How to Quit a Freelance Job? (Free Template Inside!)

Disclaimer: Please note that this article contains general legal information and doesn’t contain legal or tax advice, and isn’t intended to constitute legal or tax advice.

As a freelancer, it’s a great feeling when you take on a new client – but there may also be situations in which you’ll want to exit a client relationship and quit a job for good.

Before you write an email saying that ‘you’re done’, check how to quit your freelance project without painful consequences. Break up with your client right – don’t take any risks!

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How to Quit a Freelance Project?

While running your freelance business, many contracts will simply end when your freelance work is complete and you’ve been paid. Unfortunately, not every contract ends as planned.

It might be tempting, but don’t just stop providing your services or products if you don’t want to cause a breach of contract and end up in a dispute.

Below, you’ll find a comprehensive summary of steps you should follow to safely exit your business relationship with a freelance client. I highly recommend bookmarking this page so you can treat this as a standard operating procedure to reach for any time you decide to quit a freelance client.

1. Ask Yourself Why

You should always first ask yourself why you want to exit your freelance contract early. Even if you’ve been feeling frustrated or uninspired, you shouldn’t just make a snap emotional decision to quit a freelance client without thinking it through. Always first consider whether termination is in the best interests of your freelance business.

Did you inspect alternative options? Maybe it’s possible to renegotiate the terms and conditions of your freelance work with your client? Always look for the best option for your freelance business that can help you avoid unnecessary (legal) disputes.

2. Review Your Freelance Contract From Top to Bottom

If you’re already in a contractual relationship with your client and want to bring it to an end, the first thing you need to do is to review your entire freelance work contract.

In your freelance contract, pay the closest attention to:

  • Termination clause which provides details on how your contract can be brought to an early end and defines circumstances under which it may end (such as through mutual agreement or termination notice).
  • Reasons for which you have the right to terminate the agreement.
  • Instructions on when, how, where, and to whom to give notice / notify the other side on which grounds you want to end your freelance contract.
  • Clauses stating whether you have any obligations to fulfill after terminating the contract (and if yes how to fulfill them). This includes payment of cancellation fees, confidentiality or non-compete obligation, return of documentation or access logins, etc. 

Analyze any standard terms and conditions that are referenced, additional agreements (NDA etc), and documents referred to in your contract.

It’s Not in My Contract / I Don’t Have a Contract for My Freelance Work

In case you don’t have any termination provisions or a written contract with your client, you have to be very careful when ending your agreement early. First of all, you should verify the terms and conditions of the agreement, which can be difficult without any written records.

If your client agrees to end the relationship earlier, you can enter into a termination agreement. However, if your client isn’t interested in cooperating, you may have to give them reasonable notice of your termination. In any scenario, put everything in writing to avoid misunderstandings!

3. Identify Your Post-termination Obligations

After reviewing provisions in your freelance contract stating whether you have any obligations to fulfill after terminating the contract – it’s time to assess if you’re able to fulfill them and how to do it. 

Be sure you understand what your ongoing obligations are and what ongoing impact they’ll have on your business and your business relationships with other clients in the future (for example in case you signed a non-compete agreement).

4. Follow the Correct Procedure to Terminate Your Freelance Contract

There are a number of grounds on which a contract can be terminated depending on circumstances. However, generally, when you want to let go of your freelance client, you may consider ending the contract early:

  • By mutual agreement – Your freelance contract can end when both you and your client reach an understanding and agree to nullify the contract and the respective duties defined by it.
    • In this scenario, your client must be happy to agree to early termination as well.
    • If both parties approve, a termination agreement can result in the release of any contractual obligations.
    • This agreement must be concluded according to the terms stated in your contract to be valid. Nevertheless, it’s always recommended you put it in writing.
  • With notice – You can give notice to your freelance client to terminate the contract for any reason specified in the contract (or without a reason).
    • Pay special attention to any notice periods and/or deadlines and the method of canceling before taking the step to serve notice to terminate. 
    • Be very precise about the reason and which termination right you are ending the contract upon.
    • If your freelance contract allows you to cancel it without any specific reason, just cite in your termination notice the paragraph from your contract on the termination right you’re referring to.

5. (If Cooperation Isn’t an Option) Provide Written Notice & Comply With Notice Requirements 

Notice Requirements
On time
In the correct format
With the right information
To the right adress
To the right person

As a rule, the contract you entered into with your freelance client should outline specific notice provisions for terminating the contract. Strictly hold yourself to the requirements mentioned in the notice provisions.

If you fail to give notice in the method or timeframe specified in your contract, the notice may be held to be invalid. Even if your freelance client allows you to notify them by phone or email about the ending of your business relationship, your conversation should always be followed up in writing. Stick to the terms agreed in the contract with your client.

As I mentioned above, if the notice you give doesn’t comply with the requirements stated in your freelance contract, it may not be effective. Your client may also remember it one day and use it against you in a dispute.

I highly recommend that even if your contract only requires sending written notice by mail, you additionally email your client with an attached scan of the notice.

Add a clear subject line that specifies the inclusion of notice and a reference to the contract and its sections (e.g., “Termination notice as per paragraph x of the Service Agreement dated x”). This way, you make sure that your client can get acquainted with the notice ASAP before the traditional mail arrives.

