Leaving Work Behind

What To Do When Your Best Client Fires You

Written by Lis Stedman on November 24, 2015. 7 Comments

GunOne of the great inevitabilities in the life of a freelancer is that sooner or later a really great, valued client will say goodbye.

There can be many reasons – companies get bought or go bankrupt without warning. Organizations can change their focus. Sometimes, an editor leaves and the new editor brings with them their own writers.

You should never be in a situation where losing a client leads to meltdown, and there are some things you can do – some of them way ahead of problems arising – to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Here are six great ways to cope with the sudden, nasty, client-shaped hole in your plans.

1. Set Up a Rainy Day Fund (Now!)

You need enough to pay your bills for a month or two should the worst happen. This covers you not only if you have client issues but also if you get ill. While it may not be easy, it’s the best possible precaution you can take.

2. Keep a Cool Head

Staying calm is important if you’re going to attract new clients. Sounding desperate is only going to either put people off or make them think they will be able to get your services very cheaply.

3. Ask Questions

Contact your client to make sure you understand the situation properly. Why do they no longer need your services and is there anything you can do to rectify the situation or prevent it from happening with a different client?

It’s not unreasonable to ask (politely) for feedback. If you get a “we can’t afford you” response, you can get beyond this by saying “if we set aside cost, were you otherwise happy with the service I was providing? Did it provide value for you?”

The worst thing for a freelancer is to potentially be repeating the same mistake over and over again without ever correcting it.

4. Go Gracefully

Always remember – if you have to go, go gracefully. The client may still be a valuable contact. They might provide a reference for you in future, or somewhere down the line their strategy may change and they’ll need your help again.

Don’t burn bridges if you can help it (no matter how tempting it might seem if you’re feeling the sting of rejection). Yes, I’ve done it and yes, I regret it.

5. Network!

Networking is an invaluable tool, not just with potential clients, but with existing ones. Do you have talents that you could offer in addition to what you already do – do you proofread or copy edit, for instance?

Think laterally – you may have dealt with all sorts of people during your work (such as PR agencies, contractors and regular blog commenters). Even if they don’t have work for you, they may know someone who does. You never know when that passing contact may provide you with a useful lead.

6. Play To Your Strengths

Gaining and losing clients is a normal part of any freelancer’s work. Try not to take it personally. You’re worth hiring. You have value. If you don’t see these things in yourself, who else will?

Get all your good points clear in your mind and use them to best effect in your pitches and in your CV. If you always meet deadlines, say so. If you’re really creative and have great ideas, don’t keep this to yourself. In theory, society values humble and self-effacing people, but they don’t win a lot of freelance contracts.

In Conclusion

Rebuilding your business after a major setback is hard work and it may take time. Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward. But if you follow a few simple rules now, you can protect yourself from any nasty surprises in the future:

  1. Plan carefully so that a lost contract isn’t a financial disaster.
  2. Be aware of what your clients value in you and strive to provide that to the best of your abilities.
  3. Seek to rectify any past mistakes and educate yourself so you don’t repeat them.
  4. Be graceful and polite – preserve your relationships, even if you feel they are coming to an end.
  5. Network like crazy!
  6. Be positive and proactive.

Do you have any questions, or perhaps any tips of your own to add? Let us know in the comments section!

Photo Credit: Mad House Photography

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7 Responses to “What To Do When Your Best Client Fires You”

  1. Kim Willis
    November 26, 2015 at 2:30 am

    Good tips here Liz!

    I think the main thing is always to have a Plan B. Always have a fallback so that if the worst does happen it’s not the end of the world.

    Even if a freelancer has a ton of work now, they must always allocate some time each week to develop new business.

    As you so rightly pointed out networking is the name of the game for most people.

    Thanks again Liz


  2. Chris Hufnagel
    November 26, 2015 at 3:35 am

    Great tips! As a freelancer I have put myself through the feast and famine cycle too many times. Like Kim said, you got to spend time every week to develop new business.

    I love the tip of asking questions if someone does decide to move on. Great way to find a solution that might work for everyone!


  3. Mamta Kaur
    November 27, 2015 at 7:44 am

    Nice tips to be implemented as who doesn’t want to retain clients. Surely will try to adopt it in my organisation.

  4. Jamie Gregory
    November 27, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Good advice this. We always take notes throughout the lifespan of a project, what went well, what didn’t so we can rectify on the next one.

    We also send out a questionnaire to the client once every project ends so we can get feedback before major problems arise.


  5. Daryl
    November 27, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Great tips Lis! My suggestion would be to always be looking for other clients. It’s very easy to get comfortable and stop looking for new clients. Then suddenly your biggest client has to move on (for whatever reason) and you’re left with a huge income hole that you have to scramble to cover! By spreading your clients, you’re also reducing your loses should one choose not to continue their work with you.

  6. Term papers non plagiarized
    January 21, 2016 at 6:08 am

    this is awesome really awesome.. thanks…

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