Being dropped by a client is never fun but it’s something all freelancers find they have to get used to. Flexible workers often don’t make it through the first round of budget cuts when money is tight for a client. One of the reasons people choose freelancers is because of this flexibility and because they’re often cheaper than hiring permanent workers.
Here are some common signs that a client is about to drop you and what you can do to prepare:
Are clients regularly forgetting to pay you when they didn’t in the past? If clients turn into regular late payers, it can either mean that they are having cash flow problems or you’ve fallen down their list of priorities. If either is true, it could only be a matter of time before they cut you loose.
However, you still need to be paid and on time so your own cash flow doesn’t run into problems. It’s important that you stand your ground and insist on prompt payment and don’t complete any new work until you’re paid.
Having a late payment fee is also a good deterrent and a way to get some compensation for your wait.
Long term, a late payer is probably not an ideal client to have anyway. While losing a client may sting, it frees up your time to find one who can pay on time.
They’re impossible to please
Do they keep coming back with more edits and requests, nit-picking where they never used to. This could be a sign that they’re moving towards going without a freelancer or that they think they can find someone else more suitable.
Others may try to get more work out of you through complaints to get more for their time and money. In this case, you need to be firm about what your fee does and does not include. Many freelancers are afraid to have these boundaries because they think the client will go elsewhere.
However, if the work you’re doing isn’t worth the money you’re getting, perhaps your time would be better spent elsewhere.
You’re not on the same page
Following on from the previous point, lots of complaints may signal that you’re no longer on the same page.
Sometimes aims and needs change and this leads to clients dropping their freelancers. This is often down to a lack of communication so this is the first step to resolving the issue. Try putting your cards on the table and having a frank discussion of what the client wants now and whether you’re the person to provide it.
Maybe they’ve hired or are advertising for a permanent position doing the very thing you provide for them. While it could be that they’re busier now, it could also signal that they’re about to replace you with someone in-house.
There’s not a lot you can really do about this one, except highlight how your skills have contributed to their success. If things are busy now, it may mean they pick things up in the future when their new hire is at full capacity. It might be worth checking back in 6 months if they drop you for this reason.
What can you do?
In some cases you’ll be able to re-pitch your services and open up a dialogue that makes the business relationship more productive and in line with what both of you expect from one another.
Many problems between client and freelancer are due to crossed wires that come from working remotely. A face-to-face meeting may help either in person or over Skype to give the working relationship a much needed reset.
If the problems are unavoidable and can’t be worked out, then it’s best to let things lie. In this case it’s important to keep things friendly and professional. You may still be able to get testimonials, referrals or even come back to work for them in the future if possible.
Have you had a client drop out? How did you deal with it? Please share your thoughts or experiences in the comments.