How To Gracefully Terminate a Freelance Contract

by on December 17, 2020

terminate a freelance contract

In the world of a Freelancer, there comes a time when the project is just not working out. Perhaps you are in over your head – maybe the problem is lack of clarity or “scope creep”.

Whatever the issue, you want out of your contact. But, in a business where your reputation is so important, how can you gracefully extricate yourself from a job that is simply going nowhere?

You can disentangle yourself – if you do it right.

First of all, you must remember that, when you take on an assignment, you have usually entered into a legal contract and this contract is usually binding. Meaning both you and the employer agreed to abide by the contract.

In many countries or jurisdictions, a contract is not ratified (fulfilled) until money or some sort of remuneration changes hands. So, knowing this, your first instinct might be to say “You haven’t paid me, so I’m not doing the work.” But, in actuality, your exit from the contract may not be that easy.

If you have found your job through a freelance company, you probably signed a “Terms of Use” agreement which requires you to finish a job once you have accepted it. And if you are working with one of these websites, your “employer” has the ability to leave negative feedback and say that you did not finish the task if you decided to just quit.

So you’re stuck – right? Well, not necessarily.

Here are a few suggestions to help you in this delicate situation.

Ways To End a Freelance Contract:

1. Be honest

Let the client know that you do not have the skills needed to perform the task. Be polite, and truthful. Thank them for their time and their consideration and let them know that you do not wish to waste their resources.

This can often lead to a mutual abandonment of the agreement – no hard feelings.

2. If the client is not willing to negotiate, re-visit the original terms of “employment.”

If you agreed to a contract to build a website, and the client now wants content added or SEO banners on the front page, remind them of the terms of the job. This will help you to get paid for your work (if arbitration is required) and will help prevent scope-creep.

3. If the client changes the terms of the contract

If the terms of a freelance contract change, then the original contract is no longer valid. Let the client know that the contract is now void.
If you agreed to do A, B, and C, and they want D as well, then your client has “violated” the contract and it cannot be enforced.

Respectfully ask your client that you do not agree to the changes and want out. Most clients will simply let you go as they no longer have the right to enforce the new contract.

4. Ask for more money

While this is not really the most professional way of extricating yourself from a bad freelance contract, it is a valid request if the scope of work has changed. If, for example, your client has asked for so many re-writes that your role has changed (from author to “editor”) then let the client know that, and ask for more money.

Warning: Use this tactic judiciously. Demanding more money may result in a bad review. Be prepared to defend your actions.

5. Ask to be released on moral, ethical, or religious grounds

This is quite legitimate. You may innocently agree to write “a series of uplifting articles” and discover that you are writing for a porn site. You may be asked to create a web page for some organization that you really cannot support.

Let the client know. (Then notify the freelance website that this client is possibly guilty of false advertising). You are within your rights as a Freelancer to report such violations.

6. Politely let your client know that you cannot deliver the product

If you are asked to “just write something,” without any provision for research or due diligence, let the client know that, as a responsible professional writer, you are unwilling to do that. If you are told to “feel free to cut and paste” or are asked to “copy a webpage to this document,” decline on professional principles. Rest assured, they will drop you and find another, less ethical writer or web-designer.

In Closing

In the end, most people who seek out Freelancers are looking for professional services. Many are looking for a long-term relationship, and they do not want to work with someone who cannot fulfill their needs.

If it is not a good fit, or you find them to be unethical, you need to end the job. If you are polite but firm, you can usually terminate the freelance contract arrangement without either party looking for redress. Sometimes, you may have to bite the bullet and finish the task. Usually, however, the unreasonable client will simply move on and find someone else.

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