Sometimes, losing a client can be a very good thing

This morning I was catching up via phone with a client who I hadn’t heard from in a while. She’s one of the people who faded away during the recession but has now bounced back and can afford to hire me for a writing project again. Since we’re in similar lines of work (she runs a PR and event management firm in Boston) we commiserated over what we’d been through with the recession and celebrated how things had turned around for both of us earlier this year.

During the chat, I mentioned that I was no longer doing work for a PR firm run by a mutual friend of ours, and that it has actually turned out to be a good thing that I lost this piece of business. While I was at first troubled to hear that this firm was no longer going to use freelancers like me, during the months since that decision was made, I have actually realized how much I did not enjoy the types of projects I did for them. But in retrospect, I really was burned out on writing media message guides and press kits for new product launches. It just took me about six months of not having to do that work for me to realize how much I did NOT miss it. I realized I had been doing the work just for the money and not for any professional satisfaction it gave me. How sad is that?!?!

So my message to you today is that sometimes what initially seems like really bad news, in this case losing a client I’d worked with for over 20 years, can turn out to be a blessing in disguise. I love my current crop of clients, and I am fairly certain that part of the reason I’ve attracted a number of new clients this year is that my mood is lighter and I project more excitement about my work. Instead of spending part of my time doing things I dreaded doing, I am now fully engaged in projects that are challenging and therefore professionally rewarding.

I previously wrote about how to know when it’s time to fire a client. But what I didn’t talk about in that post was what to do if you find yourself doing work that isn’t fulfilling. I would add that to the list of reasons why it might be time to decide to move on.

Advising someone to turn down business at a time when many small business people are still struggling may seem odd. And I don’t want to go all new-agey on you and talk about how when fate closes one door, another opens. But I think there is some truth in the advice about doing what you love and the money will follow. What you project to the world when you’re doing work you really love is completely different from what you put forth when you’re burned out or just plain bored with your work. So if you find yourself in the latter position, what are you going to do about it?  I suggest you don’t wait around for the client to fire you as I did. Take action. Put them in your rearview mirror and move on!


  1. I've often found that moving on is a good thing. I had been looking for a way to fire a client who had been with me 16 years and who was a complete and total energy vampire. I had tried jacking my prices way up, setting very specific limits on the work I'd do…didn't work. I finally found a specific behavior that went over the line and told him we were done. That was 13 years ago and I've never regretted it.

    And I had another situation where a very large client for whom I'd done a newsletter for 2-1/2 years brought that work in-house. That was a financial blow, at first, but I found that other clients filled the void, with work I enjoyed more. What was harder was when my longest-term steady client stopped doing his newsletter. I'd been reporting on his seminars for 14 years, and it was work I liked even though it paid less than most of the other work I was doing. But again, other work came in to fill the gap. And the client and I are still friends.

  2. JeanneYocum says:

    Shel, I think you and I are fortunate to have been at this long enough to know when it's time to call it quits with a client. And I'm glad your experience has been like mine…that something new and even better almost inevitably comes along.

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