How Much Does Losing a Client Cost a Freelance Writer?

When You Lose a Client

Have you ever taken the time to look back at your former client list and think about the question, “How much does losing a client cost a freelance writer?” If you are looking at only the lost income that you will need to replace, you are missing the point. There are also hidden costs associated with losing a client that have an impact on your business.

In a perfect freelance writing world, all of our clients would be long-term ones and once we built up our business to the level where we were as busy as we wanted to be, we could stop thinking about whether we are spending too much time marketing and spend all of it focused solely on writing. Did I mention that the aforementioned long-term clients would have steady work that would spread out neatly over the course of the month, would pay in advance (or at the very latest within one hour of being billed), would never be in a bad mood and would lavish praise on us constantly to stroke our insecure writers’ egos enough that we would almost believe it.


We Aren’t Living in Pleasantville

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Now pull back out of your reverie and back to Real Life again. We all know that our lives are much different from the image of Pleasantville that I just painted. (Frankly, it would get a little bit boring after a while if everything ran completely smoothly and we were never challenged in any way.)

Here’s a rather common scenario among freelance writers (and you can see if this sounds familiar): You have a difficult client, or to put it more accurately, one that you find difficult to deal with.

For some reason, you have never quite felt as comfortable dealing with this person as some of your other clients. It could be a change in personnel, such as a new editor coming on board with an existing client that has thrown off your game, but you’re seeing more questions, requests for revisions or rewrites than you can remember in a long time and you are completely frustrated. Before you make a knee-jerk decision to fire the client, ask yourself the question,

How Much Does Losing a Client Cost a Freelance Writer?

  • Income Loss

If you decide to tell a business owner or an editor exactly what you think of them, you’re probably slamming the door shut on ever working with that company or that person again. You may also find it difficult to collect what is owed to you if you don’t conduct yourself in a professional manner if you leave in the middle of a project.

Potential Cash Flow Crunch While you Replace Lost Income

Another factor you need to consider is how much income a particular client represents to your monthly cash flow. Hopefully, you haven’t put all (or most) of your financial eggs in one basket so that one client represents the majority of your earnings. Losing any client, and the income associated with them, is going to sting, but hopefully won’t send your finances into a tailspin.

  • Downtime While you Increase Marketing Efforts to Replace Lost Income

Unless you have a waiting list of potential clients waiting to step up and fill in the recently-vacated spot in your schedule, you’re going to need to fill it. The time you were spending working on your former client’s project will now be spent on increased marketing efforts.

That isn’t billable time, but it is necessary to your business. If you were to keep track of the number of hours you spend looking for new gigs and multiply it by your minimum hourly rate, you would see how these non-billable hours add up and how much they factor in when we are talking about how much losing a client can cost a freelance writer.

  • Loss of Word of Mouth Advertising

Ending a relationship with a client too quickly or on bad terms means you will lose out on the possibility of referrals to other clients. People have long memories about two things: those who treated them especially well and those who they felt treated them badly.

How often have you been referred to new clients by people you have worked with in the past? These types of gigs aren’t mere gifts bestowed on you by a particularly benevolent Universe; they are the result of your hard work and the fact that you have given your existing clients exemplary service.

Don’t ever discount the importance of this type of marketing to your business. To have a client think enough of you to recommend you to others is a wonderful compliment. That level of confidence takes time to build; but like trust, it can be ruined in an instant if you don’t conduct yourself in a professional manner.

Only You Can Decide When the Cost of Losing a Client is Worth It

I would never advocate that a freelance writer put up with a client who is abusive or does something that is one of your personal deal breakers (and we all have them). What I am trying to suggest is that before you make a choice to end a professional relationship too quickly is that you step back and consider:

whether it can be repaired by discussing your concerns with the client
if the issue is really a matter of working styles or personalities, in which case you may just need to take a breath, do some extra meditation, and accept that is how the other person is (and a little tolerance is not such a bad thing)
If, after you have considered the matter fully and carefully, the professional relationship is so damaged that it can’t be repaired, you’ll have to decide on the best and most professional way to end it so that both parties can walk away with their dignity intact.

Here are some other online resources on the topic about ending a relationship with a client:

What to Do Before Firing a Client

Why you Should Never “Fire” a Client

7 Signs it’s Time to Let your Client Go

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