Getting bad results.
It happens to every freelancer at some point in their business.
Whether you didn’t hit the goals you set, or got the results that a client was looking for, your ability to bounce back after business setbacks will determine your success.
The reality is we’re not perfect. But for every failure we have in business, there’s always a learning lesson! Sometimes we don’t want to see the lesson to be learned, and we label it a bad result—or use it as an excuse for not moving forward.
So, how does an entrepreneur handle setbacks and failures?
In this post, I’m going to reveal examples of personal setbacks I’ve experienced as a freelancer and how I handled them. Most importantly, I’ll share with you how we can bounce back from these situations.
Let’s get started!
3 Common Examples of Setbacks in a Freelance Business
When You Didn’t Land the New Client
Can you remember a time you didn’t get the client you wanted?
Imagine that you had a great discovery call with a potential client. You added value, sent the proposal, and felt good about landing a new project… until that client came back to say they weren’t ready to work with you.
Now think about how you responded when that happened. Were you able to bounce back right away, or was it something you had to work through?
I know how disappointing it is when you want to work with a client and find out y’all weren’t on the same page, because there have been many times in my freelancing career when I didn’t land a client either.
Sometimes I would get upset and shift into the blame game. Instead of thinking about how I could learn from the situation—or if I could have done better—I would blame the result on the client or my prices being too high.
But now, I realize these situations are a time to sit back and reflect. While I don’t want to spend too much time on why I didn’t land the client, it’s important to think about what was in my control and what was out of my control in the process.
Things that are in my control include:
- How I showed up for the discovery call. Was I prepared? Did I go on for 45 minutes and give away too much strategy? Or did I have a 15-minute call that got straight to the point?
- How I talked about my pricing. Did I sound confident in my pricing or did I hesitate?
- How long it took for me to send the proposal after the call. Was it ready within 24 hours? Or did it take me longer?
Then I can evaluate how the call went. Maybe I’ll realize some mistakes I made during the discovery process and there are things I could tighten up. For example, let’s say I didn’t feel super confident in my pricing and it came across that way to the client.
Well, I might be tempted to lower my prices. But here’s the thing, we should never make a business decision based on what one person says. If I don’t get a client, it doesn’t automatically mean my prices are too high.
Maybe they just weren’t ready to hire. Or I might not have clearly shown how much value they’d get from hiring me. Heck, it might even be a blessing in disguise when some clients don’t hire you!
But what if I evaluate my discovery call and feel like everything went smoothly?
Then we probably just weren’t a match to work together. From there, I can move forward knowing that I did everything I was supposed to do and accept that I have no control over other people’s actions.
At the end of the day, we can’t attach any meaning to not landing a client. As long as we’ve done our part, it probably just wasn’t a good fit and that’s totally fine. If you know your numbers and track your discovery call conversions, you’re in a great place to land the next client.
So, the next time you don’t land a client after a discovery call, let’s just take 10 minutes to evaluate what went right.
- What went wrong?
- What can I improve on?
- Am I attaching meaning to someone else’s actions?
It’s totally normal to feel upset about not getting the result you wanted, but you can’t let that keep you from moving forward to find your next client.
You’ve got this!
When Your Client Didn’t Get Results
Another situation I see sometimes is when you get the client but not the results.
I’ve been there before.
And it’s tough, especially when you offer freelance services like Facebook ads, social media management, or Pinterest management. Because the numbers (or ROI) we get directly relate to how our clients view the success of a project.
Now, your clients still want results when you’re a freelance podcast manager or an executive assistant. But it’s harder to measure the ROI of those services compared to, let’s say, copywriting or running ads.
So, how do you bounce back from this when it happens?
Let me tell you a story.
Once I worked with a client to help her build a sales funnel. I was also running Facebook ads for that same client for three months, and she paid me a lot of money during that time…
And you know what?
We didn’t get any results. Not a single person purchased the course, after a lot of ad spend and an expensive sales funnel.
Everything that has worked with my previous clients just didn’t work with this client’s business.
The cool thing is that the client wasn’t upset about the lack of results at all. Her reaction was more like, “Okay, let’s pivot,” but I still carried that weight.
It was a hard one because I kept feeling so guilty. Like it was all my fault. The experience made me question my entire business and want to stop running ads. Even though I’d achieved results before, I wondered if this pivot was something I should be doing.
Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation. So, how do you overcome business setbacks like this?
What I had to do was take a step back and realize that I’d made a mistake earlier by taking this client on in the first place…
Because this client hadn’t proven their offer yet. It was a brand-new product, which meant we didn’t actually know if it would convert before we built the funnel and ran ads to it!
But that doesn’t mean it was my client’s fault either. I didn’t do my part by asking more questions before I took on the project. I should have asked what strategies she tried before and whether or not it was a proven offer.
Instead, I was chasing the revenue. I wasn’t thinking about how it would impact me if this launch was a flop. But I decided to learn from this experience, so I made two new rules for my business:
- I stopped offering sales funnels. After this, I would only offer Facebook ads for clients—I realized I didn’t even like building sales funnels!
- I would only run launches for people who had a proven offer they validated by launching before.
