As a client and site owner working with freelance writers, it’s crucial to understand that there may come a time when you need to terminate a working relationship. Whether it’s due to quality issues, unmet deadlines, or communication problems, knowing how to professionally end a relationship with a writer is essential to maintaining the quality of content on your sites.
In this article, you’ll learn the appropriate steps to take when a freelance writer is not meeting your expectations. By following these guidelines, you can ensure a smooth and amicable process for both parties, minimizing potential fallout and making the transition to a new writer as seamless as possible.
How to Fire a Freelance Writer
Method of Communication
Choose an appropriate method of communication, such as email or video conference, which allows you to clearly relay your message while also giving the freelance writer an opportunity to ask questions and clarify the situation.
Personally I use email almost exclusively while Team Publisher is still in development. This means if a freelancer is getting fired, they will be notified in an email.
Be Direct and Transparent
When discussing the termination, be clear and transparent about the reasons behind it. Use a professional and respectful tone, and avoid using vague statements that may leave the writer confused or uncertain.
Example of an email letting a writer
I’ve had to let many freelancers go for a variety of reasons, one was just a couple of weeks ago. Here’s an example of that email, slightly modified to keep it generic. I keep it professional and to the point while giving examples of the reasons I let them go, without going into too much detail.
You may feel bad because they seem to be a nice person, but if they have too many strikes agains them there’s no other option. I had ordered over 50 articles from this writer and the problems remained no matter how many times I brought them up.
Hello name. I’ve been noticing inaccuracies in your articles for a while now. Aside from what I’ve been catching myself, my VA who scans over content has been noticing issues as well. I’ve left you multiple notes about these issues over the months, yet they continue.
We are a yourniche site, and it’s expected that our information is well-researched and factual. One example of something you continue to do when you’ve been asked not to multiple times is: include example of problem text or incorrect information. I had to remove over 500 words from that article because reason. I’m simply spending too much time double checking your facts and formatting your text.
This email is to let you know that I’ll be stopping new orders. I’ve ordered well over 50 articles from you, at this point with a new writer I would know if we’re a good fit. Unfortunately it’s just not going to work because I can’t rely on your content to be factual.
I’ve sent your final payment and received your final order of content. I do wish you luck in your future endeavors and I hope you were able to learn some things from our working together.
Provide Constructive Criticism
Offer constructive criticism based on specific examples from their work. This may help the writer understand your decision and potentially improve their skills in the future.
If a writer is a repeat offender and doesn’t seem to be learning from your SOPs, screencasts, and emails it’s easy to get frustrated. Keep communication professional, don’t threaten to fire them. I suggest you keep track of “strikes” against them.
If they end up with too many after what you consider to be a reasonable amount of time to be onboarded, consider cutting ties. We’re managers and business owners, we don’t have time to babysit writers that are clearly never going to get the hang of things.
Discuss Expectations That Weren’t Met
When you first source a writer and agree to bring them onto your team, you should be very clear about what their expectations are. Ideally your writer already has experience writing for the web, but you should still provide them with ample docs for your organizations’s standards.
You may want to detail the expectations and project requirements that were not met by the writer. This allows for a clear understanding of where things went wrong.
On the other hand, this is optional in my opinion but it is a nice courtesy. It will help the writer improve their skills for their next employer or client, and it could actually help you as the publisher to write these things out. You can of course fire someone in two words (you’re fired) if you really want to.
Give Examples in Their Writing
This goes hand in hand with expectations that weren’t met and is actually another optional step to take. I know that if I were a writer, I would appreciate some clear examples of why my work wasn’t good enough.
Provide actual examples from the writer’s submissions to show them some of the issues. I will simply take screenshots and attach them to the final email or use a tool like Lightshot. This will help them understand your perspective and the reasons for termination.
Reasons you may choose to forgo this step:
- Lack of time on your part
- You think it would be wasted time because the writer probably wouldn’t care
- You feel the writer gave minimum effort so you should too
- Your writer was caught plagiarizing another site
Whatever your reasoning, a simple “Company will no longer need your services, thank you for working with us.” will always do just fine.
Get Final Deliverables
Before ending the collaboration, ensure that you obtain all necessary deliverables such as drafts, files, and any other materials the writer was working on for your project. Basically just make sure everything is prepared for a sever of ties.
Make sure the most recently assigned topics to your writer have been completed, checked, and received.
Make sure to clear any pending payments or invoices to avoid any disputes or negative feelings between you and the writer. After your writer’s last batch of articles are submitted and reviewed, pay them their final amount owed. Pretty simple.
Remove All Access
After terminating the freelancer from your org and paying them what they’re owed, revoke their access to any shared platforms, documents, or project-specific resources.
