This puts companies in the unique position of managing a sometimes-remote workforce that’s not exactly like a regular employee.
So how do you fire a freelancer?
Well, for one thing, you aren’t really “firing” a freelancer because they don’t technically work for you in a traditional sense. But that doesn’t mean that letting someone go, even when you have been working with them on a freelance basis, isn’t hard. It really is!
Plus, you are probably taking work away from them that they have been counting on for their income. You probably feel a little bad about this. You still have to look out for what’s in the best interest of your company above all.
The good news is that freelancers are used to the give-and-take of being a 1099 worker or “independent contractor.” Even if they have long-term contracts with clients, it’s expected that needs and budgets can change at any moment.
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When a Freelancer Deserves to Stay
Most freelancers do what they do for the love of it. They run their own business and choose what they want to write about and which clients they’ll work with.
As with any other profession, there will be some bad apples, but more often than not, you’re getting a highly enthusiastic freelancer who is excellent at what they do.
Freelancers often have a wide range of skills in different areas. Because they’ve worked for so many different companies, they can often offer fresh approaches and insights you might not gain without an outside perspective.
The best freelancers continue to learn and develop their skills. Many continue to learn and develop new, complementary services, such as SEO, content strategy, and post-scheduling. They want to improve and find new ways to please their clients.
For freelancers looking to stay with a company long-term, it’s essential to keep their skills up to date and to keep learning and improving.
The best freelancers will look at what the client wants and suggest other ways they might help and other tasks they could take on.
They may also feel confident in suggesting other topics to write about or adding in extras that weren’t asked for, such as internal linking.
Not only are these the things freelancers can do to avoid being fired, but such behavior is exactly what any company wants to see when looking to identify the hard-working freelancers they want to keep around.
Time to Say Goodbye
When you employ the services of a large group of freelancers, it’s inevitable that you might have to discontinue using them at some point.
Whether that is due to a change in your workflow needs, the quality of the freelancers’ work isn’t what you want, or you may have just plain found someone that suits your needs better. All these scenarios happen pretty regularly with freelance people.
No matter what the reason, no one likes to tell someone to scram, get lost, or take a hike. Just kidding. You wouldn’t say that to anyone, but there are ways to tactfully let someone go with ease.
Here are some dos and don’ts when you are ready to ”fire” a freelancer from your team:
1. Don’t Just Ghost Them
This is a truly frustrating part of being a freelance worker. When a freelancer has a client they count on or have been working with for a long time, and suddenly the client vanishes with absolutely zero reasons, it can leave the freelancer feeling like they did something wrong.
They will rack their brain, going over every little interaction, even if, on the surface, things with the contract were going well.
That’s unfair to them and won’t help you either if you decide to work with them again later.
You can decide how you want to fire a freelancer, but it’s essential to at least give them a courtesy call or email to let them know.
Ideally, discontinue their service in the way you usually communicate with them. A phone call or email is fine if they are a remote worker. If they usually come into your office, it’s something you probably want to do in person.
Either way, it’s appropriate and considerate to warn them that your needs have changed. Tell them the honest reason. The freelancer has heard every reason in the book for when a client’s needs change so that you won’t be shocking them with your honesty.
2. Give a Courtesy Call or Email
It’s up to you as the client or employer if you want to discontinue the freelancer’s service by phone or email. This can depend on how you normally communicate with them.
If they are a remote worker, then a phone call or email is fine. If they normally come into your office, it’s something you probably want to do in person.
Either way, it’s appropriate and considerate to give them a heads-up that your needs have changed. Tell them the honest reason.
The freelancer has heard every reason in the book for when a client’s needs change, so you won’t be shocking them with your honesty.
3. Don’t Write Them Off Completely
If you feel like their work as a freelancer was valuable, but the reason you are letting them go is because of budget constraints, you may want to keep that relationship open.
Future work might come up with your company and it’s always good to have a roster of freelancers you trust that you can count on in a pinch.
