Nothing can feel worse than losing a client. It feels like a personal attack. It makes you question everything you thought was true about yourself and your business. But, the truth is you can bounce back if you know what to do when you lose a client. Don’t think it won’t ever happen to you. It will happen if you’re in business long enough, and it doesn’t even have to be your fault.
Check in One More Time
Before accepting that the client is really leaving you, you want to get on the phone and check in with them to ensure that there hasn’t been a misunderstanding. If you keep your tone light and friendly, they won’t get defensive. Just let them know that if they can answer your questions, it will help you be better in your business.
If the client is willing to tell the truth about why they are leaving, and it is something you’ve done, you can take this opportunity to fix it. You might actually keep the client. Even if you lose them, at least you tried.
Put Your Grown-Up Panties On
It’s tempting to act out in a bad way. You’ve likely heard horror stories about business owners who reacted badly to losing a client. The web designer who refuses to hand over the passwords, or claims they have a right to keep the domain name since they bought it, and a lot of other nasty shenanigans. You don’t want to end on this note.
Be Helpful Not Obstructive
When you are informed that your client is moving on to someone else, instead of reacting badly, try reacting kindly. Send them all their passwords as well as all the information that they need to transfer the work to the new provider. Along with that, write a letter explaining that you’re sorry the client feels the need to leave, but you’re there for them and the new provider to help with the transition.
Don’t Burn Bridges
If you knew that there is a chance that a client will come back to you, would you react the same as you’re thinking of reacting? No. So, pretend that you know this client will come knocking on your door within 30 to 90 days and set the road to making that possible by not burning bridges. No matter how rude the client acts when leaving, or why they chose to leave, you can avoid bridge burning by responding well.
Leave the Door Open
In your response letter, and in your actions, assure the client that your door is always open for them to return. Even if there is a small possibility that you’ll be booked when they come calling, act as if you will be free. You want them to feel as if you’re going to be there when and if they come back. The reason is when a client leaves even though your work has been good, it’s usually about money. If you haven’t cut your prices for them, the new provider likely did. There is a chance that new provider will not provide services good enough to truly replace you and there’s also been a few times when the client came back and used me in a new role – so keep the door open to new opportunities.
Prepare in Advance
Losing a client is especially hard if they were an anchor client. It’s best to avoid anchor clients if at all possible. This is a client who pays you the bulk of your income. When you accept a high-paying client, it’s better to immediately start working to find another client. This may seem strange if you’re booked, but you never want one client to make up more than 1/4 of your income. If you’re prepared by always keeping each client lower than a quarter of your income, you won’t be so frightened when a client leaves.
It’s Not Personal
When you’re a freelancer, business feels personal. After all, you have to feed your family, spend time away from your family, and you likely pour all your heart and soul into the business. Losing a client feels very personal. But, think of the times you’ve switched service providers for telephone service or cable service. Did you feel as if you were hurting someone? No, of course not – nor does the client who is leaving you. They are simply making what they feel is a good business choice.
Contact Your List
If you’ve continued marketing for more business even when you were filled up, you should have a good list of prospects built up that you can now announce the opening to. Don’t wait until your notice is up from the client who is leaving. The day you get it, send a message to your list about your rare opening or your “expansion” so that you can fill the spot immediately. You’ll find that the sooner you fill the spot, the better you feel.
Finally, take this time to contact all your existing clients and ask them for an appointment to do a review of your services and work. Offering a yearly review to your clients gives them an opportunity to give feedback than can help you provide better service, find new ways to make your clients happy, and possibly prevent losing more clients.