freelance writing

THIS Deadly Mistake Cost me a Five Figure Client

This post is part of a series in which I build a brand new blog from scratch and make 4 figures monthly from it in 3 – 6 months. The has blog already reached its 4 figure goal in 2 months and I’m on track to hit 5 figures monthly from it in 6 months’ time. You can find all the posts in the series on this page. On the 24th of December, 2012, I got a “hire me” email from a potential client in the radiology niche through my “blogging challenge” blog. The client discovered me from a guest post that went live on a major blog that morning and wanted like me to work on his website. Here’s how the discussion went: My email 1 (replying to the message the client submitted through my “hire me” page) Me 1 Client email 1 Client 1 My email 2 Me 2 Client email 2 Client 2 In case you’re wondering, I lost that deal and the “Client 2” email above was the last one I received from this potential client; even though I sent two follow up emails after our call. I’ll explain how everything happened in this article as well as how you can benefit from it.

This deadly mistake cost me a Five Figure Client

To most people, the above emails show harmless communication, and they seem as natural as possible so there was no reason for me to lose such a deal. Unfortunately, the mistake I made started with my second email. Whenever I get an email from potential clients, I analyze their website, their industry, what they need and a few other factors to determine how much they’ll be worth to me in the long run. If a client, like the above, seems like someone who will contribute a lot to my freelance writing business on the long run, I try to invite them on Skype.

Here are a few reasons I do this:

1. It makes it easy for me to understand their needs

2. It makes it easy for me to explain what they will be getting

3. I can observe their response to my messages – the pause, silence, excitement etc. – and as a result determine what step to take to close the deal

4. When most clients are on Skype and are excited, they are more likely to pay me if I ask for high rates. If it’s via email, they would have longer than necessary (time wise) to think about my offer. They may have some objections and as a result propose a lower rate.

5. I’d have lost the advantage of detecting their emotions from their response and can’t propose the “perfect” offer. This will make me uneasy and psychologically disadvantaged, hence increasing my chances of charging a lower rate.

Unfortunately, I’m not very confident with my accent and try to avoid audio calls as much as possible. What I meant by “getting on Skype” was to chat via text and communicate with the client until we reach an agreement. This potential client misunderstood my meaning, and instead of correcting him, I went ahead with his plan.

What I was thinking then was, “it won’t hurt to try audio this time at least!” As I agreed with the client, I logged in to Skype, dialled his phone number and started talking. As you’d expect from a third-world writer who sits in front of the computer – or television – all day, who is nervous about audio and has a very thick accent most people can barely understand, I foiled the call. I was stammering all through and the client would probably have perceived this as lack of confidence on my part or not knowing what I’m doing. I lost the client.

Essentially, what I’ve been saying is: I lost control of the situation and gave that control to the client. In most cases, when this happens to a freelance writer, if it doesn’t result in the writer being cheated it’ll result in a lost deal. That was a very painful lesson to learn, but I’m glad I did!

The Most Important Factor when Closing Deals

I’ve communicated with a lot of clients in my short career as a freelance writer and by analyzing the deals I’ve won and the deals I’ve lost, one thing I’ve realized when I close important deals is that I’m the one in control. It doesn’t matter how great your offer is, you need to be in the right condition to present it effectively. You need to be in control. For those who are wondering, some of my biggest deals – I’m talking about massive five-figure deals here – were closed via Skype chat or email. In other words, plain text. So you don’t necessarily have to call potential clients to close the deal, at least if you’re following the approach I teach.

Action Step

Next time you get a client, make sure you’re the one in control of the atmosphere; what you say, where it is said and how it is said. If one of these aspects goes wrong, you’re potentially at the mercy of your client. What major mistakes have you made in your freelance writing career that have cost you clients? Comment below and share this article with your friends!

38 replies on “THIS Deadly Mistake Cost me a Five Figure Client”

I’m sorry for the loss bro! Don’t worry, the better ones are coming.

Well, as for me, I think I can speak well through Audio but my issue has to do with the way I negotiate. I guess I have to work on my self-confidence.

