What to Do When a Client Ends a Freelancing Relationship
We’ve all been there.
You feel like freelancing is going great when, out of nowhere, you get that dreaded email, call, or text.
A client ends their working relationship with you.
Sometimes, giving little or no reason.
One of the most difficult aspects of working as a freelancer is when a client ends the relationship.
It’s personal because you’ve invested so much time and energy into working with them.
It seems like they’re not just rejecting your work, they’re rejecting you. And that hurts.
Whether it’s a long-term client whom you’ve worked with for years, or a brand new account that you looked to build a relationship and trust with, ending a client relationship can be both emotionally and professionally taxing.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to handling client break-ups, there are a few key things to keep in mind so that you don’t let it derail your freelancing journey.
Here are four essential things to keep in mind when a client ends a relationship.
1. Don’t Burn Bridges
Not all client break-ups are amicable or go smoothly.
You may be tempted to react unprofessionally, especially if a client ends the relationship abruptly or rudely.
It’s only natural to get upset or be defensive.
But even if you are disappointed or hurt by the end of the relationship, keep your emotions in check and take the high road.
Don’t burn bridges.
Professionalism and respect should always be your main focus, and this is especially important when parting ways with a client.
You never know what may happen in the future.
Just because a client has rejected your work or ended their working relationship with you in the present moment, they may change their mind in the future or decide that you are perfect for a different project.
So, instead of allowing negative emotions to dictate your reaction, it’s important to take the time to acknowledge the decision and express your understanding and support.
A client’s decision to end a business relationship should be respected, and you can show respect by thanking them for working with you.
Let them know that you wish their decision was different and that you’re open to working with them in the future.
The goal of this step is to leave the relationship on good terms.
Based on the wishes of both parties, you may not have a choice but to cut off communication entirely.
Sometimes, handling difficult clients necessitates cutting off all communication.
However, if you can, take the opportunity to offer one final pleasant exchange with the client, whether it’s an email, a phone call, or even a face-to-face meeting if possible.
Remain diplomatic and courteous to them throughout the process, as you want to leave a good impression.
In addition, ensure that all the terms of your work contract are respected.
Whether it’s refunds, payment arrangements, or any other agreement in the contract, each term should be followed in order to avoid any conflict.
This also shows that you are respectful of your client’s decision and value their privacy.
By acting professionally and courteously, you can leave a final, positive impression with a client, so even if they don’t return to work with you at a later time, they may recommend you to new clients. After all, building a positive freelancing reputation is a crucial part of Freelancing 101 for Devs .
2. Learn from the Experience
It’s easy to want to brush off the loss of a client, but before you do that it’s important to acknowledge it.
Even though a relationship has ended, this doesn’t mean it was a total loss.
This is the perfect time to reflect and learn from the experience.
After all, every experience is an opportunity for personal and professional growth.
Even if the relationship was not as successful as you had hoped, there are usually valuable lessons to be taken away.
Take time to understand why the client left and what (if anything) could have been done differently on your end to keep them.
If you haven’t already talked with them personally, reach out and get in touch with them.
No one likes to hear about their shortcomings, but sometimes it takes an outsider to make us more aware of how we can improve.
Ask them for any feedback that may be helpful in order to build better client relationships.
Take the time to reflect on the process and consider any improvements you can make with other clients in the future.
Using this experience as an opportunity to assess where you could have done better can help you avoid similar issues in the future.
The end of a client relationship can be tough, but it is an inevitable part of any client-facing role.
It’s simply a part of embracing the journey as a freelancer that we all need to navigate.
By following the steps outlined above, you will be able to handle the situation with grace and professionalism – while also learning valuable lessons in the process.
3. Re-Evaluate Your Support Systems
If you’ve recently lost a client, it can be a difficult experience, especially if it leads to financial strain.
You may even have to consider necessary budget cutbacks, at least short-term.
So, it’s important to take steps to ensure that your business bounces back, as quickly as possible.
Now may be the perfect time to step up your networking efforts.
There are lots of tips for networking as a freelancer that can help you boost your career.
Join industry associations, start attending industry events, add new contacts on LinkedIn, and leverage any existing relationships to spread the word about your business.
If you’ve parted ways with a client on good terms, you may even incentivize them to spread the word or send referrals to you by offering discounts on future work.
Also, losing a client is the first time some freelancers realize the importance of creating multiple streams of income .
If you haven’t already developed multiple income streams, there’s no better time to start!
Multiple income streams are essential for long-term success and avoiding a financial catastrophe when you lose an important client.
Creating multiple income streams can mean many things, like having several clients, doing varied work, or investing in different lines of business.
Now may be the right time to explore new avenues of freelancing.
Or learn new skills that you can add to your portfolio.
Or reach out to form new client relationships.
Whether it means adding new clients to your workload or adding to what you are able to offer your existing clients, focus on generating new income streams that will keep your business afloat.
Re-evaluating what support systems you need to add or improve can make all the difference in how fast your freelancing career rebounds after losing a client.
Sometimes, jumping back into freelancing and trying to find new clients can feel a bit like jumping back into the dating scene.
You might cringe just thinking about trying to move on with new clients.
You might feel reluctant and even be tempted to give up.
Don’t give up!
Turning a disappointing or bad situation into a good one is part of pivoting as a freelancer .
The most important factor to moving on is keeping a positive attitude.
Negativity will only work against you, so focus your energy on rebuilding and working toward your freelancing dream.
Remember that dream? It’s not gone.
You’ve faced difficulties in the past and persevered.
You can do the same thing now.
What you need is to create an action plan for moving forward.
Part of that action plan is to practice habits that will help you be successful as a freelancer .
Habits may seem boring or confining, but habits can be comforting.
Having steady habits to fall back on (especially when you don’t feel very motivated) will help you move on.
Another part of that action plan is to refocus on the future and on your successful client relationships.
Don’t dwell on the past, or on what “could-have-been” with a client that is gone. Your focus and energy should be spent on improving your relationships with clients you still have. You want to give them 100% of your efforts.
By staying positive, you will be more ready to pivot from a bad situation and move on to bigger, and better, opportunities.
When a client ends a relationship, it can be difficult and a little disappointing, but it can actually be one of the best experiences for your freelancing business.
It can teach you to remain professional, respect terms, and reflect on the experience.
It can help you make the most of the situation and use it as an opportunity to grow.
It can remind you to re-evaluate your support systems and make sure your business is well-positioned for success.
Most importantly, it can show you that you can move on from a bad experience and still realize the freelancing dreams you once had.
With hard work and a positive attitude, you can get your business back on track in no time.
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Juan Cruz Martinez
Juan has made it his mission to help aspiring developers unlock their full potential. With over two decades of hands-on programming experience, he understands the challenges and rewards of learning to code. By providing accessible and engaging educational content, Juan has cultivated a community of learners who share their passion for coding. Leveraging his expertise and empathetic teaching approach, Juan has successfully guided countless students on their journey to becoming skilled developers, transforming lives through the power of technology.