Talk to your client when work dries up

Here’s something interesting about the freelance mentality. When all is going well, we feel on top of the world. Then, when work starts to decrease from a particular client, we get worried. Is our work really good enough? Have they found somebody better or cheaper than us? And, more importantly, should you ask the client whether something is wrong with your work?

Fear vs. Reality

I’m not a psychologist. What I can see, however, is that when I start worrying about a client project, it’s often fear that lies at the heart of my worries. And often that fear has no connection to the client or the situation itself.

Call your client when work decreases

I create fear in my own mind

Here are some things that I’m afraid of when work starts to decrease:

  • My work isn’t good enough – ie. I’m not a good freelancer.
  • I charged the client too much and they have started looking for cheaper freelancers.
  • I’m not a good sales person and somebody else has muscled their way into the project.
  • The list goes on – those are just the top 3 that came up in the last 20 seconds!

These thoughts can quickly spiral out of control and turn into more general anxiety:

  • How am I going to pay rent if I lose this client?
  • How am I going to get more work if I can’t hold on to this client?
  • Should I look at different ways to make money? Maybe get a full-time job?

What strikes me is this: All the client did was send me a little bit less work than usual. They didn’t complain about my work and there was no indication that they were hiring anybody else.

My own mind did the rest of the damage
and spiralled the entire situation WAY out of context!!!

Once so much anxiety and doubt has built up in my own mind, I start to question my own actions and abilities. It becomes very hard to contact the client, to know what to write to them or how to ask them about the situation.

The cure: pick up the phone

Call your client when work decreases

A phone call is less formal than an email

Although it might not look like it now, there is a very simple solution for when work starts to decrease from a client:

Pick up the phone and give them a call!

Now, you will want to ask them about the quality of your work, whether they have hired somebody else, whether they will ever send you more work. DON’T! That is your inner fear doing the talking.

And you probably want to send them an email instead, so that you can avoid a potential confrontation. This might seem like the easier option but you will need to be quite formal and specific in an email. You’ll also miss out on the opportunity to simply let them do the talking, which is the most powerful technique of all!

Instead, pick up the phone and ask your client how things are going. Then sit back and listen.

Hi Sarah, we haven’t spoken in a while. I just wanted to give you a call to see how things are going…

Your client may already give you the information you are after. They may also tell you about upcoming projects without being prompted. (That happens more often than you think!)

It’s often not even necessary but you can bring the discussion round to the decrease in freelance work very easily:

I noticed that there hasn’t been as much work coming through from you lately. Have there been any changes to the project?

If there really are problems with your work, this is a soft opening for your client to raise any objections. In all likelihood, they will give you a different explanation and you can move on from there. In any case, you will have taken positive action and resolved the situation one way or the other.

Armed with the above, pick up the phone and put the situation behind you once and for all. You deserve better than to worry about it any longer.

—– stop reading now, pick up the phone! —–

Or, as Steve Jobs would say:

Steve Jobs: Pick up the phone

Pick up the phone! (via azquotes.com)

A quick pep talk

Still nervous about taking action? Let me give you a quick pep talk:

This particular client situation has the potential of ruining your mood for the next few weeks. Depending on your personality, it could also send you into anxiety or depression.

Don’t give it that power!

A quick, one-minute phone call is all it takes to resolve the situation. You will feel 100% better afterwards, I can guarantee you! Even if the client hates your work (which is incredibly unlikely!!) you will still feel better for having taken action and knowing where you stand.

Actually, in the time it took you to read these few paragraphs you could have finished with the phone call already!

So go on, pull off the band-aid. You have the short script above to guide you. Pick up the phone and make that call!

Once you’re done, breathe a deep sigh of relief, pat yourself on the back! Celebrate your success, go and reward yourself for a job well done!


I’d better stop before this actionable tip turns into a full-blown motivational post! Share your experiences in the comments.