Are you going after the right clients?
Client management can sometimes be tricky when you’re a freelance writer. But looking for the right clients can make all the difference.
When I first started as a freelance medical writer, I said yes to a lot of projects that I shouldn’t have said yes to.
Projects that had really tight deadlines. Projects that didn’t pay well. Projects that I just didn’t care about.
In the interest of “building my business” I had lost sight of some of the reasons that I wanted to work as a freelancer in the first place.
Reasons like a more flexible work schedule, lower stress, and the general ability to call the shots with the work that I wanted - and didn’t want - to do.
I soon found myself in a precarious position. I was overbooked, overworked, and feeling like I was approaching burnout not that long after I started.
I found myself on a treadmill that was hard to get off. This was not exactly what I thought it would feel like to be running a “successful” business.
I felt more like an employee than a business owner. I soon realized that I needed to make some changes in the way I managed my business.
Make the mindset switch
Whether you realize it or not, when you are a freelancer and business owner, YOU call the shots.
Sometimes, once we start working with a client we fall into certain patterns.
Maybe we let them slip in an extra round or two of revisions that weren’t in the original contract. Maybe we turn a blind eye and don’t change for the extra calls, emails, and follow-up that pop up along the way. Maybe we know that the pay is a little low, but we keep accepting work from that low-paying client anyways for the sake of comfort from that steady income stream.
The assurance of paying work (even if it’s less than what we want) can make us complicit because searching for new clients and projects that are less stressful/more fulfilling/better paying can be daunting...and uncomfortable.
But realize that you can’t make room for the new and better clients until you drop the not so ideal ones. It’s that simple. We all can only work so many hours in the day.
It’s unlikely that you’ll have the bandwidth to take on the great clients AND maintain the ones that are a pain in the ass.
So ditch what you don’t want to do anymore. I did.
I continue to evaluate my client list on an ongoing basis to make sure that I’m in alignment with where I want to be not only financially but also in keeping my stress levels and work-life balance in check.
Separate out the bargain clients from the value clients
Working within the client’s budget is sometimes an unfortunate, but necessary, part of freelancing. In very (very) rare circumstances does the client leave the budget open-ended. There’s almost always a cap.
However, what you want to watch out for is how the client speaks about the budget. Some immediate red flags should pop up for you if the client (especially if it’s a new one) immediately asks about your rate or project fee right out of the gate.
This is important because generally there are two types of clients: bargain clients and value clients.
Bargain clients will prioritize the cost of the project first before anything else, and more than likely they will try to haggle your rate down as much as possible without even giving a second thought to the quality of work that you could produce.
On the other hand, value clients generally recognize that quality comes at a price, and most are willing to pay handsomely for high-quality work. Value clients will ask what you can bring to the table first and typically don’t haggle much on your fee.
If you’re a freelance writer, you want to work with the value clients.
Take stock of your current client list - do you have bargain clients or value clients?
Choose a value client that is also an ideal client
When thinking about the kind of clients that you want to work with, there are certain factors that are important beyond pay. Things like how easy the client is to work with, whether there are shifting deadlines, and the amount of your support (time) that is required for each project.
While all three points are important, the last point can really make or break a project.
It seems counterintuitive, but the worst (bargain) clients tend to require the most support. It’s like the less a client pays, the more they actually expect of you.
Bargain clients always want more revisions, more unscheduled phone conversations, and more emails answered right now. The bargain clients almost always end up with the highest demands despite their low budget. They can be a nightmare to deal with.
Conversely, the best or ideal (value) clients tend to require the least amount of support. They often know and understand the role of the freelancer and don’t try to micromanage us when it’s not needed. They give us the freedom to work autonomously.
Most importantly, value clients recognize freelancers as independent business owners. They respect a freelancer’s time, and they recognize that when they cut into that time it ultimately reduces our hourly rate.
The figure below demonstrates this nicely:
When you find a client that is in that “high revenue, low support” sweet spot, hold on to them like glue. Try and tease out their specific business demographics and do some market research to find other clients just like them. Ask them about their specific pain points, and make sure that you can address those points when reaching out to similar prospects.
To make space for all these new ideal clients,, give the boot to those other “high support, low revenue” clients. They will suck up your time without compensating you for it.
And it doesn’t have to be a confrontational “I’m never working with you again” scenario. Just politely tell them that you’re not available for any new projects when they reach out. You don’t owe them an explanation (really). That’s what’s great about freelancing - you can pick and choose what work to accept.
Don’t feel guilty about dropping clients either! You’re running a business after all, so aim high for those lucrative projects and ideal clients. You’ll work less, earn more, and be happier in the process.
Need to get unstuck (or just get moving) in your business?
Come join us in our new group coaching program. We’ve both found that nothing moves the needle more than some guided focus, direction, and accountability. We’d love to have you ;)