Moonlighting Entrepreneur: How To Lose A Client Gracefully

by Trish

As a moonlighter, you’ll need to either learn to let clients go their own way or to actively fire them when they aren’t a good match for your services. Fire is a harsh word, thus, I think losing a client works in both cases.

1. If you don’t know what you can do for the client, lose the client. In writing, especially with the new and varying forms of writing (social media, Web 2.0) going around these days, sometimes you may have that initial spark when you agree to take on a client, but then the farther you go into the project, you realize you’re not really sure exactly how you can do it. It’s honest to say it, but you want your client to see you as a professional. Refer them out to someone else. You’ve met other folks around (if you’re using social media) and it wouldn’t hurt to say “I think you’d be better served by someone else who has a firmer grasp of this topic using social media (or whatever); let me get you a list of names you could call.” Sure, in this economy, many moonlighting entrepreneurs are less inclined to admit this. Consider the next point.

2. If you aren’t engaged or interested in the work, lose the client. If you don’t know what you’re doing or you just don’t care, let it go. It is not fair to your client to continue pretending to be all gung ho about their project when you really wouldn’t care if it succeeded or failed. It’s a key element in this rebuilding year; successful projects will have more success if the team truly believes in it. Of course, if you need the client to pay your bills, you wouldn’t breathe a word of this, but really think about what kind of clients you want and what you’re passionate about. If you find yourself having to keep propping yourself up just to discuss the project, why are you still working on it?

3. If you can’t do the project justice, lose the client.
Then there are the situations in which it is obvious to you that you can’t help that person with their project. Don’t attempt it then! I admit, there is a slight learning curve to projects and a very wise person once told me that it takes three projects to find out how a client handles their project management, so if you really want to, hang in there for three projects. But then if it still isn’t sticking (and I’m sure if it isn’t, the client will learn this a ways before three projects have completed), let it go. I’m not saying you can’t come back later and attempt it (freelancing is a tough market for second tries, especially with the same company, but you could definitely try that level again with a new company later). Give yourself time and don’t stress. There is a learning curve to every career.

Finally, I would encourage moonlighting entrepreneurs not to be afraid of any project. You don’t know until you try. I’ve attempted things I had no experience in, but that I had a passion for. Or I took on projects I knew how to do, but had no passion for. All of those I either learned to lose or I kept doing until I was miserable. It’s up to you how to work it, but don’t be afraid to lose projects. It’s not you, it’s how the business works.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Henry Baker June 17, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Great article.

I’d add one more…

If the client takes up an in-ordinate amount of time or is constantly ‘needy’/’unhappy’, fire them.

These time suckers are one of your worst enemies.

Best rgds, Henry Baker.

Priyanka D June 18, 2009 at 1:23 am

Thats a sensible article! definitely no point sticking around with a client when you feel the gains of it are less than the losses.

admin June 18, 2009 at 8:14 am

Henry, excellent addition. That sucks the passion or interest right out of the project for me. I tend to like projects that move quickly or smoothly and when I have to redo pieces, I get grumpy.

Thanks for your comment. It is an excellent addition.

admin June 18, 2009 at 8:15 am


But in this economy, it’s a tough one to figure out. I see a lot of moonlighters taking on work to help pay the bills. I worry about burnout later on this year and into next.

Thanks for commenting.

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