As a freelancer, I live in a state of scarcity, as do many other self-employed people. Although I love this type of work and the freedom it gives me, I’ll be the first to admit that it comes with an underlying worry; worry that you will suddenly lose all of your clients, worry that you will not earn enough to pay rent for the month, and worry that the job you have chosen just isn’t working. Catastrophising much?
I felt this way the entire first year of my freelance career, but over the last 12 months or so I began to earn more money, and eventually overtook what I was earning in my previous full-time role, give or take depending on the month. This is not to say that I am one of those 6-figure entrepreneurs jetting off first class every weekend. Far, far from it. I still like my ramen noodles, don’t worry. What I mean to say is that I am now comfortable, and therefore somewhat more content than I was initially as a freelancer.
… but let’s switch gears for a second.
The universe did not have my back today
I’m about to let you in on the true nature of being a freelancer. When I began writing this post it was actually going to be about general freelancer burnout, but as fate would have it, while writing the above section on learning to feel comfortable with your money situation, I received an email from a client asking to postpone my services for several months while they work out some details. Just like that, one of my main clients (*ahem* main sources of income) is gone, and I had to continue with the work day like it’s no big deal.
Call it the law of attraction, or call it a slap in the face from the universe. Whether you believe it or not, I swear that this email came in WHILE I WAS WRITING THIS. What luck. Of course, I had to change the title of this post, as I didn’t want to let an opportunity to share this experience with others slip by. I know this must be something we all have to tackle at one time or another.
Think of the positives
Luckily, I’m not in a dire position where I have to worry too much, and I’m well aware that there are many freelancers who live month-by-month, and for whom this would prove to be a much tougher blow, but nevertheless, it’s a bit… well… just, poo, isn’t it? A huge bummer, really. I quickly had to think of the positives though, and I did come up with a few straight away:
- I’m already working way too much (hence the aforementioned abandoned post on burnout), so despite this large chunk of monthly income fizzling away like candy floss, it does leave me with a heck of a lot more free time to give to the clients who have been asking me for more time, but that I haven’t been able to offer it to.
- Secondly, I could do with a brand refresh, so some time off from the treadmill of content I was producing for this particular client will be a good thing, allowing me to research more ideas, and update my perspective on the brand. Assuming they do eventually take me back (like an ex you don’t realise you miss until they’re gone… I hope), then I should be able to provide even better creative work than before.
- And thirdly, it frees up space in my brain. Not only does each client take up a certain amount of time, they also take up a chunk of mental energy, so I have to appreciate the breathing space this will give me for a few months. Realising these things and keeping them in mind has been hugely beneficial, and will continue to be when this situation arises again in the future, which it undoubtedly will at some point.
As a side note, also much like a breakup, the day this email came to me was the same day another client sent me to create content at a make-your-own ice cream bar, so I have legitimately turned into an American rom-com character drowning my sorrows in copious amounts of ice cream and toppings. Woe is me.
It’s all going to be OK
If you’re going through a similar client breakup, then all I can leave you with is this; you might have to cut back on the additional pain au chocolat with your coffee for a while, but at the end of the day, I’m assuming you’re not really doing this for the money. You do this for the freedom and flexibility it provides, so when the universe comes and takes back that well-paid job you thought you’d secured, remember that it can’t take away your ability to go work in your favourite cafe, or take a Wednesday afternoon off to watch a movie that’s just started playing in the cinema, or switch things up with a project that’s completely different every so often, just ’cause you feel like it.
As you cry into your ice cream and replay an internal montage of the good times with your client (that phone call, that Skype meeting, that time you went in for a hug while they went for a shake… memories!) just remember that there are plenty more fish in the sea, and it’s simply time to get back to networking, pitching, and finding your next client. You never know what might come along to fill the gap.
If you’re struggling with losing clients at the moment, I feel you! Get in touch with me over on Instagram at @desklifeproject and let’s talk it out. I’ll bring the ice cream.