How Writing for More Clients Helps Your Freelance Writing Career

How Writing for More Clients Helps Your Freelance Writing Career

A good freelancer knows when it’s time to say goodbye to a client in order to take on a bigger opportunity — but a good freelancer also knows that putting all of your eggs into one large client basket isn’t necessarily the best idea.

Do you always have to drop a client when you start working for a new one?

This month, I explain why keeping a few of my favorite clients helps my career.

Here are my numbers for June:

Completed pieces: 58

Work billed: $5,586.47

Income received: $4,119.11

Here’s a fun fact: I wrote just about 40,000 words in June — the same number of words that I wrote in June of last year. I wrote 58 pieces this June, and 54 pieces last June. I also billed $5,805 in June 2015, which is slightly more money than I billed in June 2016.

The difference is that in June 2015, my year-to-date billings totaled $30,515. This year, they’re $34,288. My earnings continue to grow, year over year.

The other difference is that in June 2015, I wrote for eleven different clients. In June 2016, I wrote for seven clients. Adding higher-paying clients to your portfolio means needing fewer clients to hit your monthly income goal.

I could probably reduce my client load even further, but I don’t want to. Let’s look at why.

Keeping my byline in the conversation

At this point, the majority of my income — and the majority of my workload — comes from two clients. My other clients take up less than 25 percent of my writing time. They also bring in less than 25 percent of my income.

Why do I keep writing for these additional clients? First, because I’ve been working for each of them for years now and I have a good relationship with their editors. Second, because I can complete their assignments quickly and easily; these no-stress gigs are fun to write.

Most importantly, however, I keep writing for these clients because they keep my byline in the conversation.

Having bylines in two publications is great. Having bylines in six or seven publications is better.

My readers don’t know how long it took me to write a piece or how much I got paid to write it. All they know is that they read something worth commenting on or sharing on social media.

The more writing I do for high-quality publications with strong readerships, the more my work is shared and discussed — and more people have the chance to see my byline and become familiar with my writing.

I also like writing for multiple publications because it gives me more opportunities for referrals.

The more editors I work with, the more people I have to recommend me or connect me to gigs — and because I have a larger chance of another editor reading something of mine, liking it and offering me a job.

I know that my two biggest clients won’t last forever. When it’s time for me to start looking for a new client, I’ll have a larger pool of resources to draw from.

I’ll also continue earning income even if one of my big clients goes away.

A year of routine

In last June’s Tracking Freelance Earnings, I wrote about wanting to change my writing routine to make more time for exercise and breaks — and to make sure I got up and got out of my pajamas right away, instead of working in my PJs until noon.

I’m happy to inform you that this new routine stuck. I’m still working off the same basic schedule and work plan that I built for myself last year, and giving myself time to wake up, have breakfast, do my yoga practice and get dressed before I start my workday.

I’m also giving myself a lunch break, which has evolved into a lunch-and-half-hour-walk break. It’s great to spend that half hour outdoors, away from my computer.

Sure, there’s the occasional day that I wake up to an email that has to be answered right away, or a revision request that a client wants ASAP, but I’d say I get to keep this routine at least 90 percent of the time.

I’m still doing pretty well with keeping regular hours, too; I rarely write in the evenings anymore, although I still end up doing a little bit of work over the weekend.

I’d love to see where I am a year from now. Ideally, I’d like to be pretty much where I am today: writing for clients I really like, earning more money than I did the year before and sticking to a routine that keeps me healthy and productive.

What about you?

How does your freelance career compare to where it was last year? Where would you like to see it grow next year?

Filed Under: Freelancing
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18 comments

  • Anneke Roos says:

    Hey there Nicole

    It’s great to read about your growth and how you were able to settle into a routine. I’m somewhere in the middle between where you are and where you were – not earnings related – just structure. So I think the next step would be plan my days and hours ahead of time.

    I also agree that it’s better to have less clients, but ones that pay well. Sometimes I struggle to justify the time spent on smaller, once-off projects.

    On average, how many hours do you work per day? And do you have a fixed rate for content creation?

