Seventy three.

How to get over a (client) breakup.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Detective Val Abbott AKA Anonymous. She says:

“How do you get over a client breakup? 

Recently I had a client who I felt I worked really hard on. Prioritising their work when it was dropped on me at the last minute, replying to whatsapp at any given hour, working weekends (I know, I know) only to receive a message to say that they felt I was too busy and had found another agency to replace me. 

Whilst I know that I actually went above and beyond for this client and that I really had worked my hardest, I can’t help but shake the feeling of guilt that I could have done more.

So my question is, how do you get over a client breakup? It is just a common thing that happens to freelancers? Tell me I’m not alone in feeling this way??”

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:00:43] – Frankie
Hello, you’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve, who’s eating a biscuit.

[00:00:56] – Steve
Yeah, sorry!

Hello. Yes, each episode we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community, do our best to answer it ourselves, but we start each episode by looking back at the last one, taking your comments. The last one was about…

[00:01:10] – Frankie
Taking maternity leave as a freelancer. Dun dun dun.

[00:01:15] – Steve
Tilly Louise Kyle got in touch. Hey, Tilly.

Tilly says:

“Always remember that the early newborn days are GRUELING, but there are some magic moments that will never happen again. And guess what? That email will still be sitting there next week or next month.

I think working with the right people is key. I sent an email an hour after giving birth to my second saying, ‘Sorry for the delay, I just had a baby’. LOLs. What a weirdo. And I got an instant reply that said, ‘I’m deleting this email. Don’t email again until you’ve rested, settled and are actually meant to be working!’.

I still work with her now. At the end of the day, we are only human. It’s okay to say no, to turn work down and just shut off your emails, to stare at the wall in complete silence for 2 hours.”

[00:02:01] – Frankie
Brilliant advice. Thank you, Tilly.

Jo Shock says:

“I have come to fly the flag for any scenario planning or setting up with other people to happen as early as possible because babies don’t always arrive at the right time, obviously.

Nobody wants to plan for prematurity, but getting your thinking straight way earlier than you expect to need it really can make a difference. I luckily set up two fantastic VA Associates before I gave birth at seven months, and equally lucky that they were both able to step in early.

I think that it can be harder to plan the second time around, though, as you don’t know how the eldest will react or what they will need from you.”

[00:02:34] – Steve
Karina Perdomo says:

“I think the advice in this episode applies to many scenarios, not just expecting a baby. First thing to come to mind is a house move or the always imminent half-term break. I mean, this is why we freelance, hey? The flexibility!”

Always imminent half-time break. That’s so true. Always.

[00:02:57] – Frankie
I think we say this every year in the run up to a school holiday. We’re like, how many weeks are they in school?

And Angie McAllister says:

“My only addition would be to get a contract drawn up if you’re handing work over to another freelancer. I had someone cover my retainer client for me when on mat leave, and even though I knew them quite well, it gave me so much peace of mind to have that bit of paper saying they wouldn’t poach my client.”

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:05:58] – Frankie
Okay, so this week we have another anonymous question. So we need a fantasy name generator Detective name. Oh, yeah.

[00:06:07] – Steve
Because we’d rather speak to a real person, okay. Or real sounding at least.

So… Corey Carver.

[00:06:13] – Frankie
Sounds sinister.

[00:06:14] – Steve
Lane Higgins.

[00:06:15] – Frankie
It’s a no from me.

[00:06:16] – Steve
Bailey Brown.

[00:06:17] – Frankie
Quite like Bailey Brown.

[00:06:19] – Steve
I’ll tell you what else is on the list this week? Val Abbott. That’s a good name too, right?

[00:06:24] – Frankie
Oh, I want Val now. Now. You said Val. Can we do Val?

[00:06:28.160] – Steve

[00:06:28] – Frankie
My mate Val says:

“How do you get over a client breakup? Recently I had a client who I felt I worked really hard on, prioritising their work when it was dropped on me at the last minute, replying to WhatsApp at any given hour, working weekends. (I know, I know).

Only to receive a message to say that they felt I was ‘too busy’ and had found another agency to replace me. Whilst I know that I actually went above and beyond for this client and that I really had worked my hardest, I can’t help but shake the feeling of guilt that I could have done more.

My question is, how do you get over a client breakup? Is it just a common thing that happens to freelancers? Tell me I’m not alone in feeling this way. Any insights?”

