Losing freelance writing clients is a real drag, especially when you're depending on them to make ends meet. It can be disheartening and might make you feel like it was something you did… like a sad breakup. But often, it has nothing to do with you.
Yes, losing clients really sucks. But as a freelancer, you'll have to learn to accept that every once in a while, it's inevitable. Things happen, clients change their plans or have their own unforeseen issues and need to pause or stop working with you.
While this kind of thing happens all the time and while there's not much you can do about it, it's still good to know what to do when you lose freelance writing clients.
Depending on the reasons your client offers for choosing to part ways or put projects on hold, you might be tempted to take somewhat drastic measures to try and keep them.
- Maybe you offer to drop your rate. (Hopefully just temporarily…)
- Maybe you offer a new service to take on more work than what you initially signed up for that may or may not really fall into your “wheelhouse” or what you want to be doing. (For example, maybe instead of just writing content, you offer to start planning, organizing, or publishing it.)
- Maybe you beg them to stay. (Don't do this… It's not a great look.)
There are several things you might do. And while I don't want to tell you to never, ever do these sorts of things, that's a decision you have to make for yourself.
But what I can tell you is that assuming a client will leave or pause for a while is a good mindset to have. Because it will happen. Someday. For some reason.
In light of that, here are 4 things you can do to be prepared for the worst – losing a client you were depending on.
1. When you lose freelance writing clients, it's important to stay consistent in marketing yourself.
When you first start your freelance writing business, you should be telling er'ybody! This is not the time to be shy and only tell your mom. Someone you know might know someone that needs a writer. And you could be that writer!
So don't stop consistently hollering about your business. When you're consistent, you will never feel like you're scrambling. But when you only post or remind your circle that you're a freelancer when you need work, you risk appearing desperate.
Instead, post a few times a week about your services and business on your social channels. (Or, if you're feeling really brave, make new profiles for your biz. 😉) LinkedIn and Facebook (no, really!) are great places to post about your expertise and services.
Consider sending some emails to former bosses, colleagues, previous clients, or other professional contacts you have that might help you reach more potential people.
This is a great opportunity to market your services as “exclusive” and show that you don't work with just anyone. Don't be afraid to share that you just had a client spot open up and you're talking with businesses who need help. Make the most of what you've got.
2. Reach out to competitors or similarly-niched businesses and pitch your services to fill your client vacancies.
Now, I say this with a small caveat: Be sure you're not breaking any contractual agreements on this. If your contract specifically states that you will not work with known competitors of your client within a specific time window, do not do this. You could get into big legal trouble.
But if there are no such specifics in your contract, reach out! Give this a try.
Be careful about how you approach these potential clients. You shouldn't mention your client by name, but rather that you have extensive experience writing for that particular niche.
Ask your previous clients for permission to use links for content you wrote as part of your portfolio. Send those links to the client you're pitching.
3. Keep working on your own portfolio with your newfound extra time.
If you enjoy writing for your previous client's niche, keep doing it. Build a strong portfolio of example content you can publish on your own blog or other public profile.
If there are other niches you want to break into, now is a great time to write some examples. This will not only strengthen your writing (more practice = more experience) but give you solid evidence of your ability when you apply for future gigs.
If you're feeling really brave, start pitching your ideas to publications that might publish them. You'll not only have a more prestigious place showing evidence of your work, but you'll get an actual byline and may even get paid!
4. Scour entrepreneur-centric Facebook groups, freelance writing job boards, and LinkedIn for writing opportunities.
If you've been hanging out with me for long, you know that I share a few freelance writing opportunities every week in my newsletters. They come from all over the place and are for writers with varying levels of experience.
Now that you have some idea of where to look for writing gigs, get your search party hat on. Don't sit on your hards! Start looking for opportunities that fit your experience and pay a reasonable rate. Remember that you can also send cold pitches to potential clients you think you’d like to work with, too.
Losing a client might feel terrible in the moment, but it's certainly not the end of the world. There is so much work out there and there are clients who are looking for someone just like you. When you lose a freelance writing client, don't wallow in sorrow for long. Jump back on the horse, get out there, and find a new (and maybe better 😉) client.
Are you on a mission this year?
If you haven't taken the leap to start freelance writing yet, what's been holding you back? This isn't meant to be a rhetorical question – I'm legit asking you to answer.
Think about it for a minute, look at my list of “whys” below, and whisper or speak out loud (yes, OUT LOUD) the ones that sound like you:
- I don't know how to get started as a freelance writer.
- I don't have a freelance writing website.
- I'm embarrassed by my LinkedIn profile.
- I don't know how to build a portfolio.
- I have content I can use for a portfolio but I don't know how to, you know, make a freelance writing portfolio.
- I don't want to tell (or I'm afraid to tell) people I know that I'm a freelance writer.
- I don't want my job to know I'm side hustling.
