How to Handle Losing a Major Freelance Client: 8 Tips

Understanding the risks and uncertainties that come with freelancing doesn’t make project closure any easier. Losing a customer feels like a punch in the stomach. You won’t even have time to deal with your emotions because you need to find a new project right away. Otherwise, the workflow gap will affect your income.

While challenging, it’s not impossible to continue after project completions. Let’s dive into some simple, actionable tips to help you bounce back after losing a high-paying gig.

1. Communicate with the customer

The home page of the Gmail website with some emails

Clients may fire you for a variety of reasons, from internal budget cuts to marked differences in work styles. Unfortunately, some freelance projects might end badly. Maybe you don’t even want to talk to demanding, challenging customers who treat you badly.

Regardless of what happened, make sure you express your gratitude before you break up. Politely ask for a performance review, find out why they decided to let you go, and thank them for the opportunity to work with them. Try to turn your loss into an opportunity to learn.

Don’t burn bridges either. Save their contact information, work emails, and past projects so you can refer to them should they need your services again.

2. Objectively evaluate what happened

If the client drops you because of issues with your performance, evaluate yourself objectively before accepting other gigs. Make an effort to eliminate recurring problems. Bad habits will eventually create unhealthy systems and further hamper your performance—turning prospects away.

Also, consider quantifying your performance for accurate assessments. Most freelancers are unaware of the quality of their work because they memorize performance reviews. Cognitions based on memories tend to be biased.

Instead, review your results against key performance indicators (KPIs) relevant to your field. Let’s say you are a copywriter. You can compile your past sales copies and rank them based on factors such as typing speed, grammar, page views and conversion rates. Record your results in Google Sheets or MS Excel.

3. Understand that it may not be your fault

Many freelancers worry that losing clients means you’re doing terrible work, but that’s not the case. Terminating a contract doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on you.

Here, too, projects end for several reasons. And after dropping some of them, you’ll find that customers have issues on their side too, like budget constraints or business restructuring. Never take project completions personally.

Third-party complications are beyond your control. The best approach is to meet your expectations by researching potential companies and clients online before taking on their freelance roles.

Sites like Glassdoor and Indeed Collect give you insights into almost every employer in the world. Both current and former employees can leave reviews on these platforms. If your potential client gets too many negative comments about their daily workload, management style, and freelance fees, think twice before applying.

4. Calculate your finances

A Google Sheet template for annual expenses

Unlike full-time employees, freelancers do not receive a fixed salary. Although you’ll earn more if you take on multiple clients at once, your income could also decrease if you lose all your projects.

That being said, recovering financially from the loss of a high-paying client is not impossible if you manage your money well. Calculate how many gigs you need to reach your income goal. If you have minimal accounting experience, use customizable financial templates to simplify calculations.

Also, plan on spending for at least six months. You can’t make wise decisions about your freelance business if you’re constantly afraid of running out of money. Focus on improving your craft and getting lucrative clients.

5. Update your portfolio

Ask your client for permission to add the work you’ve done for them to your portfolio. They’ve probably grown since you started, so you’ll need to replace outdated examples that no longer represent your skills. A quality portfolio makes prospecting much easier.

Also use this time to work on your personal website if you have one. It’s a challenge juggling freelance work with site maintenance. You may not have many opportunities to do this again as your pipeline fills up with new projects.

6. Use your free time wisely

The ProBlogger job board for writing gigs

New freelancers who lose clients for the first time tend to get discouraged. Some have even stopped freelancing altogether. Although it’s normal to feel sad when you lose an important client, the worst thing you can do is stop working.

Instead, spend your free time wisely by looking for new projects. Explore the best freelance websites, apply for as many gigs as you can, and schedule back-to-back client meetings. Engage in productive tasks.

If you still need time to unwind, consider joining casual freelance groups where members share tips, discuss problems, and ask for advice. Find your niche. For example, if you’re a freelance writer, you might look for free communities geared towards freelance writers.

7. Contact old customers

Aside from finding new customers, reach out to your old customers. Re-introduce yourself, ask about the latest company news, and express your willingness to work—don’t just beg for projects. Chances are, customers who like you will hire you again.

But if you don’t have any past projects, create a database now. A simple index in Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel of your customers’ contact information should do the trick. Bookmark it for future reference.

8. Maximize small projects

Man writing in a notebook while sitting in front of an iMac

Don’t just focus on one freelance project, regardless of how much it pays out. All freelance jobs involve uncertainty, and if you devote your entire pipeline to a single client, you are jeopardizing your income stability.

As a freelancer, you should always have a few side projects ready. Small gigs and one-off projects might not pay much, but they could make up for your lost income if you lose larger projects.

To avoid being overwhelmed, organize your tasks in personal task board apps. Unlike project management platforms that support team collaboration, these tools help individuals visualize their to-do lists.

Learn to bounce back after losing a large freelance client

Your success as a freelancer depends on how quickly you can bounce back after losing a client. Remember: Freelance projects come and go. Even reputable specialists lose major customers. Your career may not progress if you let every gig or project cancellation affect you on a personal level.

To further minimize gaps in the workflow, set up an effective customer acquisition system that converts leads. Experienced freelancers always have upcoming projects in their pipeline. If you’re still struggling to land high-paying gigs and long-term projects, reconsider how you find prospects. Surprisingly, most outreach errors are easy to fix.

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