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How Many Regular Clients Should You Have?

by Nick Usborne


This is a tough question for every freelance writer. For me, the worst working scenario is when a few weeks go by and all my work comprises one-off jobs for small clients who never become repeat customers.


It takes a lot of time finding and developing each new client. That means lots of unbillable hours.


My best scenario is to have three to five repeat clients I can pretty much depend on for work each month. Plus one or two new clients who may or may not turn into repeat customers.


That way, if you lose one repeat client, you're not in big trouble. You have your other regular clients, plus some more prospects in the 'hopper'.


The two danger scenarios


It is dangerous for you when you have too few clients. I found myself in this situation a couple of years ago. I had one client that was worth over $10,000 a month to me. The result was that they took up a lot of my time and I found myself with very little free time to develop new clients. I had other work, but this one client took up a significant proportion of my time.


And yes, one day I got that phone call and, due to a change in management, I ended up losing their business. Suddenly I had a big hole in my income and it took me quite some time to fill it up again.


Should I have declined the one large client? I don't think so. Not for that kind of money, month after month. But I was always aware of the danger I was in.


The other danger scenario is when you have too many small clients, and too few are repeat clients. As I mentioned above, multiple one-time clients eat into your billable hours.


You need to be honest with yourself about the profitability of each job and client.


Every client and every job you do results in time spent on administration, accounting, email and phone calls. Not to mention the time and expense involved in finding that client and job in the first place.


Aim for the perfect balance


You'll be lucky if you can do it all the time, but if you can work with a handful of good, repeat customers, that's the best position to be in.


If you have too few clients and don't have the time to develop new ones, take that as a danger signal. You could suddenly lose a big chunk of your income.


If you have too many one-time clients, take that as a danger signal too. You may be working long hours, but not billing a high enough proportion of those hours.


Can we always sustain the perfect balance? No, but we can try.


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