- I don't feel like I have the right skills or talents to be a freelance writer.
- I don't know where I can find paid writing opportunities.
- I don't know how to apply for freelance writing gigs.
- I don't know where to find clients.
- I'm afraid of “cold calling” and pitching to businesses.
- I don't know how to run a business.
- I don't want to worry about how my taxes will change if I'm even partially self-employed.
- I don't know how to market myself.
- I don't know what options I have as a freelance writer.
- I don't have time to devote to working more.
- My friends and family don't understand why I want to start a side hustle or full-time business.
Girl, these are just excuses brought on by imposter syndrome. And you're not alone.
Find the Tiger in You
In the Chinese zodiac, 2022 is the year of the tiger. Now, I don't consider myself to be especially superstitious, but I kind of love embracing some woo-woo stuff every now and then.
And this is one of those times.
I was recently googling to find what “the year of the tiger” is supposed to mean for all us mere mortals. And I found something really encouraging from digital lifestyle brand and magazine, Pure Wow:
“The Year of the Tiger will be about making big changes. This will be a year of risk-taking and adventure. We’re finding enthusiasm again, both for ourselves and for others.”
2022 is your year to channel your inner Katy Perry and roar.
Ignore those things your brain keeps telling you are reasons why you can't get started.
Because you can. You just have to start. Take one step. Do the opposite of what you spoke out loud above:
Revamp your Linkedin profile.
Check out my list of surprising places to find freelance writing work.
Download my ebook to learn more about what you need to do to get started.
Start building your freelance writing website.
Pitch ideas for personal essays to publications you read often.
Heck, sign up for my email list! Let's be friends. I understand all the things that go with taking a leap and starting a business… and having friends and family who just don't get it.
I believe this is our year. Let's make it so.
I’m still hesitant to say it out loud. I find it hard to give myself credit for the work that I’ve done. Yes, I struggle with imposter syndrome even now that my biggest project to date is finished. Or maybe it is the fear of coming across as a braggart. Because, lo and behold, how dare you feel proud of something you have achieved! (I grew up in The Netherlands, where bragging is often frowned upon).
But I’m going to shake off that typical Dutch Calvinist mentality and say loud and proud: I wrote a book!
Yep, I did it! And what a journey it was.
Writing a book is so personal. You have nowhere to hide. And in my case, that meant self-doubt was always lurking around the corner. At times, my self-doubt would make me second-guess myself and the book. In the worst times, it would put me to a standstill, unable to write.
Although I still find it hard to compliment myself, my feelings of inadequacy didn’t stand in the way of finishing the book. On the contrary, I allowed episodes of self-doubt to come and go. I embraced them because I realized it allowed me to create better work.
Say what?!? Yep, that’s right. I believe my self-doubt resulted in better work. Bear with me. I will explain.
Embracing My Self-Doubt
You know those days when you fall into the social media rabbit hole, comparing yourself to people you don’t know? You spiral and start to doubt yourself. You feel useless and insecure and tell yourself you will never be able to achieve what that other person has achieved.
Or what about those days you wake up, sit behind your computer, and all you want to do is cry because you feel worthless and incompetent?
As writers (or anyone who creates something), we all struggle with moments of self-doubt. Thanks to social media allowing everyone to share their opinions, the angst of being criticized or rejected is huge. The fear of failure takes over. We tell ourselves we are not good enough.
But…there is a way to use it in your favor – to turn self-doubt into something positive.
You know what I did on days when my self-doubt had the upper hand? From a writing point of view, not much. Typically, on those days, I couldn’t write anything sensible. I decided the best thing to do was to allow myself to feel blue. I would do something else, slow down, rethink things, and often spend time researching specific topics in more detail.
And then, the next day, I would wake up with a new sense of positivity, determined to talk to myself with a kinder and more positive voice. And that doubt-inspired work from the previous day? It allowed me to work with ease. Unwinding made me rethink some of the work, giving me better focus.
The Myth of Confidence
Of course, we all want to write with confidence. But maybe we shouldn’t.
What if confidence makes us complacent, lazy, or even uninspired? A healthy dose of short-term self-doubt (you know, the one that fades with time and experience) isn’t that bad.
Self-doubt can keep us sharp. Questioning ourselves occasionally can result in better decisions, reflections, and thus better work. For me, self-doubt pushed me to be more focused, to write with more clarity, and allowed me to grow as a writer.
And you know my favorite part of embracing self-doubt? It allowed me to listen to it better. Not to the negativity, but the triggers behind it. Often, the self-doubt was a way for my body (and mind) to signal that I needed to slow down – that I was overwhelmed.
Although I initially found it hard to allow myself to give in and relax (mainly because we often hear people say things like “write every day'”or “push yourself”), I did just that. I would do something else for an hour (or a whole morning). I would relax and not think about writing. And yes, the downside is that writing the book took me much longer than anticipated.
