Freelance Writing
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Freelance Writing

5 Reasons Freelance Writing Clients Can Disappear

All can be very uncertain in the life of a freelance writer. Here are some reasons why clients commonly leave.

Layoffs don’t just happen to employees. Know the reasons why they happen to freelance writers to prepare yourself for the wort. Image: Pixabay.

Freelance writing can be a shaky business.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned during my five years working as one is this: the most important time to market yourself is when you’re too busy to do so.

Better yet — don’t allow yourself to get to that point. Make sure there’s enough time in your workweek when you’re not working on client deliverables.

Why does pipeline development matter so much?

Because almost no business achieves perfect retention — and that certainly includes freelancers. Some churn is inevitable.

The adage that client acquisition costs more than retention bears true for freelancers too — so do everything in your power to keep the good customers on your book of business. But if you freelance for any length of time, you’re likely to find that finding new clients is a periodic fact of life.

To underscore why this is so, here are some reasons that clients vanish that I’m familiar with (the list is almost certainly incomplete).

Keep those pipelines full so that the next time a client reaches for the exit door, you won’t be left high and dry.

You Were Working On A Finite Lifespan Project

Personally, I think it’s always worth taking a few moments before committing to any project, as a freelance writer, to clarify expectations.

One question you should always be asking — if only sometimes to yourself — is “does this project have a shelf life?”

Put yourself in the client’s shoes for a moment and ask yourself why clients hire freelancer writers.

One reason is that freelance writers are expendable resources. They can be hired ad-hoc. Small businesses and those who are cost adverse don’t typically have to worry about committing to expensive monthly retainers when hiring them.

Don’t be caught off-guard.

If a client comprises a significant chunk of your income (and remember: that chunk should never be too significant) be on the watch for any signs that your project might be on the rocks.

What you can do:

Sound out questions to clarify what your client is thinking in terms of whether to continue using freelance resources. If they’re thinking about taking a project back in-house, it might be time to line up replacement options.

The Client Hires Your Job Away

Many freelance clients carefully weigh up the costs of using freelance resources against the cost of adding another (in house) team member to the roster.

Using freelancers in place of new hires is certainly generally cost-effective. For one, those hiring them don’t have to pay benefits. Nevertheless, there may come a tipping point at which a client decides that it’s more economical to bring on a new member to the team rather than continue using a freelance writer or a team of them.

During my time freelance writing, I’ve seen:

  • Companies decide to stop using freelancers altogether. The rationale for such a policy shift is often that organizations want the resources providing important functions to be more dependable and committed to the project.
  • Clients make new hires that render services previously provided by a freelance writer redundant.

Clients can also choose to subsume your job, as a freelance writer, into the workload of another resource, such as an in-house content writer.

What you can do:

Be wary of hiring sprees particularly for jobs that could replace whatever contribution you’re making as a freelance writer. This could signal that your contract is about to come to an end.

The Client Hates Your Work

Not every freelancer — client relationship is a match made in heaven.

If you freelance for any length of time, you’re likely to run into clients who seem to positively hate what you do or how you write.

Of course, in an ideal situation this would be avoided. Clients commonly ask to see writing samples in order to assess your style.

Nevertheless, you’re likely, during your freelance writing career, to come into contact with a client that stops liking your work.

Freelance writers will differ in their approach to how to handle these situations.

Some — like me — would argue that trying to please a seemingly implacable client is a waste of time and only likely to lead to stress and mental anguish. Others — especially those who can’t afford to tun away paying work — will advocate putting up with the client for the time being.

In any event, that decision is likely to be taken out of your hands at least once during your freelancing career. Clients sometimes fire writers. Other times they opt for the ghosting and stop sending work approach. Either way be prepared for it.

What you can do:

Regard any client who seems to have taken a strong disliking to your work as being on very thin ice. These accounts are in danger of ending at any moment. Consider lining up replacements.

Your Account Manager Was Fired / Changed Jobs

In an ideal world, when your account manager / point of contact changes jobs (or is fired) there would be a seamless handover to his/her replacement.

Unfortunately for us freelance writers, things don’t always work out so smoothly:

  • The handover may never happen. Consider particularly the case of a disgruntled employee who leaves on bad terms and deliberately sabotages the company by failing to pass on information and contacts. An outside scenario, yes. But it happens.
  • The new marketing manager may decide that he/she no longer wants to continue using freelance resources.
  • The new marketing manager wants to make an independent mark on the business and re-hires freelancers or transitions to using an agency in order to bring new life to the projects under his/her control.

What you can do:

Remember that companies are not under any obligation to continue using your services, particularly after a change of guard has happened. Nevertheless, if you wish to keep the client, do everything to ensure that the handover happens and make sure that the new account manager / content manager knows who you are and what you write about. Try to push for a meeting if possible to brief the new hire on what you can bring to the table.

A New Freelancer / Agency Poaches Your Work

Some clients that use freelance writers are cost-sensitive.

Here’s the thing about “price buyers” and why it’s generally good business sense to avoid them: if they hire you because you’re cheap, they’ll fire you the moment they can find somebody cheaper.

Freelance writing clients may vanish off the face of your book of business if:

  • They were approached by a freelance writer who claims to be able to provide the same service you offer for less money
  • They have decided to begin hiring freelance writers through marketplaces such as Upwork. These talent pools are generally cheaper for clients than working with individual freelancers.
  • They decide to work with an agency rather than a freelance writer. Alternatively, the agency might expand their scope of services and sweep up your work.

What you can do:

  • Don’t become complacent with long-term freelance writing clients. You’re only ever one decision away from losing a chunk of your business / income.
  • Assert your value and consider periodically finding tactful ways to remind clients of the value you’re bringing to the table.
  • Develop strong personal relationships with your clients so that you’re more than Freelancer X. Call it self-serving (it is!) but this is one reason why I advocate trying to push for in-person meetings for clients even when they’re not strictly necessary. By helping clients put a face to a name, you’re more than just a generic freelance writer.
  • Be unique. The more generic you are, the more replaceable you are. Specialize in an unusual niche or provide a mixture of services that clients would have a hard time finding elsewhere under one roof.

Living in fear of losing every client on your books isn’t the way to run a freelance writing business.

Nevertheless, it’s prudent to remember that there are many reasons — including the above — why your contracts might come to an end.

Some are entirely outside of your control and have nothing to do with your performance. Which means that even if you play your cards right and produce superlative work, your client could go out of business, pivot away from content marketing, or decide to stop using freelancers.

Consider the above tips to help mitigate some of the risk involved in running a freelance writing business and prepare for the unexpected.

The best and most effective way of keeping out of “trouble” — in my opinion — is developing a strong marketing pipeline that trickles down new leads periodically which you can convert into clients with a reasonable degree of effort. This will allow you to replace the clients who inevitably drift away.



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