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?