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I have been reading your newsletter since before I started my freelance business last year.
I am lucky now that I have more work than I can do easily. How do you handle clients who compete for your time?
For example, I have a good ongoing relationship Client A but they won’t schedule in advance and they won’t guarantee a certain number of hours work each week or month. When things were in an uproar with Client A I took on a small project with Client B, who now wants me to dedicate a week to their work.
I’m afraid if I guarantee a week for Client B, Client A will need some time during that week.
How would you handle this? My instinct is to take care of Client A and be clear when I can be available for Client B, but I’ve gotten into trouble trying to juggle clients.
I am one of these people who wants to help out, and having multiple clients is good for my business.
First of all, congratulations on going freelance and making it work.
Balancing clients is one of the skills we freelance writers are forced to learn.
You don’t say what kind of writing your doing, but the dilemmas you describe are one of the reasons I like working for a flat fee rather than for an hourly rate.
For example, if a client agrees to pay me $5,000 for an ebook, from the clients point of view it doesn’t matter how many, or how few, hours it takes me to write it. Nor does it matter if I do the writing at noon or midnight. As long as the writing is up to par and I make agreed upon deadlines, how I get it done is my business, not the client’s. That gives me real freedom when I need to juggle the work.
You may want to consider charging a flat fee to any new clients.
That said, you may want to consider the following ideas:
- Wanting to help is lovely, getting paid for that help requires a business-attitude. That certainly doesn’t mean you won’t be helpful to your clients, but it will help avoid the habit of giving away too much time in the name of helping.
- If a client wants a guarantee of X number of your hours they need to pay for those hours even if they don’t use them. Asking you to be available is tantamount to saying “close your business doors to anyone but me.” Not only should they pay for that, they probably should pay a 10 or 15 percent premium.
- Staying available for a client who won’t schedule in advance seems self-defeating to me. If a client wants you to be available on their whim I think they should pay for that in the form of a retainer or, as you suggest, a guarantee of minimum hours. Suspect you should let both clients know you’ll do your best to be available but unless they contract for your time in advance you make no guarantees – nicely of course.
My hunch is you’ll find you can juggle both clients and probably one or two more. Think about your business model – how you charge, what you charge and how you really want your writing business to look.
How do you juggle clients? What do you charge if a client wants X hours guaranteed?
If you have a question, email me with Q&A in the subject line and I’ll do my best to answer you.
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