It’s Not in My Contract / I Don’t Have a Contract for My Freelance Work

Even if there isn’t a notice period outlined in your freelance contract or you don’t even have a contract, I still recommend providing reasonable notice which can give you and your client a chance to wrap things up appropriately. It shows your professionalism and gives your client some time to figure out where they’re going to go from here.

When determining what notice period you should use with your freelance client, take into account in particular:

  • How long you’ve been working together with your freelance client – longer relationships often dictate a more extended notice period.
  • How crucial is your role/ how much your client relies on the contract, i.e. your service or products – more prominent reliance often dictates a longer notice period.
  • How much initial investment your client made into the contract (such as expensive specialist software or equipment your client offered you to get you on board for the project) – the bigger the investment (and the extent to which the investment has been recouped) the longer notice period may be required.

6. Show Your Professionalism

Communicate with your client without burning bridges – stay professional, reasonable, and polite. End on a positive note, if possible – thank your client for the opportunity to work with them.

If you can, offer them extra resources and referrals to another freelancer, business, or professional who can assist them.

7. Keep All the Records

To ensure that your client cannot claim they didn’t receive a notice and use it against you in a dispute, have a system in place to track when and how your client was notified about the termination of the contract:

  • Require your client to acknowledge and sign the notice and return it.
  • Keep proof of delivery of the notice (certificates of posting, recorded delivery slips, and email tracking receipts).
  • Document any correspondence relating to the termination of your freelance contract.

It’s crucial to keep full records as the termination may be challenged by your client. Logistics issues, system errors, nonfunctional servers, and incorrect email addresses could be the reasons used in a potential dispute with your freelance client.

8. When in Doubt Seek Professional Advice

In any doubt, you should seek legal advice to avoid legal and financial consequences. If you’re unsure about your rights to terminate a contract, what procedure to follow, what notice requirements to obtain, the reasons you can rely upon, or what consequences and obligations can arise, please seek legal advice. Don’t risk breaching your contract or any potential liability.

Free Summary on How to Quit a Freelance Job in PDF

Download the PDF summary on how to quit a freelance job so you can focus on acting in the best interests of your business.

How to End a Freelance Contract?

Contracts are legally binding agreements between two or more parties (in this case between you and your client) for services or goods. It simply means that you can’t and shouldn’t get out of one only because your client seems boring or the project is suddenly uninteresting to you.

Once you’ve come to an agreement regarding the terms of the contract, both you and your client are legally obligated to fulfill your obligations under the contract for your freelance work. If you or your client fail to do so, one of you has breached the contract and can be held liable for it. This is because when a contract is intentionally not fulfilled by any of the parties, it may constitute a breach of contract.

Terminating a contract means legally ending it before both you and your client have fulfilled the obligations under the terms of the contract for your freelance work. When and how you terminate your freelance contract will determine whether you face any liability for breach of the contract.

Just like it’s crucial to correctly enter into a relationship with your new client (with a solid written contract) – it’s as critical to get out of it the right way.

My Tip: When you enter into the contract with a new client always pay close attention to a termination clause:

  1. In both scenarios, whether you or your client prepared the contract – make sure that the termination clause is included in just about every type of contract you’re about to enter.
    • Especially if your freelance contract concerns ongoing services, consider including termination provisions allowing for suitable prior notice to terminate the contract without cause.
      • Remember that without a written termination clause, a dispute between you and your client is much more likely to arise.
  2. Ensure the included termination clause is fit for your freelance business needs, your sector, or your field of work. It should protect you and eliminate or substantially reduce potential conflicts between you and your client.
    • Consider various scenarios that may play out or have already occurred in the past with your previous clients and what outcome you’d like in each of those scenarios. 
    • This way when it comes to terminating the contract you won’t be surprised that the termination notice is way too long (or too short) or that your actions can lead to a breach of contract.

A suitable contract sets also a proper foundation for your freelance relationship with your client. Remember that conditions of freelance work for your client can’t constitute an employment relationship. Find out more about when a freelancer becomes an employee, verify if you’ve been correctly classified and what your legal status is.

FAQ – Quitting a Freelance Job

Can a freelancer end a contract?

As a rule, a freelancer as one of the parties can terminate the contract according to the terms agreed in this agreement.

When should you stop working with a client?

The most common situations when you may want to stop working with your freelance client are:
• Your client hasn’t paid your fees or an installment of them.
• Breach of contract – your client hasn’t fulfilled their obligations under the terms of the contract.

However, the actual moment when you should stop working with your client is highly individual and depends on how important your client is to you. In some situations, you may want to take other less drastic steps which offer you preferable outcomes, such as renegotiating the terms and conditions of the current agreement. Find out how to quit your freelance project and keep away from draining conflicts and pricey consequences.

How do you end a freelance contract?

If you want to terminate the contract for your freelance work, in the first place you should always read the agreement from top to bottom and pay particularly close attention to the termination clause. Most contracts will include the provisions providing details on how your freelance contract can be terminated.

In general, you may terminate your freelance contract by mutual agreement or with notice. In theory, the easiest and fastest way to end the contract is by mutual agreement. However, in practice, there may be no possibility to reach an agreement with your client and to end your relationship as soon as possible. In this situation, you might have to give a notice of termination according to the terms stated in your contract. Find out how to end your freelance contract step by step and avoid costly disputes!