding peace. While you might need to deal with a few bad eggs when you start to make a name for yourself, after you’ve established yourself as a freelancer you deserve nothing but clients who respect your needs and understand the real partnership going on.
Here are five reasons why it’s okay to get a client who’s giving you nothing but trouble out of your life:
1. Your Emotional Health Matters More than Their Unreasonable Needs
When it comes down to it, you need to take care of yourself not only as a human being but as a business investment. Just like sometimes ordering out is worth it when you don’t have to cook (and can spend another hour on work instead), your energy is a limited resource.
A toxic person will waste your time and energy far more than a large-scale project by a normal client ever could.
Have you ever done any of the following?
- “Quit” for the evening before you’d normally be done for the day, simply because you’re so frustrated with a client
- Lose sleep or your appetite due to your anxiety over a client’s demands
- Procrastinate doing your work for a single client, even though theoretically it shouldn’t be any harder than your other work
- Feel as if you’re being led around in circles by a client and finding no reprieve from their communications with you
- Find yourself wondering if you’ve picked the right career choice, but only when you’re working on a certain client’s projects
If the answer is yes to one or more of these questions, you might want to think about your relationship with that client.
2. A Single Client Isn’t Worth Most of Your Stress
Related to the idea of your emotional health and your work, it should be noted that stress is fine. Stress is a natural part of work sometimes, and if it isn’t a constant looming specter, you shouldn’t ditch a client just because their project can seem overwhelming at times. What you should worry about is when there is a clear link between a client’s projects and your emotional distress.
If you’ve heard of the 80/20 rule, it might explain the point further. Just as most of your work comes down to a few important factors, most of your stress and anxiety is likely coming from one source as well.
3. Your Other Clients Won’t Get You at Your Best
Speaking of stress, if you are overwhelmed by it, do you think you can give your best to your other clients? What of your responsibilities and obligations to them? A single troublesome client should not ruin your work for the rest of them. They might not know it, but your client is disrespecting those needs by disrespecting you, and it’s up to you to put a stop to it.
Think about it. Since you acquired that truly toxic client, hasn’t your other work suffered at times? Is that the reason you put them off, to do other work to the best of your ability? It’s an important question to think about, even if the answer is uncomfortable.
4. There Are Other Fish in the Sea
Sometimes you just need to let a client back into the ocean of employers looking for a freelancer that can hopefully satisfy them (although that can be unlikely with some toxic clients). Not every fish is worth keeping (some are also toxic), and you can only take so many home with you. You can do better than your current situation.
If you are afraid of having a void in your schedule from letting a client loose, try to think of it in the following terms. If you were to devote every bit of time and energy you put into that toxic client into finding a new client, how long do you think it would be until you find better work? I doubt it would be very long.
5. Some Situations Can Turn Dangerous
The rare and most terrible of clients can do even worse things than cheating you out of a job. They can spew abuse at every turn even when you aren’t working. They’ll expect the equivalent of slave labor while threatening to sue for breach of contract. They’ll threaten to ruin your reputation unless you do exactly as you ask. They’ll spread lies at every turn. These are the worst of the worst.
While you might be afraid to leave a situation at first, I promise you it will only get worse if you stay in a professional relationship with a toxic person. If it’s truly terrible, you should not only leave but take decisive measures to cut them off from you. Block them from whatever accounts you can. Go anonymous using a Virtual Private Network. Warn other freelancers that might work with them. Do whatever you can to improve your life.
I sincerely hope I’ve convinced you to leave that toxic client and the toxic life that follows behind. You can do so much more without them, and you have the power to take back your business.
Do you have any personal stories about toxic clients you’d like to share? Are there any other points you’d like to add? If so, please leave a comment below and tell us your thoughts.
Currently in a professional relationship that is turning very toxic. Lost sleep for two night, couldn’t eat, wasn’t snapping at my family, very bad anxiety. This just might have convinced me to end things.
This post made me also wonder if there is a type of message board or forum for Virtual Assistants to get together to vent, or post interesting tips for one another, and get advice. My family and friends don’t understand when I try to discuss my frustrations and I would LOVE a place to connect with other VAs. Is there already a place like this?
This article brightened my day day, thank you. Your point about spending your energy on finding a new client instead of on the toxic client is well said.