• Advice

What to do when a client "dumps" you

It will happen to every freelancer, at some point.

You’ve had a long and fruitful relationship with Client X. They like the work you do, and you like their regular paychecks.

Everything seems to go swimmingly, until one day, they unexpectedly lower the boom: they won’t be needing your services anymore.

It can sting, especially if you’re new to freelancing. It stings even more if Client X is a foundational client who stabilizes your overall income.

But how do you handle this inevitable calamity?

1. Breathe and walk away (if possible)

If you’ve recently been let go, remember that it’s important to resist a kneejerk response.

Have you been “dumped” by email? If so, take an hour or two to sit quietly and BREATHE.

Yes, it sounds simple and reductive, but breath is the foundation of life; it reminds us that despite any ups and downs, we still have hope with every inhale.

Once you’ve spent a little while processing the event, send a calm, brief, polite response acknowledging your dismissal.

DO NOT fire off a hasty return email; if possible, have a friend review it before you hit send.

If you’ve been informed by phone (or in person), keep it polite and cordial.

Remember that people all around the world are let go from every imaginable position, every day – you have not been targeted for some specialized torture.

Give yourself private space to feel whatever you feel – but opt towards patience, compassion, and friendliness in person.

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2. Keep it in perspective

I’ve taken pains to put quotation marks around “dumping” throughout this post.

That’s because odds are the reasons for your dismissal have NOTHING to do with you personally.

Freelancing is often, by its nature, an impermanent arrangement.

Just as you eventually outgrow most clients, they may move on from needing you.

THAT’S FINE! It’s a business relationship; take pains not to delve too deeply into the “whys” of most dismissals.

You may be dismissed for a whole range of reasons, fair and unfair: perhaps a new boss is cracking down on outside expenditures, or budgetary belts are tightening, or you unpleasantly remind a supervisor of an old girlfriend.

It’s beyond your control! Once the decision is made, there’s not much you can do about it beyond a little self-reflection.

If you feel like you’ve done a good job, accept that most things in life are transient, and try to move on. There are more opportunities and better clients in the world!

3. Be gracious

In the vast majority of cases, there is absolutely nothing to be gained in being fractious or resentful. Often, the decision had nothing to do with you – and acting like a pill will only breed trouble.

Be gracious; be understanding, reasonable, and thankful. It’s BOTH good karma and good business.

Most experienced freelancers can point to clients who after “dumping” them, eventually rehired them.

Being gracious doesn’t cost you much, and bridge-burning is a fleeting pleasure; take the side of the angels, and opt towards pleasantness.

After all, you and Client X had some good times – who says you can’t have ‘em again?

Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.