Nice post bro


Kingsley Agusays:

Hmm.. Dan nice idea. I also just integrated an “audio contact us” for my blog. I think that’s the best in terms of contacting a potential client.
Oni –
I guess I should seriously start engaging the power of Skype in negotiating with any client I get from now on, since it will make the sealing of the deal faster.

Thanks for this wonderful write up.

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Aha, I won’t really consider it a loss bro; just a learning experience. You’re right about better ones coming. In fact, I’ve gotten better ones already so it’s not much of a loss; besides, I wouldn’t be able to write this post if it didn’t happen 🙂


I completely agree with @Bamidele. It’s a learning experience & happened with almost every one. It could be some suffers with a big loss & some with little.
I also went through one similar kind of experience when after Google’s EMD update all of my blogs which were ranking on first page of Google lost their rankings. My mistake was, i was using exact match domains for all of my blogs.

Olukunle Mosessays:

Hi Bamidele,

It is good you observed the mistake, but I see it in another direction, to me, it seem an opportunity to observe a weakness, and a resulting challenge to build your capacity in that area. It will make you dynamic, and be ready for any avenue a client wants to communicate. At the long run, you win all rounder. Nice trial bro. All the best.

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Aha, thanks bro! 🙂

Hi Oni — this is an interesting and instructive story about being precise with clients! And doing some early homework to call out a few things you see in their current marketing to me always puts you a cut above.

I think your Skype presence isn’t as bad as you think, having talked to you on Skype. My hint: Just talk a w h o l e lot s l o w e r.

Skype has a lot of hitch-ups and time delays, and I think if you slowed it down, you’d be just fine.

And yeah — if you mean “let’s type with each other on Skype” better spell that out!

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Aha, thanks for the comment Carol!

You’re right, doing some early homework would have helped; I observed this when doing coaching with some of my readers. When I prepare, I’m more confident and know what to say so there isn’t really any problems. When I try to wing it, though, that’s when the problem stats.

Aha, I’m glad you think my Skype presence isn’t bad; I think I’ve improved a lot from when we last talked, so it should be better now. Talking faster has been a huge problem from me; I’m learning to talk slower now so it will no longer be problem 🙂


I don’t think this is necessarily a failure. It’s a learning experience.

Besides talking slower, you can also script some of what you want to say ahead of time. Then you can practice it until it is comfortable. While you’ll still have to wing it for lots of the conversation, the initial explanations of your services and such will flow better, and you’ll feel more confident.

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Thanks, Rebecca!

It was indeed a learning experience; I’ve recently been trying scripting some of what I plan to say and it has been very effective. Thanks a lot for the support! 🙂

Luana Spinetti @ Writer's Mindsays:

Ah, Oni… that’s exactly THE thing that keeps me from using my phone or even Skype to get in touch with prospects and current clients. I have a strong Italian accent and my listening skills aren’t as sharp as my reading and writing skills. I’m so scared to speak and mess it all up that I never give myself a chance to use my voice. Even in school I would begin to stutter at the slightest hint of embarrassment. Would I end up making a fool of myself? Oh my…

Some fears could easily turn into phobias at this rate. Honestly, I’m not sure how to approach this weakness of mine…

~ Luana

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Hi Luana,

I’m glad you can relate.

Good thing is you don’t have to always call clients, so this isn’t something you really have to worry about; for me, I plan to venture into audio, video, speaking etc. in the future, so I’m already working on improving my speaking skills. Other than that, I’d focus just on using email.

Regarding overcoming your fear, one thing that has worked for me is facing it head on; in my case, I launched a coaching offer where I had to talk with over 20 students, mostly from the US so I can say that I’ve overcome my confidence issues. I’ve also hired a coach to help with my accent and pronunciation, so this won’t be a problem soon enough.

I haven’t ventured into using skype or phone but primarily email. If I get an article from the person that’s a surprise for me. I don’t expect they’ll send me anything so when I do get it, it’s that much better.

Nigerian Entertainment writersays:

I just subscribed to your ebook series but its not come to my inbox yet. Learnt from your mistake but I expected you must have passed the call fear stage by now, considering your level of experience and success with clients.

