“We are sorry to inform you that we will no longer be needing your services”. This sentence and its variations are the prelude to one of the most dreaded situations in a freelancer’s career – losing a client. Unfortunately, most freelancers have to deal with losing clients sooner or later, as it is essentially a part of the job description. Don’ t worry though, we’ve summarised some of the most useful tips on handling this difficult situation.
- Reasons why you are losing your clients
- Subpar work
- Personality clashes
- Issues with your rates
- Changes in your client’s team
- Making false commitments
- No excitement left
- Overly keen competitors
- How to handle losing clients
Did you know that project acquisition is one of the biggest challenges that freelancers face? According to our Freelancer Survey 2023, approximately half of all freelancers find getting projects and clients challenging.
It follows then that once you get a client, losing them is even more challenging since their loss can potentially hurt your freelance business in a major way.
Reasons why you are losing your clients
#1 Subpar work
This may seem like an obvious reason but if you’re a freelancer who has a lot of projects at one time, it can be tempting to deliver work that is subpar and mediocre. This however is the quickest way to lose a client.
Solution: Remember, your client can always look for another freelancer to get their work done for them. It’s up to you to make your client stay by delivering exceptional work.
#2 Personality clashes
Suppose there’s a newbie in your client’s team who has decided they don’t like you. Depending on their role and level of involvement in your work, they could potentially have a huge impact on your repeat business. It’s something to nip in the bud as soon as you realise it’s happening.
Solution: You can do this by involving the person in your work, sharing your progress with them and showing them what value you hold to the company. You were chosen to complete the contract for a reason, so use this to your advantage and show them why they need your skills.
#3 Issues with your rates
This is in no way a suggestion to reduce your rates. However, if your rates are too high and not in line with the quality of your work.
Solution: If this is the case, you might want to consider lowering them just a bit. Also, if you happen to have increased your rates, it should not be to an extent where it becomes difficult for the client to pay you.
#4 Changes in your client’s team
Another scenario of when you can lose a client is if your contact no longer works at the company they were in. If this happens and a newbie is brough in, they may decide that they don’t want to work with you or may also want to bring their own contractors along for any new jobs.
It’s a tough predicament to be in and possibly one of the most common for contractors and freelancers.
Solution: Make contact with the new person ASAP and try out some of the following tips:
- Give an overview of your recent achievements and projects for the client
- Express your enjoyment in working for their company and share some of your ideas for future development
- Tell them how much you appreciate their business and how you see a future working with them
Share this overview with the new contact and their seniors, so that it’s seen by the decision makers. Your past wins and passions for the company will speak volumes over any new contractor, who has no experience of working with the company.
Better still, if you know your contact is leaving, ask them to introduce you to their replacement if possible.
#5 Making false commitments
Making commitments you can’t keep is one of the major reasons why freelancers lose clients. If you fail to deliver your work on time or are in the habit of procrastinating or responding late, your clients will undoubtedly look to other freelancers for work.
Solution: Always remember to keep reasonable deadlines and timeframes for projects – this will benefit both you and your client.
#6 No excitement left
If your client is increasingly critical of your work, is no longer impressed by what you do and questions every invoice you submit, it might be a sign that you’re about to lose them.
Solution: The good news is that boredom breeds opportunity. Keep things fresh by discussing exciting new ideas with the client, share previous work with them to showcase how you’ve tackled similar contracts and remember to treat your current contract with the same enthusiasm as you did for your first contract with them.
#7 Overly keen competitors
If another contractor’s name has been mentioned in passing conversation, take note. Another contractor is after your work and they’re clearly keen enough to stick out in your client’s mind.
Solution: This is where you need to again remind the client of your value. If it’s a price issue, consider how much of a discount you’re willing to offer (if any) without compromising your value. They may just be keen to try a new contractor and unfortunately there’s nothing you can do about it, but if you get the feeling that a new one is sniffing around, claim your territory.
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How to handle losing clients
1) Don’t burn bridges
Losing clients is hard but it’s important that you stay calm. Losing a client might have reasons that are beyond yours and the client’s control, so don’t rush into blaming anyone.
Maybe the company was just bought by another and they want to start with a clean slate. Or the project you were working for was just cut by the management board. Whatever the reason, you should stay calm and politely thank your client for the months/years you’ve worked together. After all, maybe they could refer you to someone else, give you a testimonial or even require your services in the future.
2) Analyse your financial situation
This tip again has much to do with carefully thinking about a situation rather than immediately acting on your emotions. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How much money do I have?
- How long can I live off of my current finances?
- Should I cut some expenses?
Ideally, you have saved some money and diversified your income. Even then, losing a client will hurt you, but it is part of a freelancer’s life and you have to be ready for it. Use the financial analysis to determine when and how much work you should be looking for and stick to that plan.
3) Make yourself available
After having dealt with the immediate consequences of losing a client, the next step is to re-enter the job market. Ideally, you never really left it, but it is very likely that you had to turn away some opportunities. Let everybody know that you are looking for work – the ones that have sent you offers in the past, clients you have already worked with and your network of friends and fellow freelancers. Update all your marketing tools, like Facebook, Xing, your personal site etc. to reflect what you’re looking for and what you can offer.
4) Stay positive and fill your time with something useful
Having one less client might not be such bad news, especially if the immediate financial effect of the loss is not that big. Be positive and try to improve your skills – it is a wonderful age we live in and there are unimaginable amounts of information within your reach.
Work on a personal side-project you never really had that much time for – like writing a book or whatever else you could have in mind. Spend some more time with your family and friends. Think of the free time you have as an opportunity and grab it!
5) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If your business has taken a hit, it might be a good idea to seek help. Consider filing for unemployment in your resident country or checking out relief packages.
Remember, being humble and seeking help is always better than suffering through your losses alone.
6) Ask your existing clients for referrals
Losing one client means you probably still have others. Even if they aren’t major ones, consider asking them for a referral. But don’t try to convince clients how much you deserve their referrals if you haven’t proven it to them.
You can do so by working hard and doing your best. Earn your client’s appreciation by being professional and delivering high-quality work. And if you really hit it off, clients themselves will want to tell the story of your working relationship to others – making it so that, sometimes, you won’t even have to ask to be referred.
7) Take on smaller clients
Taking on a bunch of smaller clients means you have a variety of jobs going on at once. This will help you build your freelance business gradually and expand your network as a professional.
Plus, working with a number of smaller clients instead of one or two larger ones, you protect your business from ever having to be left with a huge hole in your budget when, or if, they leave.
Have you ever lost a client? How did you deal with it? Feel free to share in the comment section below.