Steady freelance gig dry up? Here’s how to regain your footing.
Losing a large customer is one of the more jarring aspects of freelancing. But it’s also par for the self-employed course.
Sometimes a struggling business slashes its freelance budget. Sometimes a manager quits or gets axed and her replacement wants nothing to do with you. Sometimes you and the client don’t see eye to eye on a particular project and you part ways.
Here’s how to move past the setback quickly.
Limit wallowing. It’s natural to feel disappointed when a cash cow dies off. You might be angry with the client for not fighting harder to keep you on their roster. Or you might be mad at yourself for turning in subpar work or taking a job that smelled funny from the start. Give yourself a day to stew if needed. Then dust yourself off and get back to business. Freelance careers are long and varied. Today’s loss probably won’t even register a year from now.
Examine your culpability. Once you’ve cooled off, take an objective look at what went wrong. Did you accept the job despite knowing you didn’t really have room in your schedule to do it justice? Could you have communicated better with the client about problems that arose? Asking a freelance friend or two for their unbiased opinion can help shed light on where you may have gone wrong. Yes, reflecting on your missteps is humbling. But it also can help you avoid making similar mistakes in the future.
Salvage what you can. Save any completed work samples you did for the client before you lose access to their internal network. Consider contacting people at the company with whom you’re still on good terms. Tell them you’re moving on (no need to mention why), you’ve enjoyed working with them and would like to keep in touch. You never know who might change employers and need a freelancer with your skill set.
Look for new work ASAP. Yes, hustling for additional projects takes time. But drumming up more assignments doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch. I keep an up-to-date list of freelance opportunities I hear about but don’t have time to pursue right away. It’s one of the first places I turn if my dance card starts to get a bit thin. I’ll also tell existing clients I have more immediate availability than anticipated and ask if there’s anything else they’d like my help with. The sooner you bring in new work, the sooner you’ll restore your income to its former glory.
Maximize downtime. Lining up a new project or client won’t necessarily pad your bank account overnight. Rather than spend the lag time fretting about lost income, focus on your list of back-burnered projects. Does your website need a facelift? Have you been meaning to organize your office? Apply for a grant? Start an Instagram account? Revisit that partially completed novel on your hard drive? No time like the present. One of the perks of working for yourself is the flexibility it affords. Take advantage of it.