4. Compliment the Freelancer’s Work
Even when the door is about to hit the freelancer on the way out, it helps to ease some of the sting with a few kind words.
Make sure you tell them how much their freelance work benefited your company. It’s always easier to hear the good things they did for you when you are discontinuing their services. This is called softening the blow.
Be respectful and complimentary, especially if you possibly want to use them again in the future. Ask the freelancer if they wouldn’t mind staying in your Rolodex (is this a thing still?) for upcoming projects if your budget needs to expand.
On the flip side, if you know that you won’t be using them again, don’t make it seem like you will. That will just give the freelancer hope that more work from you might be coming their way from your company.
5. Be Polite
Even if you fire a freelancer because of poor work or attitude, it’s still important to be polite. What you say and how you treat your freelancers and employees reflects your company.
And, with the internet to hand, it’s all too easy for a poor exchange to be repeated verbatim on your ex- freelancer’s social media. You don’t need that kind of bad publicity.
Be kind and explain the problem and why you are letting your freelancer go. Offer tips for how they could improve and finish on a positive note. They’ll feel better, and so will you.
6. Talk to Them in Private
While it is your choice, and you could fire a freelancer in a meeting with other freelancers and employees, it goes back to how you treat your people and how you want your business to be seen.
If you talk to your freelancer in person, find a private room or use your office and deal with them calmly in private unless there’s some reason not to do so. If you feel intimidated or worried that they may react badly in any way, at least have one more person with you for your safety.
Beyond that, a calm, friendly chat in the privacy of your office or another space is the way to go. You’re not trying to embarrass or make them feel small, even if you’re firing them because you weren’t happy with their work.
Talking to them one-to-one and gently explaining the issues can make the meeting positive for both of you.
7. Be Prepared if Things Don’t Go Well
Even if you’re sure the meeting will go well, removing any access they might have had to your systems before you fire a freelancer is essential.
Delete any passwords and usernames from your password manager. Unshare any files in Dropbox, Google Docs, or similar, and ensure they can no longer access your website, social media, or any software that helps them manage your projects.
When you have your meeting, as we suggested, have at least one more person present so that you have a witness to what was said and done. If you’re unsure about your freelancer, you could also have security standing by, just in case.
If the meeting doesn’t go well, be firm and be prepared to stop the meeting and have the freelancer escorted out if necessary. Don’t argue with them, and be confident enough to say what you need to say clearly and politely.
If you can’t get your point over, end the meeting and send them a letter or email stating the points you want to make.
Note: We aren’t legal professionals, so this isn’t legal advice, but that’s another tip to remember. If you think you’ll have a problem firing a freelancer, get legal advice and advice from HR before you speak to them.
8. Offer to Provide a Testimonial
When you’ve worked well with a skilled and talented freelancer, it can be hard to let them go, significantly when you know you are probably directly affecting their income. One way to ease the blow is to offer to provide a testimonial or review for them.
Testimonials and reviews provide crucial social proof to potential clients and are genuinely helpful to freelancers. It’s a nice thing to do and continue your significant relationship with your freelancer.
And if the time comes that you want to rehire your freelancer and work with them again, you can be sure they’ll be delighted to hear from you.
Above all, before you end any freelance and client relationship, make sure you have paid them fully for all of their services. Don’t leave them hanging on waiting for the money you owe them to go through. That’s just bad business.
Keep in mind, if you do need to “fire” a freelancer because their performance isn’t exceeding your expectations, there are thousands of highly qualified writers ready to serve your content needs on WriterAccess. Stop by to get started with your risk-free 14-day trial today.
Kelly R is a Beauty Editor and experienced copywriter, with a keen eye for creating all kinds of marketing content that sells. Having a background in journalism, she has written for many different online and print publications, including Allure, Mode Magazine, Working Mother Magazine, Seminole, and The New Yorker. As a published author, her book on beauty and style is available at bookstores nationwide and at Amazon and Barnes & Noble stores.