Dealing with a Setback
Recently, I abruptly lost two of my longest-serving clients in the same week — who accounted for around 40% of my monthly income. Both left quite suddenly, and although their reasons were understandable, they certainly weren’t two that I was expecting to disappear any time soon.
I went from plotting my next career move — Should I raise my hourly rate? Should I put the accelerator on that business idea of mine? — to wondering where my next pay cheque was going to come from, and how I could be going back to square one in terms of my (still young) freelance career.
At that point it’s quite easy to let doubt start creeping in and allow yourself to start questioning your own ability, and how you’re ever going to find more work to make up for such a loss of income. So, what did I do next?
Re-Assessing My Own Work
I immediately felt as if I had to take stock of my current situation. Firstly, I re-assessed the work I was doing for other clients. Having had the same batch of clients for around six months, which was my longest run up to this point with the same ones, there was the danger that I had become a little complacent in my work and wasn’t pushing myself as hard as I could.
The stuff I was doing wasn’t necessarily terrible, but it could have been better, and I’ll be the first to admit there were some weeks where I had taken my eye off the ball. This was extra dangerous in my field of social media, which in my experience is still viewed with suspicion by some quarters, meaning it’s sometimes necessary to go the extra yard to create better content, reach more people and generate more traffic to convince people of its worth.
I set about brainstorming new content ideas, new ways to market the different companies I was working with and noted down one or two areas of concern that I felt we could improve upon. It was the first time in too long that I had done something like this, and it was only this sudden loss of income that had prompted me to do it.
Naturally, my thoughts also wandered to how I was going to find some more clients. Having had a stable base for some time now, I hadn’t worried about how I was marketing myself online, as quite honestly that was the least of my worries. I had enough work, I had enough time to pursue my other work-related and non-work-related interests, so why would I continue to look for more clients?
But now my hand had been forced, it was again an opportunity to re-assess my personal marketing efforts. I dug into the analytics for my website and saw nobody was arriving from Google searches. Why? Because I had done next to no work on SEO. My referrals from LinkedIn were well down. Why? Because I had barely posted on there in the last few months. I was living in Spain, but didn’t have a Spanish version of my website. Why? Because I had never got round to translating it.
I set about properly optimising my website and began the battle towards page one of Google search results. I got on LinkedIn, drafted new blog ideas and made some new connections. I researched networking opportunities in my local area and started attending them. I even translated my whole blinkin’ website into Spanish.
…are the two words probably running through your head right now. But bear with me. I learnt some important lessons from this setback that I think other freelancers could learn from.
It shouldn’t take a situation like this to re-assess your current work situation. Is the work you’re doing for clients consistently at the standard you’ve set yourself? Are you doing everything you possibly can to ensure each and every client of yours is happy? Are you fully motivated each and every day? These are questions you should be asking yourself on a weekly basis.
Even if you have plenty of work on at the moment, that doesn’t mean you should stop looking for more or stop marketing yourself. Keep blogging, keep connecting, keep networking and keep checking the PageRank of your website.
Losing almost half of my monthly income out of the blue was a shock to the system, but doubling down on my work since then has meant that in the short-term, at least, I’ve managed to recover and not be facing a fairly bleak financial situation just yet. Now I’m doing more to market myself, I’m constantly judging my own work to see if I would be happy with it as a client, and I’m connecting and networking far more than I used to. I can now say with confidence that I’m consistently putting 100% into maintaining my standard of work.
The question is: when was the last time you did a self-assessment like this? If so, do you do it regularly? If not, it could be the most valuable piece of work you’ve done for a long time.