Brave Because You Have to Be

Today, I fired a client. A client I’ve had for almost six years. A client who gave me a break a long time ago. It took me half a year to decide it was the right move.

Image Credit: Freelance Switch via

Image Credit: Freelance Switch via

Why was it the right move? Because I wasn’t getting paid what I was worth. But that wasn’t enough to quit. Because I had to drive an extra 60 miles for each class, and didn’t get paid mileage. But that, too, wasn’t enough. Because there was always one extra thing I had to do, achieve, or prove–all without extra pay.

The final dust mote that collapsed the relationship was the new contract. As a contract employee (freelancer), I do not receive benefits, and I was asked to sign away my copyright for any class I created or workbook I wrote.  They were to belong to the client, and I was not going to get a development fee, either. That may be fine for full-time employees, but it’s not fair or right for freelancers. But if I signed the contract, I would say it was all right for me. And it was not.

So, I took a deep breath, and said I needed to keep the copyright to all my work. The reply was a short laugh, and I was told that “industry standard” was that the client kept all my work, essentially without paying me for development.

So I resigned, or, in a nicer way, fired the client. They’ve given me steady work, and I have done it all to the best of my ability. Gotten solid evaluations. Was happy for many of the jobs.

But like a wife who still loves the husband who beats her, I did not want to leave the relationship. What if nothing else showed up? What if. . . and I stopped myself there. It didn’t matter if nothing showed up. It didn’t matter if a thousand wonderful projects showed up. I was firing the client because it was not all right not to keep the copyright to my own work. That was all. Everything else was details.

It feels odd, even scary to stand up for yourself. But no one else will. And as long as others keep signing those contracts, the client will be able to claim “industry standard.” But I don’t have to accept. It’s only industry standard if I agree.

So here I am, feeling a bit fearful, but very certain that I did the right thing.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and course developer who puts her best work out, and is proud of it.