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