One piece of advice that I always have taken seriously from my mentor was never to burn bridges. The problem is that I think I took that too literally the past few years, especially as a freelancer. After all, sorting through many issues with some clients did actually lead to new contacts and more work.
But, the past two years have taught me a lesson that it is okay to bring out the Zippo and light up a few bridges. it’s not worthwhile or even smart to name situations here. I do know other writers who have hung onto what can only be described as dead weight client relationships where they are not making the money they should but receiving a mountain of stress as payment.
Time has just gotten too valuable to me that I realize it’s okay to burn the bridges. Maybe your response in reading this is: But you can bow out nicely. No, with certain situations, you have to break out the incendiary device to make sure you don’t find yourself walking on that bridge again. The client relationship is not going to get better and they will keep pestering you to work on projects that lack meaning, success, or growth potential. When you are working on a project and it dawns on you that you would rather be running errands or exercising with that time — two things that don’t deliver money but that can lead to satisfaction for accomplishing something — then you know it is time to move on.
For me, I will say this — this brief blog post was ignited in my mind from an email where the client told me how UNinspiring my work was — it was not only the straw the broke this camel writer’s back, but it was also the fuel to say, enough already! They don’t provide direction or good communication; they don’t offer constructive criticism; and they don’t value the work of a writer by even paying a going rate, so what am I doing?
It was me, taking my mentor’s advice too seriously. As soon as I burned that bridge, within days, I could see construction already in the works on a new bridge with a new client where I was referred. Work has commenced at a rate that is ten times what the burned bridge paid and it gave me the time I needed to really dig into my book projects. In the ashes, I emerged more productive, less stressed, and more confident in picking places to go pyro on my client portfolio. Yes, quality versus quantity. I get it.
This blog post is not meant to be a bitch fest about clients. It’s me thinking out loud and also reminding my fellow writing colleagues to not let themselves feel they have to go out on a nice note or hang onto a bridge because they feel it is covering their bills. Let it go. All that you are doing by keeping that bridge is blocking better ones from being built. And, not that it may matter, but I didn’t disrespectfully burn the bridge — I kept it professional but I made it sure it was burned.
I’ve also applied this in my personal life and I have to say it’s refreshing to cut dead weight and negative people. Those bridges really led nowhere fast.