No one wants to lose clients but it will happen to every freelancer. Let me share how I recovered when I lost a long-term high-paying client
I lost a long-term client, and let me tell you it was tough. However, freelancing moves on.
The issue is you can be tempted to think losing a client is your fault. However, that may not be the case always. You can lose clients without any wrongdoing on your end and could be because
- The client may no longer need what you are best at.
- Client’s requirement or preference changes, and they move on to another project or technology.
- Clients want to limit budgets for the current project.
And if those clients are long term clients, it can hurt your earnings.
Losing Clients is Very Normal
No one wants to be in a situation to lose a long-term high-paying client, but the fact is, it will happen to everyone eventually at some point in their freelancing career.
I have over a decade of freelancing experience, with hundreds of projects delivered successfully. Recently I lost (or I see it as we parted ways) a long-term high-paying client where we were working for a couple of years together with almost 30 hours per week billing regularly.
I was developing functionalities that were getting towards the finishing line. The new requirements that were in the pipeline were design work, and I am not good at it and didn’t love doing either.
If you are doing things you don’t love or aren’t good at, it could be tough for you to keep going, and so was the case with me. We then had to part ways.
You have to realize that you will never have a client who will need your services until you are on your death bed. And even if you find such a client, you will never be able to serve them for the rest of your life for various reasons.
So clients and freelancers do part ways. Neither the freelancer nor the client is at fault. At least that was the case with me.
Steps to Recover From the Lost Client
Knowing why you lost a long term client is essential, but more important is what you do after you lost a long term client.
So let me share with you what you should be doing after you have lost your long term client.
1. Learn from Past Mistakes
Everything is a learning experience – so is losing a long term client. Please take it as a learning experience of being a freelancer and become a better freelancer.
Let me share my first long term client’s story where I had made awful mistakes regarding my hourly rate, but it was a learning experience.
Back then, I believed it is not good to increase hourly rates for an existing client. So I raised my hourly rates for my other short term clients but not for my long term client. Soon the hourly rates I was charging my long term client were half of what I was charging new clients.
I had to let my long term client know about an increase in my hourly rates, but now the expenses are too sharp for him to digest.
An increase in the hourly rate was abrupt. So the workload from the client reduced over time. It happened because I did not increase my hourly rates when I should have been.
Lost a good client, but it also helps me learn a lesson that you should increase hourly rates in small tranches for existing clients and let them know well in advance when you will increase. It can’t be like from tomorrow you pay me higher rates of what you are paying me now.
Now, I always keep my hourly rate close to all my new and existing clients.
Still, I am not increasing my hourly rates for existing clients as fast as I am doing so for new clients. So they even differ, but the difference is not significant. Moreover, now I don’t make the mistake of increasing hourly rates abruptly either.
2. Opportunity to New Technologies
Once you lose a long term client, you will be tempted to replace the lost client with new ones in the same technology by showing your expertise.
However, I look at things a little differently. I think it is the perfect time to consider a better technology that can provide better opportunities in the long term.
As an example, when I was working in vBulletin for quite some time for many of my clients. I always wanted to move to alternatives to vBulletin, especially to xenForo. If your biggest client wants you to be working on vBulletin, you have no choice.
Once we parted ways, I focused on working on anything but vBulletin.
At the same time, I even took up an iOS development course on Udemy. Because I was light on work, it helps me learn something new.
Apart from being a developer, I also focused on moving from a hobby blogger who blogs at random to a pro blogger with writing targets every week. Moreover, I even upgraded my Upwork profile to include writing works.
When you are not working for clients and have time, it is high time to do things that you should be doing.
3. Develop a Pipeline
Once you have a long-term high-paying ongoing client, usually, you tend to be relaxed, assuming you will always have work from the client.
However, we as a freelancer need a backup plan more now because of the relaxed approach to freelancing.
As I was working for a long term client, I was too relaxed to have any backup clients in the pipeline.
As the development from the client was near its finishing line, I wasn’t ready to accept that there will be no new requirement from the client.
There was a new requirement, but it wasn’t in line with what I love doing. Still, I was not willing to move on because it wasn’t easy for me. It took me almost 2 to 3 months to move on.
The lesson that I learned was to have more than one client, even when you are working for one more significant client. The reason being when the big client is lost, you still have backup clients.
Moreover, you aren’t overly dependent on one client. I don’t work only for one client anymore and take up other small projects more actively than I used to do it in the past.
Having one point of failure can prove fatal, and only one client can lead to horror stories.
4. Increase Marketing Efforts
You can lose big clients overnight, but more often, you will get the feeling about something is to happen. In my case, I knew the workload would reduce going forward.
It is the time when you should be pro-active once again to look for a new client. You can start your marketing efforts as soon as you can sense, things are to change than they happen.
By marketing, I don’t mean you should start Google Adwords or Facebook ads right away. What I mean is you can start looking for clients in your network and build relationships with potential clients or even email your existing clients about you being available for work.
If you use Upwork for clients, you can up the proposal frequency.
If you build relationships with existing clients over time, you will have a lot of clients you can contact and let them know about your availability. Drop an email about your availability if they need it, and there is no harm in doing so. It’s always good to be asking for work than starving for work.
Things Worked Before this Client
The most crucial aspect that I want to share with you when you have lost your biggest client is – Things did work well for you before this client as well.
As a freelancer, remember why you started as a freelancer.
The reason for you to be a freelancer was independent of the client you may have lost right away. As a freelancer, you can fetch such clients at will. It is your willingness to continue looking for one that will help you get many such clients.
There was business before this big client, and there will be opportunities even after one such client is gone.
It is you who is an essential part of freelancing, not the client. If you can find that big client once, you can do it more than once.
Remember: There was business before this big client, and there will be opportunities after.
All you have to do is stop thinking about it and start working towards building the relationship once again.
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