When you lose a freelance contract

What to do when you lose a freelance contract

 

It’s one of the hard and crunchy facts of being a freelancer that every freelance contract you have, you will also one day lose. freelancing cat

Nothing is secure in this economy, and our working world is changing all the time.

Recently with my media coaching clients we’ve been looking at how we worked in the last year, and how to apply the learnings from that in the upcoming year.

For me, over the last year, the reasons I lost freelance contracts include

  • The job came to a natural end (that’s fine)
  • It was only ever a limited contract to begin with (happy to be of service, maybe we’ll work together again in the future)
  • The company I was working for went out of business (that was a bummer, they owed me money)

There are many different reasons why your freelance contract might end

  • The company is cutting costs
  • The publication stops commissioning, or cuts rates below what’s acceptable to you
  • The person who hired you has left, and the new person wants to use their own people, of whom you aren’t one
  • You decide to leave – maybe you got a better offer or just knew it was time to move on

 

So what can we as freelancers learn from this?

First of all, no matter how secure your current freelance contract feels, never stop keeping your eyes open.

Even if you’re not actively looking for new work, be aware of how things are going in your industry – who’s hiring and who’s firing? What are the most up to date rates for the job? Is your LinkedIn profile up to date, preferably with a recommendation from your most recent client? Do you keep reasonably visible on social media, so people can find you if they need to? Are your skills as current as they could be?

One thing I have noticed, having coached media freelancers for over 15 years now, is that the people who are most successful are the ones who never stop looking for the next job. By that I mean, they don’t lose themselves in a contract to the extent that they have a big panic when that job stops.

Alternatively, the ‘wait until you’ve got no work on then pitch in a wild frenzied panic’ approach is still very popular with many freelancers. And if you find that works for you, and doesn’t overwhelm you with the worst kind of stress, then go for it.

The benefit of keeping on pitching when you have enough work on, is that you are coming from a place of success rather than panic, and this will naturally boost your confidence and make you more attractive to clients. And then you won’t have to take every little job that comes along if it’s not right for you or the rates are bad.

And losing a freelance contract is not necessarily the end of the road – sometimes it’s exactly what your career needs.

That’s the other thing I’ve noticed from coaching freelancers – whilst many people believe in the theory of As one door shuts, another will open, what they really want is for the new door to be open before the old door shuts. But this is not how life usually works. Losing a contract when you don’t know what’s coming next is undoubtedly scary, but not always to be feared.

I think it serves us freelancers better to believe in Leap and the net will appear. Trust that a new adventure is always coming, then open your arms to welcome it.

  • Good question Freya. Personally I find that work always expands to fill the amount of time available, so you probably can get it done even if it’s a temporarily tight squeeze. If you are pitching when you’re already busy then presumably it is a fantastic story you can’t ignore, so therefore it will be easier and more enjoyable to write than some boring slogfest. Otherwise why bother pitching?

    Alternatively, don’t pitch story ideas but do spend regular time on the stuff I’ve mentioned above, particularly social media. Always make sure you’re working ‘on’ your business as well as ‘in’ your business. Doing stuff to raise your profile can be as useful as pitching (if not more so) because it makes it more likely that work will find you without you having to pitch for it.

  • Freya

    Thanks for the post, it’s brilliant of course, but I have a question; what if you pitch something while you have enough work, the pitch is accepted but you don’t have time to fulfil it? Obviously that’s a nice problem to have but not if you have to disappoint people.