If you haven’t been, you should have a spreadsheet with a list of all your monthly services like WordPress, social accounts, Canva, Ahrefs, Semrush, and any other SaaS that team members and writers have access to. This makes it easy to see who has access to what.
Don’t Burn Any Bridges
Try to end the relationship on a positive note, even if the collaboration wasn’t successful. Always maintain a professional tone, and express your appreciation for their time and effort. You never know when you may cross paths again in the future.
Maybe it turns out that an underperforming writer you fired last year is actually an amazing graphic artist that you now want to rehire.
Reasons for Firing a Freelance Writer
There are many different reasons why you might decide to fire a freelance writer. Depending on the volume of content you are publishing and the size of your sites, it may be something that you have to do more often than you’d like.
Some of these reasons are based on poor quality content, while others may result from communication issues. It all depends on things like where you hired your writer, how much experience they have, how much you are paying them, or what kind of work ethic they have as a person.
Fails to meet deadlines
One of the main reasons a freelance writer could get the axe is if they consistently fail to meet deadlines. When a writer cannot manage their time effectively or honor agreed-upon turnaround times, it can create problems for your project schedule and potentially damage your professional reputation with clients.
Poor quality content
Another reason for firing might be low-quality work. While you should be prepared to provide feedback and work with a freelancer to improve their writing, there comes a point where the effort and time spent are not worth the subpar results.
Examples of low-quality work include numerous spelling and grammar errors, plagiarism, lack of consistency, or failure to follow specific content guidelines.
Poor communication is a showstopper from the get-go, and can certainly lead you to firing a freelance writer. Communication is key when collaborating on any project, content writing or otherwise. If a writer does not respond promptly or provide regular updates, it can create unnecessary challenges and delays.
Be wary of writers who neglect to inform you when they encounter obstacles or require clarification, as well as those who repeatedly ignore provided feedback. If you notice that a writer is not afraid to ask for clarification about a topic or instructions, that’s usually a good sign.
If a writer never questions anything and thinks they know all of your expectations and requirements from day one, that could be a bad sign. You want someone that genuinely wants to understand the tasks that have been assigned.
Regular emails, messages, or whatever form of communication you choose to use is crucial. With all of that in mind, once you have been working with a writer long enough, communication may dwindle down to just occasional check-ins. I have several writers that have been with me for years, we only check in when needed.
Lastly, a mismatch in expectations or a change in your company’s needs can be a valid reason for parting ways with a freelancer. For example, if your site’s niche is what your current freelance writer is an expert in, but you sell that site, your writer may no longer match your needs.
Your other sites, if you have any, may be in totally different niches that this writer prefers not to write on. In a case like this you and your writer become a mismatch and it may be best to end the relationship on a good note. Now this writer is in your rolodex in case you ever need that type of content again.
Things to Consider Before the Firing
Before deciding to end your professional relationship with a freelance writer, there are several important factors to consider. Keep in mind that this decision may carry some consequences for you or the writer.
While you may have a dozen other writers, and this one writer is easily replaceable to you, losing you as a client could impact them financially in a significant way.
For this reason I always try to give a writer the benefit of the doubt and as many chances to learn and catch on as possible. Especially if I like the writer and feel they are genuinely trying to get the hang of it.
First, evaluate the quality and consistency of the writer’s work. Have they consistently provided high-quality content that meets your standards and requirements?
If the answer is yes, consider discussing any issues you have with the writer before making a final decision. Don’t necessarily threaten to fire them, just let them know where you at with them and these issues are causing problems for you. It’s possible your writer is simply having some problems at home and they just need some time to get through whatever they’re dealing with.
However, if the writer has been late on numerous occasions or doesn’t reply to emails, take a closer look at the specifics. Ask yourself:
- Were the deadlines realistic, or was the writer given an unreasonable amount of work in a short timeframe?
- Did the writer communicate the reasons for the delays?
- Has the writer shown any improvement in meeting deadlines over time?
Will firing them put you in a bind?
Finally, consider the impact of letting the writer go on your current and future projects. Would it be more difficult and costly to find a replacement? If the writer you are firing never really made it to the level that you would consider to be “trained” anyway, it may cost you less time and money to start with someone new that is a better fit for your org.
Are there any ongoing projects that the writer has unique knowledge about? If so, make sure to have a plan in place for a smooth transition.
Hiring and firing is part of being a manager of people. It’s not something we typically look forward to, but it’s necessary. I don’t enjoy telling a writer that they weren’t good enough for me, but sometimes they aren’t for whatever reason. Maybe my standards are too high, but I really don’t think that’s the case.
In fact, I would say it’s probably the opposite and that’s what I need to work on, raising my standards with my writers. I think as more and more freelance writers flood the industry and the rise of AI, the quality of content is going to plummet causing me to fire even more writers.