As an entrepreneur, it can hurt your business (and your feelings) if you lose your biggest client. Although it may seem like the end of the world, there are ways to gain control and bounce back.
This happened to me and several other freelancers in the beginning of January. Two companies decided to restructure and stopped hiring freelancers. Although it had nothing to do with the quality of our work, it still represented thousands of dollars of lost income.
Here’s what I learned from that experience:
Know It’s Okay To Be Upset
When you lose your biggest client, you may want to take action right away and fix the issue. You need to realize that it’s okay to take some time and be upset or cry. Don’t worry about bottling it in, because it is a huge change. Take a little time to start working through your anxiety and then you can make decisions with a clear head.
Although you can be upset, try not to stay upset forever. In the end, you’ll do more damage than good. Take a day, or maybe a few, but make a plan to get back to work as soon as possible. I know for me, losing two large clients didn’t give me much time to be upset. I had to immediately find work to replace it since I have two little kiddos to feed!
Start Contacting Your Current Clients
The first thing to do after you’ve had some time to be upset is to contact you current clients and ask if there is anything you can help them with. You never know, they may have a project or two that could use your expertise.
If they don’t have big projects going on, you can still remind them of other services you offer that they aren’t using. For example, if they use you for social media marketing but they can’t keep up with their emails, offer your email marketing expertise and see where it leads. You could even send over your hire me or services page for them to view again. Even if they don’t take you up on your offer right away, they may keep you in mind if the need arises, which means more business for you.
I was able to reach out to clients who I wrote for a year before and ask them to re-hire me. I stopped working for them for a variety of reasons, and many of them were happy to have me back.
Offer Referral Incentives
Maybe your current clients don’t need a lot of extra help, but they may know a few people that do. Offering referral incentives (like a free hour of work or discounted package for a month) could mean that you gain a new client just because of a working relationship.
Ask your current clients if they know anyone else who may need assistance with their small business. You never know who may need the help. Just because you lose your biggest client, doesn’t mean you can’t gain a few new ones, even if they have smaller budgets.
Contact Your Network
Once you’ve reached out to your current clients, try touching base with your network. Whether this be close friends or family, or even old colleagues, you can ask them if they have any work that you could complete, or if they have anyone in mind in need of your services.
Sometimes, all it takes is asking around! If your network doesn’t have anything right away, tell them you can follow up, and remember to do so. You could always create a spreadsheet to help you organize your follow ups if you want.
Make sure that your network knows what you do, how much you charge, and who your ideal client is. That way, they can easily refer you and give your information to someone who may need to use you.
I was able to get a very high paying writing job due the referral from a friend, and I made sure to send her a little commission when I got my first payment from them as a thank you.
When you lose your biggest client, you are most likely losing quite a bit of your income too. To help keep your money longer, try to lower your personal and business expenses as much as possible. You may have to shop your pantry for a little bit or use a cheaper bookkeeping system to help cut costs.
If you pay for something that isn’t necessary, cut it out! For example, I realized I was paying for two different social media scheduling tools but only using one. Plus, if you are working like crazy to gain new clients, you most likely won’t need cable in your house or nights out with your friends.
It’s important to remember that these cuts won’t have to last forever. Once you’ve replaced the lost income and feel comfortable again, you can always go back to your old budget.
If you’ve reached out to current clients and your network, but you still need to add more clientele to your roster, try cold pitching! Another great reason to use a spreadsheet is to cold pitch to small business owners and websites that you admire and want to work for.
Depending on the services you offer, your cold pitch emails may look different for each person or business, but there is a way to make it easier. You can create templates, and then fill in the information as you see fit. Not only will this save you time, but it still allows you to be personable and show your enthusiasm for working with someone.
Again, remember to keep track of who you pitch to. This will help you remember to follow up if you don’t hear back right away.
Update Your Services
Now that you have started cold pitching and reaching out to clients and your network, it’s important to keep your services updated! If you have gained experience, taken classes or courses, or even added a new service that other clients love, make sure to mention it on your online portfolio, on your website or blog, and even on social media.
Keeping your services updated will allow you to market yourself and the different options that you have for work. This will also allow you to talk about more than just one thing that you can do, and you may reach new clients who are in need of your new skill set.
Ultimately, it’s hard when you lose your biggest client, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Using these tips and tricks to help you gain more clientele, replace lost income, and even give you the courage you need to go after bigger and better things.