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Use This Lemonade Protocol When You Lose a Freelance Client

4 min. read
September 15, 2023

You’ll lose a good freelance client eventually. Even if you knocked projects out of the park. Even if you went above and beyond. Even if it’s not your fault.

As it grows, the freelance tree has a way of dropping big, juicy lemons into your yard. You can fight them and try to throw them over the fence. Or, you can look for the opportunity inside the setback.

Of course, this sunny, Pollyanna attitude seems obvious and easy when you regard lemons from a distance. It’s harder to manage your emotional reaction when one plonks you on the head. Uncertainty, anxiety, and fear can squelch your imagination just when you need it the most.

That’s why I think it’s helpful to have your Lemonade Protocol already in your metaphorical back pocket.

“A lemon?” you’ll say. “A-ha! I know just what to do.”

Here are the steps in my Lemonade Protocol:

  1. Run through the Go There exercise routine in your journal. Ask yourself, What am I feeling right now? What is the worst that can happen? Can I survive that? Really go there and let your anxiety speak. I have a habit of locking inconvenient emotions in a box, yet I’ve found that, if I proactively process them by giving them space and attention, then I recover from them faster. I’m more resilient when I acknowledge what I’m feeling and give myself permission to feel it for 30 minutes, or an hour, or a day. Go figure.
  2. Run through the Silver Lining exercise. This one is the counterpart to the exercise above. Ask yourself, What does this turn of events make possible? How can I turn this lemon into something sweet? What’s the opportunity here? The worst case scenarios that we fear rarely come to pass, and meanwhile, many good things that we never anticipated do happen. The expectation of good things happening enables us to notice more of them.
  3. Gather all your leads and opportunities and pinpoint a next step for each.
  4. Email active clients and set up a check-in focused on four questions:
    a. What’s going well right now?
    b. What isn’t going well right now?
    c. How can we work better together?
    d. What’s on the horizon for you? (This question can turn up opportunities that you can sell into.)
  5. Watch Kat’s Moxie workshop first, take a screenshot of the email she shares, starting around 8:22, and personalize it to make it sound like you. Then, personalize it for each client. Then email each inactive client.
  6. Spend 15 minutes writing down what a dream client looks like right now.
  7. Spend 15 minutes writing down what a dream project looks like right now.
  8. Update your core offer: promise, value, risks, outcomes, process, price, and proof.
  9. Create a deck for it using Canva or Keynote. That way, you’ll have a PDF you can attach to emails.
  10. Pick a clarifying or thought-provoking book to read. My most recent one was The Fractional CMO Method by Casey Stanton, then The Wealthy Consultant by Taylor Welch. Books help us make new connections and stay out of the Eeyore, poor-pitiful-me rut (or keep from getting into it in the first place).
  11. Pick a few inspiring podcasts to listen to. My go-to is Andy J. Pizza’s Creative Pep Talk. If you search out things to cheer you up, surprise! It usually works.
  12. Ask for feedback on your offer from 5 clients in your target audience. Use Bryan Harris’s approach to validating product idea. Or use John Meese’s Serve to Sell approach and script.
  13. Update your website using Don Miller’s wireframe and content strategy from How to Grow Your Small Business.
  14. Ask for feedback on your offer from 5 more clients in your target audience.
  15. Iterate your offer, messaging, and deck based on the feedback.

Losing a client can cause you to freeze. Or brood. Or catastrophize. Or whine and soak in self-pity. (It feels like a mix of pudding and fiberglass.)

Run the Lemonade Protocol instead. Go on the offensive. You’ll like the outcome better.

When you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:

  1. Freelance Fixes. This short guide walks you through 6 small but important “fixes” that you can make to raise your income without working longer hours. People really seem to like it.
  2. Morning Marketing Habit. This course will help you build an “always be marketing” practice, become less dependent on referrals, and proactively build the business you want with the clients you want. My own morning marketing habit has enabled me to consistently make  6 figures as a freelancer.
  3. Clarity Session. It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle. I've done well over 100 of these 1:1 sessions with founders, solopreneurs, and freelancers who wanted guidance, a second opinion, or help creating a plan.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info

Austin L Church portrait photo.

About the Author,
Austin L. Church

Austin L. Church is a writer, brand consultant, and freelance coach. He started freelancing in 2009 after finishing his M.A. in Literature and getting laid off from a marketing agency. Freelancing led to mobile apps (Bright Newt), a tech startup (, a children's book (Grabbling), and a branding studio (Balernum). Austin loves teaching freelancers and consultants how to stack up specific advantages for more income, free time, and fun. He and his wife live with their three children in Knoxville, Tennessee.


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