What Do I Do If I Suddenly Lose All My Clients?

Freelance writing comes with its risks, especially if you’re doing it full-time. The worst thing that can ever happen to you, though, is to lose every single client at the same time.

It’s rare, but it does happen, and trust me when I say you never want it to happen to you.

What Do I Do If I Suddenly Lose All My Clients?

Freelance writing comes with its risks, especially if you’re doing it full-time.

But what do you do if this does actually happens to you, and more importantly, how do you prevent this for ever happening to you?

I Lost Them! What Do I Do?

Okay, you’ve just lost most of your income sources in quick succession. It’s fine; don’t panic. But you gotta move fast to lessen the damage, so do the following:

  1. Assess your savings and see if they can support you for the next two months (maybe more). Depending on how good it’s looking, you can either ignore or follow through with #2.
  2. Cut down on expenses right now. Basically everything you don’t absolutely need, stop paying for it.
  3. Start cold emailing potential clients as soon as possible, trying to send out as many as you can each day.
  4. Email old clients and ask if they need any work done, or if they know of anybody looking for your talents. Yeah, it’s time to call in any favors you may have.

The whole reason you need to absolutely wreck yourself with emails is because I believe there’s a two-week rule of thumb with “project acquisition”, meaning the time it takes from the sending of the cold email to actual payment for an accepted/completed project.

This is assuming your cold emails are successful and assuming you only do small writing projects, like blog posts that are quick to complete. If it’s a copywriting gig, you’re looking at a lot longer time period.

Because your clients have flown the coop, you’re looking at easily more than two weeks without any income, which is why you need to get work flowing again as soon as possible.

But don’t worry – you got this! Just follow those four steps and you’ll be back on top in no time.

How Do I Prevent This?

This is what you’ve gotta do if you never want to this happen again, or just simply ever.

The whole problem with freelance writing and freelancing in general is our income is uneven. It comes in fits and starts, and only if we can keep the flow of work going, which brings up step 1:

1. Never Stop Marketing

If you’ve got more work than you can handle right now, or a few cushy clients you’ve had for a while, it does not mean you stop marketing. It’s inevitable that one day that work is going to disappear, leaving you up sh*t creek without a paddle if you’ve got no other work.

Keep sending out cold emails and hunting for more work. If you happen to interest some people but have too much on your plate, then either outsource it or refer it to someone else. It is always better to have too much work, than too little.

2. Bring Up a Retainer Agreement

If you have clients who frequently use your services and always do this through individual projects and payments, it’s an ideal opportunity to bring up being put on retainer.

Being put on retainer means getting paid one lump sum each month and in return you do whatever work they request of you (to a limit). For a freelance blogger like myself it would look something like this:

Each blog post costs your client $90, but instead of them paying you four times a month they simply pay you the full amount at the beginning of the month and you do the work when needed.

This is a very basic example, but it’s essentially what retainer agreements look like for writers. This helps ensure you have more money from the start, protecting your interests if they decide to cancel a blog post or stop using you entirely.

3. Create and Maintain an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is quickly becoming popular among freelancers, and there’s no question why – it has the power to get you out of a bind incredibly quickly.

What an emergency fund is is a savings account you deposit into each month with the express purpose of being used to fill an emergency income gap. If you earned only $2,000 but need $3,000 to pay the bills, then you take the required amount from your emergency fund.

Easy peasy.

It can also be an absolute lifesaver if the situation we discussed above ever happens – rather than stress and struggle for work, you now have a buffer of money that will allow you to build your business back up without worrying where the rent will come from.

I wrote a detailed post on emergency funds, which you can read here: Irregular Income? Here’s How to Prevent Serious Money Problems.

But Don’t Worry

because something like this will probably never happen to you if you’re always out marketing yourself. An emergency fund is a good idea, but if you play your cards right, you’ll never actually have to use it much.

And retainer agreements just rock in general.

However, if you are going through something like this right now then the most important thing you can do is to not panic. You got yourself into this business and so I’ve got all the faith in the world you can pick yourself up again.

You just have to email the living hell out of every company in the country!

Damien du Preez is a freelance writer. He operates out of Cape Town, South Africa and you can follow him on Twitter as @DamienJDP for some sage wisdom and plenty of swearing.

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Great post, thansk for the insight. I lost nearly all my regular clients over the last 6 months. Some relocated out of state, and I got lost in the jumble. Some took their needs in-house, some losses I have never been able to figure out. My cold lead lists are exhausted, my warm lead lists have been run through, and all previous clients have been contacted within the last week with no results. In my opinion, I made the grave mistake of slowing down promotions while on a very involved, full time month long gig. Pair that with the unfortunate coincidence of losing all my regulars, and your in the weeds.Reply to Jacob
Very timely article. I literally lost half of my clients over the last 4 weeks—it’s almost like they all got together and decided to drop at the same time. It was extremely scary and strange. They dropped because of budget cuts or brining content creation in-house. I am still pretty much afraid of my inbox and who is going to drop next, but the good news is that the remainder of my clients are under contract so I am confident they are not going anywhere. However, it’s still lost income. Part of what helped make up for the loss is that I had pending proposal with an existing client. It has been under review for a month or so and just when things couldn’t seem to get much worse, the proposal was accepted just yesterday. I also reached out to 2 other existing clients asking for more work and they sent some my way. I find it interesting that you believe that cold emailing has a project acquisition of 2 weeks. In my experience it has been 4 to 6 weeks. I’ve only had luck with a 2-week turnaround time when I’m directly applying for gigs. But either way, things are already starting to look up again. Can’t stress enough how important it is to be persistent and stay in touch with your contacts—always try to have something moving through the pipeline! 🙂Reply to Amanda
Damien du Preez Sorry for the late reply, Amanda! I’m very sorry to hear about your lost clients. That sucks! But kudos to you for keeping some clients under contract as well as keeping your pipeline full. I’m sure that stopped a crisis from turning into a full-blown catastrophe! I’m glad to hear you’re working hard to earn back your lost income – the only way to react in a situation like that is to freak out for a bit, regain your calm, and put in a lot of hard work. Yay for you! Oh, and I probably should have made it clear that the 2-week acquisition was a purely personal experience. It’s so quick because I normally a) pitch companies with blogs, b) make sure they could use the content before pitching, c) include a list of topics in the blog, and d) mainly work with startups who happen to be quite hands-on and fast. I hope that helped explain it. Keep up the persistence, you damn rockstar!Reply to Damien