I recently ended a long-term relationship with a client, and it did not end positively. We worked together for almost a year, and although I had misgivings the whole time, I continued on with the project, ignoring my intuition. The red flags were there all along, and I detailed them below, along with the takeaway lesson for future freelancing. Hopefully, my experience prevents someone from making the same mistakes.
Red Flag One: Low Pay. From the start, I felt this client was not paying me enough. I should have not accepted a lower hourly rate than I was comfortable with, but I told myself it would be okay since it would be repeat work.
Lesson Learned: Do not accept less than you are worth! It creates a negative mindset towards your client, your personal and professional value, and the work you should love. There are hundreds of thousands of lucrative freelance jobs that I should have been working instead.
Red Flag Two: Demanding of my Time. Client would text me at any time, any day, and expect me to be available for a stat document. Client repeatedly pushed my availability boundaries, contacting me at times I had said I was not available, saying I needed to do a document NOW, and it was unacceptable if I could not.
Lesson Learned: Never, ever be at someone’s beck and call. If they continue to push your boundaries of your work availability, it is time to look for a new contract. Flexibility is important, but everyone needs time off from work to eat, sleep, play, live, and shower.
Red Flag Three: Unclear client expectations. Client would provide feedback such as “There are errors in this document”. When I would ask client for further details, the client was unable to provide me the details of my errors, so I had no idea where I was making mistakes or how I could improve.
Lesson Learned: Require clear expectations from your client. If you cannot get clear expectations, or get vague feedback, it is time to find another client, one with clearer expectations from a freelancing relationship.
Reading this over, I am ashamed that I stayed so long in this relationship. The red flags were there from the beginning, and the relationship deteriorated over time. The worst part of it is the client left me 3/5 stars on one of my freelancer profiles on a good job lead generating site. Since then, I do not feel like I have been getting as much response to my applications, since this dropped my total rating. That could o be only my perception, since I recently was awarded and completed a very large and lucrative project via this same site, which I received excellent feedback on. This client was very professional, responsive and had clear cut expectations, and did not expect me to be on call for them.
Please don’t hesitate to end an abusive client relationship. You will feel better and be available for more lucrative projects, where your talents will be respected and rejoiced!