Advice for Freelancers

What to Do After Losing a Big Contract

At the end of April, I was stunned to receive an email from a long-standing client on a Thursday morning announcing that once I’d fulfilled that week’s commitment, my services would no longer be required, The speed of its ending was the biggest shock. But soon I was hit with another sobering thought – how much of my income had been from this one client. I cannot overstate how important this client was to my income.

2018 has been stressful with some personal problems although I don’t want to get into details right now. Of course, there is never a good time to lose a valued client, but the closure of this contract could not have come at a worse time for me. I immediately set about worrying what would happen next. But once the dust settled, it was time to regroup and rethink. If you’re ever in a similar situation, here are some suggestions of what to do.

what to do if you lose a big freelance contract

Pause, Don’t Panic

Panicking leads to bad business decisions. Worry will not achieve anything other than make you anxious and worry more. It may hurt; you may experience frustration and anger. It will feel like a punch in the stomach. You might need a few days to get over the shock of what just happened, and maybe take a day off if your workload can cope. Remember, unless they have implied or explicitly said it, this is not your fault. The main reason most hiring companies let freelancers go is money. No doubt it has happened to you before and it will happen again in future.

So This Thing Happened…

Hopefully, you have many other clients. If not, consider this a lesson in not putting all your eggs in one basket. These can be ongoing clients or some you’ve not heard from in a few weeks or months. Reach out to these clients and ask if they have more work for you. The chances are they will say no, they’re happy with what you’re producing and don’t have the capacity or budget to accept more. But some might; it’s usually the smaller clients who tend to want to start small and grow. Sometimes, it’s the very biggest with an enormous budget who’d be happy to give you more work because they may have a higher turnover. However, don’t fall into the eggs and baskets traps already mentioned.

It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day, and I’m Feeling Good…

There are few things in life more satisfying for a freelancer than getting a new client, regardless of the value. You will get new clients; it might take a few days or a few weeks or longer. You may never replace that volume or value of work, but you will certainly find new clients. Keep looking, broaden your horizons and places you look for work. So long as you are resilient and keep reaching out for new work, you will find them. A matter of days after I lost this big client, I was pitching for work again on Upwork. A one-off contract that came in the wake of my big contract loss was an article on Soft Skills in Business for Irish Times Training (credited). I was pleased to receive work from such a prestigious organisation – a contract and portfolio piece I might not have received otherwise.

Fingers in Pies

upskilling for freelancers

Maybe it’s time to regroup and have a long, hard think about the services you offer? You might have been successful with it until now and maybe you’ve always done and are still doing the right thing. But in this fast-moving world of being a digital nomad, it helps to have fingers in multiple pies – but don’t spread yourself too thin. If you design digital art, you could expand to book covers, for example. Writers could write fiction for the enjoyment and maybe hope to make a few sales each year. It might not be viable as a business, but it’s passive income. In my case, I’m developing my photography skills (photography page is now active but little on it at the moment).

You can only succeed at this freelancing game if you develop soft skills such as resilience. Bouncing back isn’t just a virtue, it’s vital.

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