    Thank you for a great read~

  • Nicole says:

    I try to keep a 40-hour workweek, although I usually shuffle some of Friday’s hours into Sunday night so I can prep stories for Monday morning.

    I don’t have a fixed rate for content creation. It depends on the project.

    Hope that is helpful!

  • AnnsAnita says:

    very good nice look

  • Hafiz Akinde says:

    Hi Nicole,

    Really love this piece of yours. It’s packed with beneficial points and it’s straight to the point.

    Having more clients is definitely a good way to earn more. You have a better chance of getting more referrals which also brings more opportunities.

    The 30 minute walk break! I get so immersed in work that I forget to go on a walk break most times. Guess it’s time to start focusing on that too.

    Thanks for sharing what works for you.

    Regards

  • SIVARAMAN NARAYANAAN says:

    very good and informative .Thanks very much for the thought-provoking article .It is difficult to find good clients as many refuse to pay or don’t reply. It is disgusting to be a freelancer.

  • Nicole,

    Thank you for the “glimpse behind the curtain”! It’s very encouraging for those of us just starting out.

    I’d also be very interested in that “40 hour work week”.

    How do you do it?
    Block out times on your calendar on Sunday night? Do you use project management software (Basecamp or something like it, 3×5 cards on a bulletin board!?)

    I’d be very interested in how you organize and execute your days and weeks.

    Thanks!

    Nic

    • Nicole says:

      I kind of plan my days by the hour. I know what I’m doing at 9, at 10, and so on. This is also because I have so many regular clients and regular deadlines that I’m able to construct a routine.

  • Gina Horkey says:

    I always love reading your income reports – we get “the dirt” AND a lesson or two! I write WAY more for myself (my site, new and revised courses, email newsletters, etc.) than I do for clients, but still maintain a few key ones. As far as how I want it to look next year… I’m open to possibilities. I really enjoy writing sales emails, so maybe I’ll get to do more of that. 🙂

  • Neha Srivastava says:

    This is a great read. I still don’t have a very regular writing routine. But I believe that has more to do with the multifarious activities I’m involved in like dance, music and direction of plays and short films. Over and above that I have 8 dogs – 2 adult and 6 pups to take care of at the moment (till the pups find homes and if they do at all…). So my day is usually super – packed. However, writing is something I want to give more time to and I hope I will get there soon.

    Thanks for the lovely read once again!

  • Cassie Salt says:

    I like your logic. Another benefit of keeping a diverse selection of clients is you have fallbacks if your major project ends unexpectedly. I am definitely risk averse.

    And can I just say–referrals are worth a thousand online job board listings. It’s all about who you know!

  • Steve Okello says:

    It has been quite hard to find better paying client and even though I have worked with a client for three years now, the pay hasn’t been that good.Where can I get a better paying client if not the low-paying ones from most freelance sites? I mean how can one get direct clients? Your article is spot-on and tips therein will certainly and immensely improve my freelance lifestyle. Thanks a lot.

    • Nicole says:

      That’s the kind of question I had when I was just starting out. I was able to pitch a bunch of publications with my own byline and from there started to develop a reputation that attracted direct clients. I hope that is helpful!

  • Kit Walker says:

    Nicole. I am on the process of trying to get my career as a freelance writer off the ground. Your comment on having more clients, along with “big” clients, makes so much sense. Coming from a background in teaching, I see that I generally stay within the confines of the immediate staff with whom I have been teaching. The year is busy enough that there seems to be too little time to socialize and network with educators from other schools and school areas. As a writer, your point that you keep certain smaller, consistent clients – allowing you to maintain a wider network of contacts, is very sensible and a point that I will definitely remember. Thanks you for your words of advice.

  • M Kamil says:

    Nicole, I wanted to write it on pay, I beg you, to be able to help me so I can have a place to write that on pay, please help me where, there might be at your place

  • Nicole,

    Thanks for this post. I, too, am trying to break the habit of pj writing. It’s so easy to stay comfortable and get straight into work after waking up, but I end up being a lot less productive than if I had just gotten up and done exercise straight away. Congrats on meeting your goals and I will definitely start following more of your writing!

    Rebekah Lee Mays