Losing a Big Client

The first time I lost a big client, I was devastated. The second time, I was angry. By the third time, I realized it's just part of the business and there's no use getting emotional over it unless it happens right before going on vacation. Clients come and clients go. That’s the ebb and flow of freelance projects. Businesses change and sometimes your services may no longer meet their needs.

When you lose a big client, don’t panic. The ultimate goal is to replace the income, which you’ll probably do through some old-fashioned marketing, but in the meantime, you have to figure out how you're going to keep your bills paid and your family fed.

Hopefully, you’ve been kicking back some funds into a savings account during the months that your writing income was flourishing. You might have to dip into this savings to make ends meet until you’ve replaced the lost income. Be disciplined enough to spend only what’s necessary. You never know how long you’ll need to use this money.

Estimate your monthly income without your ex-client. Make a list of the clients and projects you have left and the typical monthly income you receive from these clients.

Take a look at your budget and answer a few questions. Will the income from your remaining projects be enough to cover your expenses? What’s the gap between your expenses and your new income? If you supplement your income with money from a buffer account, how long before the buffer account would be depleted? (Divide the amount in the buffer account by the amount you’d transfer out of it each month.) Can you reduce or eliminate some expenses temporarily until you’ve made up for the lost client?

If you and your spouse manage money together, make sure you let him or her know what’s going on. That way, you can both make whatever spending adjustments are necessary to keep your finances afloat.

Try to make ends meet using your income and savings rather than relying on credit cards or loans to fill the gap. You risk getting into debt if you charge more than you can afford to pay back right away.

If times get desperate, consider selling some valuable household items or borrowing money from a friend or family member. Hopefully, it won’t take long to replace the lost client.

No single client should account for too much of your freelance income, definitely not all your income, because losing that client is devastating for your finances. I admit, it’s sometimes hard to keep it that way, especially when a client comes along with a long-term project that takes up 60% to 70% of your time. You only have so much capacity. Still, never put all your proverbial eggs in one basket. Remember that realize that clients can leave at any time.

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LaToya Irby is a full-time freelance writer and a graduate of the University of Alabama. She primarily writes about personal finance, freelancing, and other self-employment topics.

3 thoughts on “Losing a Big Client”

  1. I hear ya about losing a big client. Sometimes, it’s for the best. I recently went through a contract loss, but I learned ‘life lessons’ from it such as setting stronger client boundaries, making sure deadlines dates are in my contracts (when necessary) and other lessons. It sucks but you get over it. Stay strong!

  2. Devastated…angry…just part of the business. You’ve absolutely nailed it, LaToya! It’s a lot shorter than the Kübler-Ross “5 stages of grief,” and the sooner a freelancer can come to terms with it, the better.

    Your final point is so, so important. You can’t control WHY clients leave (in the past 3 years, I’ve had several five-figure clients go bankrupt, get budgets slashed, hire internal people for less, or just simply disappear). But you can install an insurance plan, of sorts, by diversifying the types, sizes, and industries of companies you work with. That’s also a benefit from our side — freeing us up to fire even a relatively lucrative client if they become a pain in the you-know-what. 🙂

    Good stuff!

  3. LaToya, One of the difficult aspects of losing a client is that you usually have no clue before it happens. When you work in an office, you hear the gossip and you see when the boss’s door is closed for a confidential meeting.

    Not the case with freelance. I’ve called a past client to get going on the next issue of a recurring newsletter only to find that my contact person hasn’t worked there for weeks.




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