How to Fire a Client Nicely: Script Included

Not every client relationship is all rainbows and puppy dogs. I wish they were. For your sake. For mine. For the poor rainbows and puppy dogs. But alas. Sometimes you need to break up with a client. It happens.

I’ve been a freelance copywriter since 2002. Over twenty+ years, I can count on one hand how many client relationships I had to walk away from. And none were “dramatic” breakups.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t dread the process.

Just like breaking up in real life is hard, breaking up with a client can be challenging, especially as you anticipate how it will go. Not to mention, there’s a lot of stress around whether you’re making the right decision. You might wonder if there are indeed plenty more “fish in the sea,” especially in the age of ChatGPT.

But staying in a bad relationship out of fear isn’t a good strategy either. Sometimes we need to break up to break through, as the saying goes.

Below, I’m going to discuss the following:

  • Signs that something’s wrong in the client-freelancer relationship
  • How to know if the relationship is fixable
  • Determining a good time to fire a client
  • How to fire a client nicely (scripts included)

If you learn better by watching, here’s my video on this topic. Otherwise, scroll down for the text.

Signs that something’s wrong in the client-freelancer relationship

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • You dread opening the client’s emails or taking their calls.
  • You always put their work last on your to-do list.
  • You find yourself constantly complaining about a particular client.
  • You. Hate. The. Work.
  • You’ve considered giving up your freelancing business and returning to the workforce.

If you said yes to even one of the above, it’s time to evaluate the client-freelancer relationship.

How to know if the relationship is fixable. Questions to ponder.

  • What bothers you most about the relationship? Is it not what you signed up for? Something else?
  • Are you feeling resentful about money because you didn’t charge enough at the outset?
  • Has scope creep crept in?
  • Is the client emailing you at night and on weekends—and you feel obligated to respond?
  • Are you constantly chasing the client down to get things done?

The items above are all potentially fixable.

For example, if a client has been emailing during off-hours and you’ve been responding, you could say something like, “I know I’ve been responsive to emails on the weekend, but I’m taking a step back and creating more space for myself and family during off-hours. So if you email after 5 pm or over the weekend, I’ll respond the next business day.”

If you’re dealing with scope creep, you could say something like this: “After I complete X, I’d like to discuss the work going forward. The parameters have changed since I originally provided a quote. We can either go back to the original parameters. Or I can provide a revised quote for the additional work, and you can decide if you’d like to continue.”

Notice how the above language is firm and clear—but at the same time, it isn’t antagonistic. And it gives the client choices.

OK, for this exercise, let’s assume you’ve reached the point of no return with the client. You want out. What then?

When to fire a client

Is there ever a right time? Nope.

And you’ll find reasons to wait. Some will be practical. For example, you’re in the middle of a project and don’t want to leave the client in the lurch. Or you can’t afford to lose this client right now. Or you might have contractual obligations. (Note: I’m not a lawyer. Everything in this blog post is educational, not legal advice. An excellent place to learn more about freelancer contracts is the Freelancers Union, which is free to join.)

Just make sure those practical reasons don’t turn into long-term excuses.

Not everyone can fire a client, especially if it’s recurring work. (This is one of many reasons why diversification is essential. Losing one doesn’t hurt as much if you have several regular clients. If you only work with one or two clients and must let go of one, you’ll take a much bigger hit.)

If it’s a one-off job, it’s a little easier.

You can complete the project and politely decline any additional work. How you decline is up to you and your comfort level. While being honest and direct is best in an ideal world, we don’t live in an ideal world. You need to do what feels right and safe to you.

Here are some options on what to say:

  • “I appreciate the project we just completed together, but this isn’t the right long-term fit for me, so I’ll need to decline further work. I wish you and your business much success.”
  • “I’m afraid my schedule has shifted, so I can’t take on additional work.”

Regular clients can be a little trickier.

Of course, freelancers tend to stay in a bad client relationship because they don’t have any prospective clients to replace the crappy client.

But the work is out there. As I like to say, content makes the business world go round. Someone needs to write it. And I’m not talking about AI.

Here are some tips for replacing a client:

  • Turn to your current clients. Ask them if they have additional work that you can take on. You can say a spot opened up in your short-term schedule. This strategy can work well for larger companies or if you collaborate with marketing firms that juggle many accounts.
  • Turn to past happy clients. Make sure you stay connected with past clients (LinkedIn is a great place for this). You should get in the habit of checking in regularly anyway, even if you’re not looking for work. Keep in mind that the folks who’ve hired you in the past—often marketing managers or content managers or people with similar titles—they move around. So they could very well end up somewhere in need of a freelancer.
  • Attend networking events. I know, I know. Networking can be a dirty word, especially for introverted writers. But it’s how I built my business. Attend local Chamber events or consider joining BNI.
  • Apply to contract gigs. Peruse LinkedIn and Indeed job boards. Consult places like Media Bistro and FlexJobs.

As you’re courting a new client to replace your existing client, you might have to work more in the short term. But once you feel confident in the new client you’ve secured, you can let the other client go.

How to fire a client nicely (scripts included)

This doesn’t need to be complicated. Remember, this is business, not a romantic relationship. It would be easy for me to say that it’s not personal, but that’s not true—human beings exist on both sides. And we humans have emotions. So there is a personal element.

It would also be easy for me to say that you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your decision. But again, this is reality—and if you’ve had a long-ish relationship with a client, you might feel obligated to offer more of a reason.

Again, you’ll need to decide what you’re comfortable sharing. But think about people who give their two-week notice at work—people rarely, if ever, provide their reason for resigning. They simply give their notice.

An approach like that will likely work best in *most* situations.

  • Be professional, direct, and straightforward.
  • Remember, this is a business relationship—you’re not the first person to step away from this client. (Or if you somehow are, you likely won’t be the last.)

You can customize the scripts below however you see fit, but short, sweet, firm, and to the point are always wise strategies. Remember, if you add something like “Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns,” this opens you up for just that—having them question you or possibly try to talk you out of your decision.

How to fire a client nicely script: Option 1


I’m making some changes in my business that are affecting my bandwidth. As a result, I’ll no longer be available for projects with [COMPANY NAME] after [THIS DATE].

I appreciate the work we’ve done together and wish you and the rest of the team well.

Note: I have a couple of colleagues who might be a good fit for your upcoming projects. If you’d like an introduction, just let me know.


(Include the “Note” only if you have colleagues who’d be a good fit—and who you checked with first.)

How to fire a client nicely script: Option 2


I wanted to connect about an update on my end.

After giving it much thought, I no longer feel I’m the best fit for the work you need. So this project will be my last. I do wish you and the team well moving forward.

I’ll send my final invoice at the end of the month.



How to fire a client nicely script: Option 3


Due to personal and business challenges/changes, I won’t be available for copywriting work after [THIS DATE].

Thanks in advance for your understanding.



Got a Question for the Copy Bitch?

That’s me! I’m the Copy Bitch. Contact me or visit my YouTube channel and leave a comment on one of my videos. I might make a blog post or video with the answer.