The upside? When I wrote, I was excited. I was happy, and I loved writing my book!
Let me clarify that I’m not promoting negative self-talk! On the contrary! A chronic form of self-doubt is insidious. Of course, you don’t want moodiness to take control of your life. But a light version of self-doubt that comes and goes doesn’t have to be that bad. And although popular media recommends us to “free ourselves from self-doubt” or “overcome it,” it's unrealistic. It makes for a nice headline, yes, but it’s misleading.
Self-doubt will always be there, lurking under your desk. And if self-doubt is only an occasional visitor, we shouldn’t fight it or ignore it. Instead, when positivity has the upper hand, there is no shame in allowing and embracing insecurity and self-doubt on some days.
So next time when self-doubt pays you a visit, try to reflect on it. Use it to your advantage. Like me, you may find that embracing self-doubt will enable you to create (much) better work.
Charlotte Rijkenberg is the author of Let’s Move Abroad: The all-in-one, no-bullsh*t workbook to moving abroad (coming soon!) and the founder of Let’s Move Abroad, a platform that inspires people around the world to move abroad and live their best life.
You can find more of her down-to-earth and pragmatic advice on her platform, Let’s Move Abroad and on Instagram.
I was recently reading an email from an entrepreneur I follow—Jessica Stansberry. The whole email was about 4 things she did to shift her mindset and as a result, her business exploded.
The one thing in her email that literally stopped me in my tracks was that she quit thinking about her business as a “little” business.
And hold the phone, friend… That is EXACT-A-LY the thing I've needed to hear.
I've spent so much of my freelance writing business as “small” and “nothing to boast about” because it's still a side hustle for me. And for a while, sure, that was probably the right way to think about it.
And I realized in that moment, reading that email, that I still let myself feel like an imposter, all these years later. I felt like less of a “writer” because I spent all my time writing for other people rather than writing for myself—writing about what matters to me and about how I feel.
All of this made me think of you, gentle reader. Because maybe you're still thinking small and not ready to consider yourself an “entrepreneur” or a “business person.”
But you are!
The moment you launch your freelance writing website, you're a freelance writer.
The minute you hit “send” on that first pitch or apply for that first gig, you're a freelancer.
The first time you tell someone you're a freelance writer, you step into entrepreneurship and freelance writing.
And for every first, there is a moment when we think small and we feel like we're kidding ourselves.
I'm no stranger to this: I've got a ton of experience and lessons behind me, I'm still, you know… thinking small. I don't think about the fact that I know what I'm doing or that, because I'm thinking of myself “only” as a side hustler, I'm rising to that level in my work.
I would be straight-up lying to you if I said I've got it all figured out, but I'm working on it. These are the steps I'm taking to upgrade my mindset and I challenge you to do the same.
1. When you talk about your freelancing work, omit the words “small” or “little” or phrases like “not a big deal.”
I still hold a full-time job, so the “side hustle” fact of my business remains. It might remain for you, too. But that's not what needs to change about how I think about my business.
I am thinking and talking about my business in ways that assume it's going to be – and that it already is– successful. I'm running a side hustle, yes. But it's not “small.” It's a business and I'm remembering to treat it like it's thriving.
Whether you've been hired or are still looking for that first opportunity, don't fool yourself into believing you're just a “small” operation.
2. Tell yourself in the mirror that your business is awesome and super-successful.
This sounds ridiculous but there is something so powerful about saying things to your own face. 😂
Trust me: You can write it down or say it aloud in your affirmations, but actually looking yourself in the eye in the mirror and saying it to yourself makes you believe it on a deeper level.
Here's the secret: If you feel stupid, you're doing it right. 😉
Don't know what to say to yourself? Try this:
“My freelance writing business is not ‘small' or ‘not a big deal.' It's a big deal. I'm going to meet my goals and achieve my dreams because I work hard and I help people [fill in the blank here with what you do].”
I mean, have a real Ron Burgundy moment.
3. Start spending time with other entrepreneurs.
You don't need to follow or necessarily spend all your time with other women, but being part of a dynamic circle of other ladies who are running businesses and who get the ins and outs of business life will build you up more than I can say.
This is especially true when you spend time not just with other entrepreneurs but with other writers. Make freelancing friends, not enemies!
I've been lucky enough to work with some great women over the years and I still try to talk with them on the regular. I'm making new connections this week, too, reaching out more, and befriending a “competitor.” Because you know what? There's plenty of business to go around and we don't do or offer exactly the same things.
Make friends with other entrepreneurs and other writers! It will change your life and help boost your mindset.
So that's what I've got for you. Three simple ways to stop thinking “small” and upgrade your mindset surrounding your freelance writing business.
Give it a try for a few days. Hit me up to let me know how it's going – find me on LinkedIn or Instagram, or send me a message. I can't wait to hear from you.