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When Your Income Goes South

writing income decreaseEarly last week a client canceled a major contract with me. I’m still fuzzy on exactly what went wrong, but things do in freelancing. Since I usually work with individuals rather than corporations my contracts include a cancellation clause allowing either party to cancel with 14 days written notice. This is the very first time a client has fired me without any prior indication of trouble. And I mean no warning at all.


Well, that’s not quite true. The day before I got the official letter from my now ex client I’d been a party to a tearful conversation that I’d had to leave in order to meet with another client. I thought we’d agreed on… oh heck, it doesn’t matter what I thought.

The other client, who has been a client and a friend of mine for years, put me on a small retainer so we can again get some writing work. And I thought we were just having coffee.

Later in the week someone I didn’t know called out of the blue and hired me as a coach. Another finalized a coaching contract and yet another client from the passed asked if I could begin coaching her again in January. Finally yet another client from the passed wants me to do some work.

These new and old clients don’t totally make up the lost income, but when I added it all up and created a new spending plan I was pleasantly surprised.


Then I got really honest with myself. For much of this year I’ve been wanting to change directions. I’ve wanted to do less ghostwriting and more of my own writing, probably in blog form. And of course, a re-issue of Powerfully Recovered! and work on the new book that’s rattling around in my head… you know, all those things we think we’d rather be doing.

Now I have the chance to do just that, the writing I’d rather be doing. How about that?

Life often turns out way better than I expect.

When have you been surprised and pleased by a sudden change?

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{ 17 comments… add one }
  • I can’t say that I do any of this yet, since I’m still only doing one job, but it’s in the back of my mind that it may not last forever.

    What I do right now in my day work life, especially in this shaky economy, is to try and keep my resume updated. I think of all the skills I’m either learning or have that are transferable so I don’t lock myself into the same job. I’m trying to figure out a plan to get out of where I am and away from the phone.

    Part of that plan is the time management thing, where I’m trying to get a handle on that so I can take on more freelance work. Maybe at some point I can transition to a part-time job, and I’ll have time to give writing more attention.
    Elizabeth West recently posted..Vocabulary: Kickin’ Letter KMy Profile

  • Randie

    I honestly had to read your post twice to make sure I was, in fact, reading it correctly…… and I was. You say in two different instances that “another client from the passed wants me to do some work” as well as “another client from the passed asked if I could begin coaching her again”. Normally, I would excuse one instance as a typo and continue reading the post. However, two times you use the word PASSED when the correct grammar should clearly be PAST. “Passed” means something totally different than “past” and makes this post look like you just didn’t proof it very well. Being upset about a client who let you go for no reason may have been affecting your concentration, but you should have put more effort into this post instead of just putting something sloppy together for the sake of putting something together. No offence, but I really didn’t get anything useful out of this post and that’s what I personally read this column for…to gain useful insight into the field of freelance writing.

  • What is it they say? When one door closes another one opens? In my experience this always happens – it’s just that you can’t always see the new door opening before the old one closes!
    I have learned not to panic when I lose a big client (I once lost three in one week – that was a bit of a strain admittedly, just bad timing I think). Every single time someone new shows up that I never could have guessed would be there. The most important thing is to stay positive and to keep doing what we do best – write! Nice post and very timely too.
    Allison recently posted..Are you ready for change in your writing career?My Profile

    • Anne

      Agreed Allison, and my coaching business is expanding nicely.

  • Randi Jenkins

    Anne, I’m sorry…maybe it’s me. I had so much trouble reading your sentence, “The day before I got the official letter from my now ex client I’d been a party to a tearful conversation that I’d had to leave in order to meet with another client. I thought we’d agreed on…”. Maybe it’s the sentence structure. Can you chop up this sentence so we understand what it means?

    Again, sorry if it’s me.

    • Anne

      The client showed up unexpectedly at my door in tears. I thought we’d agreed on how to wind down the contract. I left her to meet another client and the next day got a letter from her husband canceling the contract. When I asked about the verbal agreement he denied there was one. Does that make better sense sentence wise?

  • “Life often turns out way better than I expect.”

    So true, Anne. I’m glad things are working out for you anyway, & that you can enjoy that reality because you recognize it 🙂

    • Anne

      Life is good. That’s my experience. Love it.

  • I’m just now suffering the “going south” thing more fully as someone I’ve been writing for has actually lost one of his big contracts, and that’s the one I’ve been writing for. So here it is, holiday month, and income has dropped drastically. Have to keep a strong mindset and pick it back up, but man, I need to plan better for these types of things.
    Mitch recently posted..Don’t “Stink” Not Quite A RebuttalMy Profile

    • In theory, savings is the answer… at least it helps smooth income… commiserating with you Mitch.

  • While I was in San Diego, one of my major clients notified me that a quarterly project would not be continued in 2011 (after 2 years of working on it). I wasn’t terribly surprised and as they were one of my first clients, the project was terribly underpriced. I saw it as an opportunity to replace it with something better paying.

    It all works out. It’s all in how you view it. I know you will thrive, Anne. Keep us posted.
    Cathy Miller recently posted..A Simple Way to DisclosureMy Profile

    • Thriving is so much a state of mind isn’t it. Sorry you lost your contract… it’s probably for the best since it was under-priced… wishing you tons of well priced projects.

  • In my case, I made a painful decision to drop a big client I liked, but the volume of what they wanted I just could not deliver anymore. I was having to work too many hours and my body was really falling apart — getting carpal tunnel pains shooting up to my armpits.

    I was really worried about letting them go because my husband is transitioning to his own business and I’m feeding the family of five here! But much as Anne described, as soon as I let it go, other opportunities presented themselves. I pitched a few more stories to other existing clients, lined up some articles, took a look at what I have booked for December, and it was fine.

    We get comfy and used to our ongoing clients, but they change. It all keeps changing. The best we can do is trust that we have a valuable skill, and that client won’t be the only one to need it.
    Carol Tice recently posted..Freelance Writing Success Tips – How to Get Your Web Site Up NOWMy Profile

  • It happens to the best of us, Anne! Just three weeks ago, I had a minister who signed a contract and he wouldn’t even pay me what he owed. He handed me $40, when he owed $160.

    He thought I was going to simply type his manuscript and leave in all his grammatical errors.

    Then he and his wife had the nerve to ask me if I am retired. At 48? Are you kidding me? I thought I’d already made it clear that I am a professional writer. I’ve written for the St. Pete Times, for Pete’s sake.

    I can’t believe how clueless this man was. I guess he figures if you’re doing the Lord’s work, you shouldn’t need any pay.

  • I had a similar experience a few weeks ago. My biggest client canceled, then one of my oldest clients totally changed her business and also canceled. But the very next week, three new projects popped up. As in your case, the new projects don’t completely make up for the lost income, but they do give me a good start. Whew!

    Good luck on your book and with your coaching and blogging. Doors are opening!

    • Let’s keep each other posted… love the name, smilingtree.

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