Hiring freelancers can be a fantastic move for a business – they can be wonderfully valuable additions to your team. Taking on freelancers means that you can hire talented people from anywhere in the world, and they can help you scale your business more easily.
But sometimes, you have to let them go. This could be because you’ve taken someone on in-house, they’re not cost-effective, you have problems with the work they’re producing, or something else.
Freelancers are made of tough stuff. They’re extremely resilient to weathering the potential storms of slower business periods. And being able to provide a solo service shows talent, proactivity, and initiative.
Whatever your reason for letting them go, figuring out how to tactfully do so is important. There are things you can do to make the process easier for all parties, and in this article, we walk you through them.
It’s Always Going to be an Unpleasant Task
Nobody likes letting people go. It’s awkward and uncomfortable for both the business owner and the freelancer.
Even though it’s a natural part of business, having to fire a freelancer is a task that a lot of business owners dread. It’s easily one of the biggest challenges of outsourcing work. And freelancers dread it, too! Losing income is hard, and it can also be challenging to find new work.
As a business owner, you are well within your rights to let go of a freelancer, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult. Try not to worry about it too much, though. Freelancers know that the jobs they take on won’t last forever. It comes with the territory.
6 Tips for Letting Go of Freelancers
It’s in everyone’s best interest to end a freelance contract on good terms. Here are five tips for letting go of freelancers respectfully without burning any bridges.
1. Speak to Them Privately
It might seem like common sense to have the conversation privately, but unfortunately, it’s not unheard of for businesses to let go of freelancers in meetings or within earshot of their in-house team.
Privacy is essential in these situations. It can be an emotional conversation, and your freelancer may feel embarrassed if they have lots of eyes on them.
You don’t have to fire your freelancer in a face-to-face meeting. It’s acceptable to respectfully let them know you intend to part ways through a video call, phone call, or email.
Don’t fire your freelancer in front of your internal team, even if that’s over the phone. This can damage their reputation and create tension throughout your team, too.
2. Tell the Truth
It can be tempting to sugarcoat the reasons why you’re letting go of your freelancer. If it truly is because you’re having a reshuffle internally or the project they’re working on has come to an end, then it’s completely fine to just leave it at that.
But, if it’s because there are problems with the work being produced, then it will be helpful for the freelancer to be aware of that.
Don’t be brutal. There’s a difference between being honest and being nasty. Instead of saying we think you’re a terrible designer, try something more along the lines of X area of your graphic design work could be improved.
3. Be Professional
The easiest thing to do is cut contact without any explanation, especially if you only work with your freelancer virtually. This is known as ghosting, and it’s bad form.
Instead, grit your teeth and approach the situation with professionalism. Calmly and warmly explain that you will be parting ways, why you’ll be parting ways, and when you’ll be parting ways. Thank them for their work and compliment them (but only if you mean it!).
Similarly, if your freelancer has any questions about why you’re ending the contract or they want feedback (and they probably will), take the time to answer them properly. Don’t brush them off. It’s also good practice to ask if your freelancer has any feedback for your business, too.
Don’t rush to try to get the conversation over with as quickly as possible; do your best to communicate feedback if they ask for it.
4. Give Notice Where Possible
In most cases, you don’t have to give notice to let go of a freelancer. But it will be appreciated if you do. Understandably, you would want to let them go immediately if there is any malpractice going on, but if the freelancer is doing a good job for you, at least one month of notice will give them a fair amount of time to find other work.
Don’t fire them with immediate effect if you can help it.
5. Offer to Give Them a Testimonial
If you liked their work, offering to give them a testimonial is a kind gesture. Having a good roster of testimonials is incredibly important for freelancers, so this is a good way to give them lasting value from the work they did for you.
Don’t give a glowing review if you don’t mean it. Like we said before, honesty is the best policy in these situations.
6. Be Friendly
Parting ways is par for the course for freelancers. It’s the nature of their work. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult for them to receive negative feedback and a loss of income. As much as possible, be friendly, try to keep the conversation upbeat, and express your gratitude for their time.
Don’t bad mouth them. If you’re firing your freelancer because you’re not happy with their work, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to deliver fantastic work for other clients. Talking negatively about them publicly could damage their career.
Be Prepared for Backlash
Unfortunately, no matter how sensitively you approach the situation, there’s always a chance that the freelancer won’t take it well. If you’re kind and professional when you let them go but they react badly, it will be more about them than it is about you.
It’s not unheard of for disgruntled freelancers (and even employees) to deliberately cause problems for businesses, especially if they have access to passwords for important accounts.
If you have a feeling they won’t take it well and you want to let them go with immediate effect, take some precautions before you have the conversation, such as:
- Change social media passwords.
- Change the password to your website’s content management system.
- Remove access to any internal storage (e.g., Google Drive).
- Change the password to their email account.
- Save any work in progress.
The Bottom Line
The main takeaway is to try to handle it as sensitively as possible. It’s likely that the freelancer you’re letting go might know what’s coming before you have the conversation.
Nevertheless, approach the conversation with kindness and honesty at every stage. The best rule of thumb is to treat your freelancers in the same way that you’d like to be treated.
Carve out some time to speak to your freelancer in-depth so that you can explain your reasons and give feedback if they’re open to it.
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