Eventually, it happens to all of us. An important client—and a significant part of your income—changes direction, reduces your hours, replaces you, or even closes her virtual doors.
And you’re left with a drastic change in your cash flow and income projection.
It happened to me last month, and it cost us about 15% of our income. Ouch!
I’ll admit, I had a bit of a pity party at first. I whined to my husband. I entertained fantasies of just giving up and getting a damn job. I ate cake for breakfast. (Ok, that may have more to do with my love of cake than losing a client. Whatever. This isn’t a diet blog.)
When I was done feeling sorry for myself, I got to work to fill that gap in my schedule.
1. Hit the phones. Follow up on all those projects you didn’t take the time to pursue before. I keep a list of potential clients I can turn to when I have an opening in my schedule. These are people who have expressed an interest in working with me, but for some reason we just never connected.
If you have such a list (and you should) now is the time to reach out. Remind them what you discussed in the past, and find out if now is a good time to get started.
2. Make an exclusive offer. Send an email announcing a rare opening in your schedule. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty well booked. It’s not common for me to have available hours, so when I do, I like to send an email to my list letting them know that now is the time to talk about how I can help.
One important word of caution: Do not sound desperate. Don’t open by saying your car is broken down and your rent is due and your kids are eating ramen for dinner every day this week. Those things might be true (I hope not) but sharing them will hurt your image, and will likely not result in new clients.
3. Ask for referrals. Ask your clients if they know of anyone who needs help. If the client you lost has left on good terms, start there. But be sure to reach out to your other clients as well.
4. Beef up your marketing materials. You’ve got a little extra time on your hands, so why not use it to make some improvements? When is the last time you blogged? Is your Facebook page looking abandoned? What about your opt-in incentive? Have you neglected your mailing list?
While you should be spending time each and every week on marketing your business, we all know that when we’re busy, this is the first thing that gets pushed aside (I’m as guilty of this as anyone, so no judgement here). Now that you have some time, put it to good use.
It’s time to plant some seeds, because these are the things that will help prevent holes in your schedule down the road. Blogging today will probably not result in a new client tomorrow, but it will help keep the funnel full, and that will result in new clients down the road.
5. Let current clients know you have some extra time for them. You never know (but maybe you do) what other projects they have on the back burner. With your new availability, they can finally move forward.
Finally, build a business that isn’t vulnerable to a single client’s cash flow. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
When I started my business, a few friends thought I should find one or maybe two clients who could keep me busy full time. While this sounds great from a scheduling point of view, it’s a financial disaster in the making. What happens when one of your two clients goes away? After all, nothing lasts forever, and you could find yourself suddenly earning 50% less.
Instead, build a portfolio of at least a few smaller clients. It can be more challenging to keep up with multiple projects, but you’ll be much more financially secure if you do.