Editor's note: Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues-everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.
A reader writes:
Several years ago, I left a full-time job in order to freelance, and my most recent employer has remained one of my clients. I have been handling an ongoing series of projects for them, with the understanding that my contract will be renewed each year for the foreseeable future. However, the work has become tedious and I don't really enjoy it anymore. I'd prefer to focus on other, newer clients who are a better fit for my schedule and business goals (and I realize that I'm fortunate to have a large enough client base to be able to make that decision).
My current contract with the company ends in a couple of months, and I've decided not to renew it. I'd like to notify them now to give them time to plan. But for some reason, I'm stuck for a way to word this notification gracefully. I respect the folks at this company and would like to maintain a good relationship. Any guidance you can give?
I sympathize! When I first went into business for myself a couple of years ago, I took on every client I could find, figuring that the more business I had, the better. Eventually, though, I realized that I didn't want all of those clients, and that I actually wanted to be very picky about who I worked with. So I decided to pare down my client list and turn away new business that wasn't squarely in line with what I wanted to be doing.
What I learned is to simply be straightforward. In your case, that might mean saying this: "I want to let you know that I've decided to focus primarily on X rather than Y, so when our contract is up in November, I'm going to wrap up the work we've been doing together. I've really loved working with you."
If the "X instead of Y" framing doesn't quite fit, you could instead say: "I want to let you know that I'm not going to be able to renew our contract when it ends in February, because I've going to be taking on some work that won't let me fit much else into my schedule."
If you can recommend someone else they could work with, that's helpful too.
One other possibility to consider is whether a significantly higher payment would entice you to continue to do the work. If so, you could simply let your client know that your rates have increased, quote the much higher new price, and say you understand if it's prohibitive on their end. (If you really want to be nice, you can mention that you can refer them to someone else if they don't want to pay the increased rate.) They'll either turn you down (problem solved) or agree to pay your new rate (problem solved in a different way).
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.