Three years ago I did some freelancing for a client. It was one of my first clients when I did the freelance switch.

I did 2 bigger and 2 smaller projects for him and all where catastrophic. He is terrible in project management and getting specs and offers straight and is horrible at communicating with clients. He is really pushy like the world would end if we didn't ship tomorrow, even though all projects where heavily delayed.

All these projects where really, really stressful for me and I only did the follow up projects because I was in the process of buying an appartment and needed the money.

There was never a problem with money, he always paid in time and sometimes he even did compensate for the extra time. I was loyal as well and did some smaller change requests for free.

Now there's a big change in the underlying shop system of that bigger project and he needs my help. I haven't worked with that shop system for a while and it would take significant time for me to get up to speed again. Therefore it's very hard to give an estimate and I already know that estimating for him is very crucial, because things tend to escalate.

Legally, my warranty deed is over.

I have a pretty healthy ecosystem of freelance clients at the moment and am fully booked.

He is bombarding me via mail and skype on if I have time and can help him.

I don't want to do that.

What's a gentle, not offensive way to tell him that I do no longer want to work with him?

  • Possible duplicate of What's the best way to 'sack' a customer
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 8:04
  • ... not really, as the question deals with clients in a general service relationship (hosting), I do write very specialised, individual software where one can't simply go to another provider.
    – shredding
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 8:43
  • Maybe think of other reasons... say your health, stresses, concerns, or other reasons...
    – user15141
    Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 0:49

4 Answers 4


Given that you have plenty of business right now, I would recommend telling the client that you are very sorry, but you are currently too busy with obligations to current clients to be able to take on this work, and you expect this situation to continue in the future. There is nothing he or she can really say to this, but it doesn't break the relationship.

If you know other freelancers in your field who are looking for work, you might want to recommend them to this client, but I would suggest contacting them first with the realities of working with this client so they could accept or reject the job with an understanding of the problems you had.

I worked as a freelance Japanese to English technical translator for many years, and part of the process of establishing yourself is pruning your client base as you increase in skill and reputation and gain clients who are professional, and who pay well and on time.


I completely understand your worry and actually have a very similar client that just popped up after a few years of absence.

First off, know that whether or not you work with this client is completely up to you. As you say, there is no contractual requirement and there is also no moral or human rights requirement. It's always your decision and you can choose whether or not to work with a client.

The best way I've found is to be gentle and not burn any bridges. A short email would be enough, for example:

Dear xyz, many thanks for getting in touch. A lot has changed since we last worked together 3 years ago and I'm afraid I don't take on this kind of work anymore. I wish you the best of success with your project, kind regards - Shredding

This gives him a clear, assertive answer so that he knows to go elsewhere to resolve his needs.

Hope that helps, let me know if you have any questions!


I also saw the duplicate possibility of this question. I offer an answer anyway. Find a fellow freelancer and hand it off. There's a lot of freelancers without a comfortable client base.


Be honest. If you are genuinely at your capacity and can't take on his work tell him that. What would not do is tell him because he is slow or disorganized or whatever because this guy sounds like the type who would try to rebut your reasons and corner you into something you don't want to do that you don't have time for....

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