Terminating a contract as a freelancer - what should I bear in mind?

06.11.2019

Can I quit a freelance job? If you want to terminate your contract as a freelancer and fire your client, you’d need to consider a few things. How much notice should you give? Is it actually possible to terminate a contract from your end?

One of the main benefits of freelancing is the extra freedom that freelancers enjoy compared to regular employees. They get to decide on the project they work on and the client they want to work with.

But things can sometimes change very quickly (both for the freelancer and the client), and you’ll find that a particular project or client hasn't gone the way you’d hoped for.

Even if you were initially excited to work with that particular client at the beginning, the relationship hasn’t worked out and you would like to back out of the freelance job.

 

Quitting a freelancer client

1. Reasons to terminate a freelance contract
2. The Termination Clause
3. How to terminate a contract (with templates)


Why do freelancers usually want to terminate a freelance contract?


The most common reasons for freelancers to terminate a contract are:
 

  • Overwhelmed with other projects:

    This is one of the most common reasons freelancers feel the need to terminate a contract. Took on more than you can possibly handle? It’s probably best to decide what projects you can realistically do and what projects you should let go of.
     
  • You got bored with the current project:

    This applies to long term roles that you’ve now outgrown. If you’ve grown as a freelancer and have acquired new skills, it may be time to seek projects that better fit your skillset.
     
  • Dishonest client / violation of contract agreement:

    An important point is the violation of a contractual agreement. This can affect any clause in your contract, such as a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

    For this reason, it is important that you carefully review the contract before entering into it to ensure that all elements of the contract can be properly performed and that there are no ambiguities. Even if false information is given in the contract, this can still be a reason for termination.
     
  • A difficult client:

    If you find yourself dealing with an overly difficult client, you may be well within your right to terminate a contract. A difficult client could be someone who makes unreasonable demands such as asking to complete a project within a few hours, or someone who is verbally and mentally abusive.

    Freelancer burnout is a real issue and having to deal with a bad client only serves to exacerbate the burnout. In situations like this, you’re better off firing your client.
     
  • Payment issues

    This must be a substantial sum, i.e. a sum that exceeds at least one monthly installment. However, a written warning should be issued before the termination, in which a payment deadline is set. Only after this deadline has not been met, a termination can take place.
     
  • Change in the project person in charge - no longer comfortable

    Changes in personnel or your line manager can be quite jarring, especially if you don’t get along with the new hire. In cases like this, you might need to reconsider your role with the client.
     
  • Personal reasons take most of your time 

    At times, freelancers find that their personal lives are at odds with their professional ones. Taking time off to recover from personal issues is probably in the best interest of both you and your client.


Before you quit your freelance job, you should ensure that you are aware of obligations you and your client have so that you do not violate them and find yourself in breach of contract.

The terms of the termination will likely be written into the contract, so make sure you consult those terms to avoid paying compensation fees.
 

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Terms of termination on a Freelancer contract: What does it say?


We always recommend freelancers sign a freelancer contract before starting any work with a client. All terms of the working relationship will be included in such contract - details of the services to be provided, payment, deadlines and also, details regarding the termination of the contract should the need arise.

The termination clause is decisive for you when considering quitting your freelance client. If the relationship is not working out for any reason, having a termination clause in the contract will allow either party to exit the freelance contract.

We’ve all heard cases where freelancers have been informed that the work is over on the same day or even worse, cases where freelancers haven’t heard any more from a client.

Having a termination clause written into your freelance contract will give you a little more time to get ready for a potential loss of income and your client time to find someone else to take on the project.
 

How much notice should you give when leaving a freelance position?

Although a cancellation period of two weeks is acceptable for many companies, a month’s notice is probably when dealing with a freelance client.

You will likely have projects that need to be finished or brought to a good stopping point. In addition, your client needs a little extra time so they can hire a replacement.

An additional reason for giving plenty of notice is that it allows you time to find another client. The quicker you do, the faster you can replace the income you lose from dropping a client.
 

 

How to terminate your freelance contract?

Leaving a client is not easy. Especially when it’s been great working with them. Also the longer you’ve been working, the more difficult it is to let them go.

However, as we’ve seen before, sometimes you would need to fire your freelance client.
 

General tips to terminate your contract:

  1. Give plenty of notice
  2. Communicate with a peaceful state of mind and avoid writing when angry
  3. Try to make it fair for both parties
  4. Offer an alternate option to the client


What are some ways to terminate a contract?

1)   E-mail the client


If you always communicate per e-mail that’s the way to go for this case as well. Here’s an email template that you can use to fire a freelancing client.
 

Hi [Client name],

I’m emailing you today to let you know that I won’t be able to take on any new work from now on. One of my projects has started taking me much more of my time so I have to scale down my freelance work.

Of course, I’ll be happy to complete the projects we’re currently working on. Also if you need a little bit of time while you find a new freelancer, I’ll be happy to assist you with the transition.

Thanks for the time working together.

Kind regards,

The freelancer


Ideally, you will make the client think that you have no other option but to stop the working relationship. “It’s not you, but me” would also work wonders when breaking up with a client.

If you part ways without annoying the client, don’t forget to ask for a recommendation.

 

2) In-person or on the phone


If you have been working with the client for a while, don’t just email them. Jump on a call or come by the client's office.

It’s a more personal and professional way to inform the client about the termination and you’ll be sure to get the right tone of being polite. There’s a better chance to minimize potential hard feelings before you send the official contract termination letter.
 

3) Send a Contract termination letter


To make the termination official, you will send your client a termination letter.

Here’s a contract termination letter template you could use:

Dear [Client name],

I hereby terminate the existing employment relationship with Company XY from XX.XX.XXXX properly and in due time to XX.XX.XXXX.

Please confirm receipt of this notice in writing.

I would like to thank you for your cooperation and experience and ask you to issue a qualified employer's reference.

Yours sincerely,

The freelancer

 

 

What should be included in the contract termination letter?

  • Name, address of the freelancer
  • Name, address of the client
  • Date of termination/notice date
  • Subject line (mention “Contract termination”)
  • Salutation employer
  • Formulation of the notice
  • Request for information
  • Polite farewell
  • Freelancer signature

Conclusion: Each contract termination is an individual case


Terminating a contract as a freelancer brings with it many challenges, as each case is different. Make sure you read the details of the contract and seek expert advice if in doubt.


We hope this has been useful in helping you decide on terminating a freelance contract, and how best to go about it! If you have any comments or questions, make sure to leave them in the comments section below!

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