I think it is only fair that both you–and your client–should be on notice from day one.
Let me explain.
When you are just starting out, you may have no choice but to audition.
You don’t have much of a track record and to be blunt, you need the work.
So, you do the preliminary assignment (hopefully, getting paid for the work) and you show how good you are.
But once you have proven your worth for a number of clients and you have your business up and running, you (rightly) refuse to go through that process any more. You say your track record speaks for itself and you forget about the concept of auditioning.
Maybe you shouldn’t.
Maybe you should go back to auditioning–and making your client do so as well.
More specifically, I am advocating a mutual opt out clause.
Here’s how it could work.
As part of deciding to work together, you and the client agree that at a certain point–three months after the work has begun; when 10% has been completed, or whatever–you each have the opportunity to call it quits.
The stopping point should be early enough that neither side is seriously harmed if it is invoked, and obviously it only should be triggered after extensive talks have failed to resolve whatever the issue(s) are. This is something that neither of you should evoked without substantial thought.
But, I think it is fair for the client to let you go early on in the process and for you to have exactly the same right in return.
Won’t the client object? Probably. But you can raise the issue of fairness in your response.
Invariably, there is a clause in whatever agreement you sign that says the client can call it quits, before the contract is up (for reasons that are specified.) All you are asking for is the same right.
If it becomes a deal breaker, it tells you something about the client.
There is one more benefit to this, other than getting you out of what has become a bad deal. You are going to get treated with more respect. I guarantee it.
Clients being clients think they are in charge (and they may think they are completely in charge) of the relationship. And as a result, they can teeter on the arrogant, especially when there is a disagreement, or the going gets tough.
It would nice to believe that they will treat you and your work with respect, but history shows that is not always the case.
If they know from Day 1 you have a right to walk away if they are unreasonable, abusive, late to pay, or whatever wording you have included to trigger the opt out–they are going to treat the relationship in a different light.
It will become a relationship of equals, or at least near equals.
That, from your point of view, is never a bad thing.