The day I lost a client

It happens to the best of us

You must sing the title to the tune of Don McClean’s American Pie - you’re welcome.

Last week, I lost a client.

I was in the final leg of a web design project with a very tight deadline dictated by the client’s funding provider. Two days before the due date, we’re sitting on a Zoom call debating fonts they’d already approved, nitpicking alignment on placeholder images and questioning why we even bother (the last part was probably just me).

The next morning I had planned to complete the final amends and submit the paperwork to the funding body when the client left me a voicemail saying to down tools, their friend would take over.

The website was pretty much complete, bar a few final tweaks, and met the contractual agreement, but it wasn’t finished. All feedback up until this point had been positive and there was a real sense of us working towards something great, and then this bomb dropped out of nowhere.

A small business website is a very personal thing. When you work for yourself, your online presence often shapes your potential customer’s first impression and, therefore, it’s vital you choose a web designer you trust to deliver this project.

Last year, I delivered 16 completed websites to happy small business customers. I know I am good at what I do, and I have plenty of testimonials to prove it. In fact, many of my web design clients stick with us for the long run on content marketing retainers. It works for them and it’s great for us, too.

Yet this whole situation stung. And I mean really stung. The website was looking fab and met their brief as best as one could meet a contradictory and ever-changing brief. And, most importantly, it was due for completion in time to release the funding that they needed to pay for it.

But they didn’t want to see it out with me. Why? I don’t really know, and I will probably never know given that they never replied to my final email, and the invoice was paid without a murmur.

I shouldn’t complain because I was paid in full and even scored myself a day off when I was expecting to be working to a tight deadline, yet this is the first time in two years of business that I have felt truly disappointed in myself.

In 2019, I was regularly seeing a therapist throughout my Mam’s illness and untimely death. I learned many lessons from my confidante, but there’s a big one that rings true here. She would ask me “did you do everything in your control to get the result you wanted out of this situation?” And, well, on this occasion, the answer is yes.

I did everything I could. Yet the result didn’t go my way.

And my therapist would usually follow this up with something along the lines of “so, if this outcome is out of your control, and you know you did all you could, then why waste mental energy on it?”

She’s right.

No matter how hard you try, everything can’t go your way. You’d think losing a parent at 27 would teach me that, but I (just like everyone else on this planet) find myself re-learning lessons hundreds of times, fighting against everything from the most minor of inconveniences to the biggest personal tragedies (and those shitshows in-between like the subject of this newsletter).

So, as I once again reveal my innermost thoughts to my entire subscription list, I want to give a silent nod to anyone who’s ever lost a client, received less-than-positive feedback, had a spat with a client or been ghosted by a lead. You’re all doing great. Keep going.


📚 The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Clune - Caseworker visits orphanage for magical youth on an island, heartwarming events ensue. If you’ve not read this already then I highly recommend it.

🎥 I Care a Lot on Prime - Not quite on-par with Possessor or Promising Young Woman, but makes for a good home-cinema evening.

🎙 Matt Haig on Elizabeth Day’s podcast, How To Fail. No intro needed for these two legends.


Episode #3 of our podcast is out now!

This week, we’re chatting about depression, including how the pandemic has changed our moods and coping techniques.

📺 Watch on YouTube

🎧 Listen on Spotify


Enjoyed this? You might like these past issues:

17 February: How to talk to someone who is struggling

10 February: Learning to say no and other lessons from two years of self-employment

3 February: Learning to find joy in the mundane

27 January: No you can’t

20 January: I’ll be happy when

13 January: Why you’re tired all the time

6 January: Just keep going

23 December: A book recommendation for every mood

16 December: Burnout might not be what you think it is

9 December: Whatever happened to ‘be kind?’

2 December: The best briefs are anything but