[00:07:11] – Steve
Oh, Val. Okay.

How do we get over any breakup? What’s normal?

[00:07:17] – Frankie
I would say a lot of crying and Kelly Clarkson on a night bus, in my experience.

[00:07:24] – Steve
OK, well, there you are Val.

*Frankie sings Since You’ve Been Gone in the background*

We often talk about client relationships being like normal relationships. Don’t we? Like, what works for that? I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but one of my favorite recipes of Nigella Lawson’s is for a massive chocolate fudge cake. And in the recipe it says, ‘serves twelve or one with a broken heart’.

[00:08:00] – Frankie

[00:08:01] – Steve
There we are. We’ll see you next week when…

[00:08:04] – Frankie
When you’ll be recovering from a dodgy tummy.

[00:08:07] – Steve
And we’re making light of this but these are legitimate feelings, right? And genuinely just know that it’s this kind of a fleeting thing. It’s probably not personal.

It’s not you, it’s them.

All of these things that we say to our friends when there’s a breakup do actually ring true for this situation. And the fact is that at some point you’re going to end up with one or two or three even better clients who treat you the way you want to be treated.

[00:08:36] – Frankie
I mean, this is definitely the right move for Val. Val might be feeling a bit shit about things at the moment, but this is for sure a good thing. I read this question and it just sounds like an abusive relationship. Val’s being gaslit!

She said her client felt she was too busy and not available enough — she said she was on WhatsApp at any given hour and working weekends! She was giving everything to this and she’s being told she wasn’t giving enough. So that says everything about your client and fuck all about you, basically. So I think you are well rid of this individual.

Why is Steve making a face?

[00:09:19] – Steve
No, do you know what? Because I’m sitting there thinking, I know it sounds a bit like we’re taking the piss relating this to a normal emotional breakup, but it is so true! You hear that story and it’s like, why are you even with that person?

Yeah. I almost feel like you should contact that new freelancer they’ve got and say…

[00:09:41] – Frankie
…warning, red flag!

[00:09:46] – Steve
Yeah, it sounds like an unhealthy relationship and you really tried to make it work, put it that way. And it hasn’t worked out, but it’s really not your fault.

There is also an element in here where I think going forward with future client relationships, you can also avoid getting in that situation.

Probably on the DFTK bingo card, right — if anyone’s got it! — but boundaries. Like, there’s occasions when it’s okay to work on something when it’s dropped on you at the last minute. So long as they know that that’s an occasional thing, you’re not always going to be there when they need you at the last minute.

But replying to WhatsApp messages. That’s the trouble with WhatsApp actually, isn’t it? They can see that you’ve read it!

[00:10:28] – Frankie
I was just going to say, I don’t even advocate WhatsApp communication with clients at all to be honest. But anyway…

[00:10:33] – Steve
No, but that’s interesting in itself. Yeah. Because actually, if you don’t want to be contacted on WhatsApp, then remember for future client relationships at the beginning of the relationship to say how you want to be communicated with.

So I actually had a new client phone me up the other day. I actually had to message Frankie. I was all in a tizz. I was like, “What the hell is going on? Somebody just phoned me!” And she was like, “How did they get your number? How have you allowed this to happen?”

[00:10:58] – Frankie
Boundary slipping, Steve.

[00:10:59] – Steve
No, I went back and said, “Look, the best way to get hold of me is by email” because it really is! And so, yeah, you shouldn’t be replying to messages all hours anyway. Not really.

I don’t want to tell you what to do, but not if you don’t want to, okay? And if you don’t want to talk to them on WhatsApp because then they can see that you’ve read it, then again — move away from that as well.

[00:11:24] – Frankie
We did a similar episode about when you break up with a client because they’re toxic, whereas this one is more about dealing with your feelings around being rejected. It really sounds like Val’s confidence has been knocked here.

[00:11:37] – Steve
Val says, “I can’t help but shake the feeling of guilt that I could have done more.”

[00:11:42] – Steve
Honestly, you are too good for that client, Val. And, yeah, I feel like I’m sounding insincere, but I’m really not! I bloody mean it! I hate that you’re feeling this way and that they’ve made you feel this way.

Yeah. Honestly, when you say, “How do you get over a client breakup?” it is by…

[00:12:02] – Frankie
… getting a better one! And then you see how a positive relationship can work, and then it’s like, “Oh, wow. This is what life should be like!”