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Please let me know if you’ve received the eBook; if not, kindly send an email so I can look into this 🙂

Oh wow. So, from what I can conclude, the reason you lost the client is because of your accent? Right? :O

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Exactly. I’ve been working on improving ever since, though 🙂


I think that potential client misunderstood your lack of English speaking skills with writing experience, which is common.

You should have told them to just skype chat, or hint about your accent and lack of talking experience if you really wanted to play their game… however, I think that’s where the real mistake was made: letting them control the game…

Savvy business man know that in order to increase their chances of success when closing deals they need to “play at home”

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Hi Codrut,

Exactly. I guess things could have turned out differently if I had hinted my accent, but I’m glad I learned the lesson.

Being able to state your weakness to your audience is what makes people love your blog. It shows the softer part of you and help draw more audience to your blog continue the great work

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Thanks, Peter!

I try to be transparent as much as I can so my audience can benefit 🙂

Mike | Writer for Business Websitessays:

The client lost the opportunity of letting a talented person work on his website, that’s an opportunity forgone for the client.

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Aha, thanks for the encouragement Mike! 🙂

It’s unfortunate you lost a client but at least it was a learning experience and a price cant be put on that.

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Aha, you’re right Alex!

I’m glad I lost the client, too; this helped me realize this weakness and not only do I know where to improve, I’m also working on perfecting my email negotiation strategy so it’s not entirely a loss.


Have you ever thought about hiring a live operator answering service? It can come in quite handy if you are not very comfortable talking to clients over the phone. The good thing about the service is that the operators can learn about your company/services, which will enable them to provide clients who call you with the relevant information they need.You can find ones which are not expensive and your clients will appreciate your professionalism.

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Actually, I haven’t; some aspects of this business, like closing deals and negotiating with clients, will be most effective if it’s personal. I also see this as a challenge to myself to improve in this area, so I have to plan to hire a live operator. Thanks for suggesting it, though.

Honestly, I think it’s the client’s loss. If somebody provides great value (like I know you do), it shouldn’t matter where in the world somebody is based or what accent he has.

But good for you for turning this into a learning opportunity that’ll help you to secure future clients!

Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Aha, thanks so much Sarah! I appreciate your support 🙂

Fwiw, if I speak with someone and their english isn’t great and/or their accent is hard to understand for me, I don’t care as long as they know what they’re talking about and have confidence. People who have the money for those calls will not care too much about your accent if you prove you can deliver.

It’s not something bad that you lost that client as you learned many things from this experience!
A good thing is not to force the client to give him a call if he doesn’t want to. See how everything go and respect his way of communicating.

I haven’t lost any clients per se….. but, my inaction definitely prohibits my getting new business.
I applaud you for being in the arena. You inspire me to get out there more and make my business a success.
I have big goals and it is bloggers like yourself that push me forward.

Thank you for that,

Your attention to understanding why you lost a client will pay for itself in the long run. Many people just write these off and that is that. Very impressive that you found out why, addressed it, and won’t repeat the mistake.

These thing happen, but they can happen even to the most skilled individuals, such as you. We all learn from mistakes, ours or the ones of others, so many people learned from this experience. Good luck in the future!

Michael Levanduskisays:

Sorry you lost the client, but I’m impressed at how you were able to quickly realize what went wrong. You didn’t try to make excuses or blame someone else, you acknowledge where your shortcomings are and are now taking steps to avoid them in the future.

Thanks for sharing this!


Bamidele Onibalusisays:

Thanks, Michael!

Ultimately, it benefits me to realize this mistake instead of blaming someone; for example, I got a new client early this week who wanted us to have a call about what I can do. I quickly told the client I don’t do calls but will be happy to discuss via email or Skype; we discussed his needs via email and he’s already agreed to start working with me.

Realizing one’s weakness can help a great way towards improving it or avoiding it altogether.

Thanks a lot for commenting!


Wow, thank you for this very honest and informative analysis on how you lost a client. It couldn’t have been too easy to write this article, but your willingness to do so shows your openness and willingness to help others. Yours is a clever use of Skype to close a deal and I’m sure a lot of readers will draw value from it.

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