This is how I was able to bounce back. I knew the bad results weren’t totally on me but that I could’ve done things differently for a better outcome.
Honestly, I’m pretty emotionally strong and can bounce back fast after a disappointment. But it’s still a heavy situation. Not getting the results that your clients hired you for does take an emotional toll on you, no matter how great your ability is to bounce back.
So, one of the ways I’m protecting myself in the future is by only taking on clients who have a proven offer. Are there steps you can take in your business to make sure you’re protecting yourself?
For example, I always tell clients that I can’t guarantee results. But when we talk about ad spend during the discovery stage, I make sure my clients know what to expect before we start a launch.
Before I work with any ad clients, I ask how much they’re willing to spend to get their data, in case it’s a complete flop. I let clients know that we have no idea what the results would be until we test their offer—but they have to be okay with the results we get.
Will I still feel bad if it’s a flop?
Of course! But I’ve set myself up so they have realistic expectations from day one. This totally changes the dynamic of the relationship.
So, how can you set expectations with your clients? What can you do during your initial discovery call to take some of the burdens of getting results off you?
On the other hand, there will be times that a client doesn’t get results and it was because something fell through the cracks on your end. Treat it as a learning lesson.
Think about what you could have done better or what systems you need to tighten up. How can you move on and grow from this?
But here’s the thing:
Do not quit.
- Do not pivot your services because you get bad results for someone one time.
- Do not tell yourself you’re not cut out for freelancing.
Think about it this way:
Would you tell your kid to give up if they got a bad grade in school? That it’s time to throw in the towel because they got a C or D in class?
I don’t think so. You would probably tell your kid to study more. You might ask them if they tried their hardest—or what they could have done differently—but you wouldn’t tell them to quit school or give up on their dreams because of one bad grade!
If that’s what we’re telling our kids, why can’t we tell ourselves the same thing?
We’re only human and we’re going to make mistakes in our businesses. But that doesn’t mean we should quit when we don’t get amazing results for every single client. It means we should try again, improve our results, and get even better.
When You Lose a Big Client
The worst feeling is when you get “fired” by a client.
Maybe you have a client that was really harsh with you. Or maybe you’ve had a client who was kind to you, but they just didn’t want to continue their contract. Either way, this can be a hard situation to work through.
Believe me, I know the feeling.
In 2019, I was transitioning my freelancing services from organic social media management to Facebook ads. And I was still working with my longest client at the time. We had such a good relationship until she terminated her contract with me.
This one stung, y’all. She even paid a fee for terminating my contract out of the blue. Until this point, I’d only had one other client not continue working with me, and that was after their contract had already ended.
This was my biggest client at the time, plus we still had 3 months left before our contract expired.
Honestly, I wasn’t even hurt about the money. My emotions were more about me feeling like we had reached this amazing point where we were friends.
And I put a lot of meaning behind it. I remember telling my husband how much it sucked and things like, “This is what happens when you raise your prices.” There was all of this emotion and attachment to a business decision.
But the truth? That terminated contract was the best thing my client could have done for my business!
Here’s the thing, I had been doing all the things for that client. Sales funnels, organic Facebook marketing, Pinterest, and whatever else I could take on. It was my most time-consuming contract, so I couldn’t have signed any new clients if I had continued working with her.
I earned $14,000 the month that the contract was terminated. After we stopped working together, I started signing on more clients in my Facebook ads niche and my business literally exploded.
The very next month, I had my first $19,000 month. It was my biggest month yet!
But I couldn’t have done it without getting all this time back. It’s so crazy how it worked out, but I was truly able to scale because this client relationship ended.
And the best part? I met up with my former client at a conference later on.
After we realized that we’d both be attending the conference, she invited me to lunch. While I had all of these emotions about it, I went to lunch with her and she explained the real reason why she had to terminate the contract.
It turned out that none of the stories I had been telling myself were true. I thought it was all about the money or me not being good enough, but the real reason had nothing to do with me. My former client revealed that she had to make some changes because she was pregnant!
Can you imagine if we hadn’t sat down at that lunch? I would probably still be holding onto some silly grudge. But at that moment, I learned we have to stop attaching meanings to situations we have no control over.
Let me tell y’all, this was such a huge learning lesson for me. Now when clients cancel their contracts, I’m able to release them without putting any meaning behind them.
And I think that’s the biggest thing we have to remember as entrepreneurs and freelancers:
Ultimately, this is a business. In freelancing, we work with other business owners, and sometimes we have contracts that end early. Other times we won’t land the client we want. Sometimes we won’t get the results we wanted for a client—it’s just part of owning a business.
But the thing is, you have to be able to bounce back from those situations. You can’t let it stop you from continuing to grow the business you deserve!
Because if you’ve made it this far down the page, I know you want more out of your business and life. Which means you truly care. You care about your family, your clients, and most importantly, yourself.
Here’s the most important thing. When you find yourself in a situation where you got a bad result, it’s really making the effort to reflect and find ways to grow from them, so you can bounce back faster.
Please don’t attach meaning to situations that you don’t have control over.
Running your business can be the best gift that you give to yourself and your family. You are enough and you can do this, my friend!