[00:12:12] – Steve
Also, I mean — I don’t know what Val’s business is or how many clients she has — but ideally you want to have more than one client. More than two, more than three. Now, with certain things, it doesn’t work to work on multiple projects at once. I get that. But by having multiple clients and not being dependent on one as well, you do also shake that feeling of dependency.

And when anything ends, it’s good to self reflect and think, “Oh, what went wrong with that?” And, you know, sometimes it’s things with us where you think, “Oh, maybe I could have done that better or said that better, or, I should have treated them that way”. And sometimes it’s more on them.

[00:12:48] – Frankie
Yeah, I think you’re right. And it’s worth reflecting on what happened. And there will be things about you that come up, because what this is saying to me is not that Val didn’t do enough, not that she didn’t work bloody hard and did a good job. What this is saying to me is that Val is a people pleaser and a perfectionist and was in a relationship with somebody who abused those elements of her personality.

When really you want to be working with people who are like, “No, don’t worry about that today, we can do it tomorrow”, or, “No, you’ve done a brilliant job and you don’t need to do any more.” It does sound like Val is susceptible to pushing herself too hard if in the right or the ‘wrong’ hands, if you see what I mean.

[00:13:34] – Steve
You want that client like Tilly had.

[00:13:35] – Frankie

[00:13:36] – Steve
At the beginning here where she’s like, “Why are you emailing me? You’ve just had a baby”.

[00:13:40] – Frankie
And those people exist. You can find them. And getting rid of this one is the first step.

I don’t know. Are there things you can do to rebuild that confidence beyond us telling you you’re bloody good? I mean, I’m sure there are, but I’m not — big surprise! — I’m not qualified in confidence coaching.

[00:13:58] – Steve
I think one way to rebuild your confidence is to talk to those who are close to you, who know you and can say, “You’re bloody ace”. Right? Because often our friends see more of those positive traits than we even see in ourselves. So sometimes it’s worth having these conversations not just anonymously with a podcast, but with people in the pub who will go, “No way, you are this person”.

Then it’s a case of maybe reflecting not just on this client, but other people you’ve worked with? It’s going back to that folder that we’ve spoken about before which is full of good testimonials or nice emails and nice comments which go, “Oh yeah, actually people do like what I do! Screw you!”.

And then ultimately getting that next client, that next relationship, maybe taking a bit more sort of ownership and control of it, not letting that happen again. But I almost feel like you’d be so unlucky to let that happen again. This person shouldn’t be treating you that way, they just shouldn’t.

[00:15:10] – Frankie
Also, I think you need to take a breath and a break from work after this, if you can.

[00:15:16] – Steve
I was going to say, you see, if we were talking about romantic relationships, we’d say that right? Take a little bit off time to be by yourself, be you, be your own best lover and all of that. But that doesn’t pay the bills.

[00:15:31] – Frankie
No, but I don’t mean like a month, I mean literally like, today, right? Instead of sitting at your desk for two hours and maybe mindlessly staring at your inbox and not doing all that much, go and make a nice sandwich or play the piano or go for a run — whatever.

Spend an hour doing something else. Ultimately you are more than your job and this is just one element of your life.

And I feel like stepping back is a good move, if only briefly, because it’s so easy to just plough on with the next bloody thing and not really process how you feel about what’s happened. And actually, when you go and have a run or play the piano or make a sandwich, even if you’re not thinking about it consciously, you are processing it.

Is it a common thing, Val? Yes, it is. Are you alone and feeling this way? No, you are not. We’ve all got scars from clients. I was literally talking about that this morning because — newsflash! — for the first time ever, I’m actually getting a contract together for my graphic design business that my clients are going to sign.

And I was going through those scars I’ve got from previous clients. There’s two or three things over the last eight years that have really stayed with me. We’ve all got those moments and this feels like it’s one of those for you.

And you’ll learn from this and you will make sure you avoid it, whether that’s in a contract or just in what you do and the boundaries you set. You’ll have the confidence to do that next time around that you didn’t have on this job.

[00:17:09] – Steve
And in the meantime, Val, enjoy that chocolate fudge cake.

But I’m going to get Spotify open and find Kelly Clarkson. One moment.

Oh my God. I mean, she does “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” I mean, that couldn’t be more apt right?

[00:17:26] – Frankie
Yeah, maybe we should make a Doing It For The Kids getting over a client break-up playlist?

What would your advice be?

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