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  • Writer's pictureDebra Stang

Fired! What to Do When You’re Fired from a Freelance Writing Job

I've been a freelance writer since 2001. During that time, I've only been let go from projects a handful of times, but I can remember each and every occasion as if it had happened yesterday.

Sometimes being fired was completely my own fault, and I was able to accept responsibility for it and move on. Other times, the client and I reached a mutual agreement that things weren't working out. These rare occurrences were disappointing but not necessarily painful.

And then there were the last class of clients. (I can't believe I'm using these people and "class" in the same word.) They were hard if not impossible to please. They pushed boundaries, wanting far more work than the contract specified. And they usually walked away just before a payment came due.

I got blindsided by one of these types a few weeks ago. We had contracted for me to write a 20,000 word manual. Almost before the printer ink was dry on the contract, he upped the word count to 30,000 - with no extra pay.

I turned in the first section exactly as he had requested it. He paid me a pittance, then decided he didn't like my style after all. He disappeared, taking his business elsewhere. And that was that. Hours of labor and thousands of words gone to waste.

I wanted to cry. Instead I got to work on these damage control steps that you can use if you're ever fired as a freelancer.

1. Count to 10…or 100…or 100,000

Take some time to cool off, as much as you need. While flaming him to a crisp might sound like a good idea, remember that the freelance writing world can be a small place indeed. This client's input could keep you from getting a better job, so always try to respond like a professional.

2. Negotiate a Fair Settlement

If the client still owes money for the project, make every effort to collect what you think is fair. Years ago, for instance, a client I was working for went belly up when I was right at the halfway mark of the project we'd been working on. She was nice enough to pay half of the agreed upon total so that my time and writing didn't go to waste.

3. Part on Amicable Terms

As I mentioned earlier, it's amazing who knows whom in the freelance writing world. If you make an enemy of the person who fired you, he or she may be able to influence whether you are given future assignments. After we've decided on an equitable settlement for my work, I usually send an email saying that I'm sorry things didn't work out and that I wish the client the best.

4. Learn What You Can from the Experience

Some things I've learned include the importance of getting projects in on time (There's a reason why they call the project due date a DEADline.), avoiding project creep, and being on guard when a client on a shoestring budget promises me the sun and the moon.

5. Get Back on the Horse

Remind yourself that most of your client relationships work out very well. You can't expect to bat a thousand. Even the old greats like Babe Ruth never managed that. Instead, put the firing out of your mind and move on to your next project, your next query or LOI, or the next (decent) help wanted ad.

Being fired as a freelance writer certainly carries a heavy sting, but you needn't let it ruin your career, let alone your life.

Have you ever been fired from a freelance job? How did you handle it? 

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