Juggling Freelance Writing Clients

in Ask Anne The Pro Writer

juggling writing clients

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Hi Anne,

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.

SC

Hi SC,

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.

[sig]

Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Ron's SEO Copywriting Blog June 23, 2011 at 1:57 am

You hit up the right topic…at least for me at this time…but I think there’s more can be written on it, say the type of client, pay structure of client, online or offline, etc.
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Lori June 22, 2011 at 8:35 am

Amen, Anne. Client A has been fortunate to have on-demand service from SC. However, SC is NOT an employee of Client A. SC is free to take on any amount of work for any other client.

I don’t know that I’d necessarily inform Client A that I’m taking on other work. That seems to set a precedent that SC has to clear his/her calendar with Client A. That puts a lot of control for the career into the hands of another. I would simply take on other work. Client A will get service when the calendar frees up.

SC should assert his/her business ownership. When Client A does come back around, it’s simple to say “I’m afraid I have no time this week due to other projects. However, I can schedule you for…”

This client needs the message that SC is NOT an employee.
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annew June 22, 2011 at 10:35 am

Good point… and I didn’t even see it that way – I know that SC is not an employee but it hadn’t occurred to me that Client A might not recognize that. And, as you point out, SC needs to learn what not being an employee actually means.

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Lori June 22, 2011 at 11:19 am

You notice me arguing with myself in my original comment? I was about to tell SC to inform the client that he/she is taking on other clients. But that’s just crazy, isn’t it? :)

I love what you say about charging per project versus per hour. I got grief from one or two clients when I charged an hourly rate. In one case, the relationship ended (thankfully). She was seeing the project in dollar signs only, which meant my inability to rewrite (and interview three new people) in two hours disappointed her.
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Cathy Miller June 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Anne, I like your advice (naturally) :-) about taking charge of how you want your writing business to look.

When I started out with my own business in 2008, it was more about getting the clients than what my business looked like. It has evolved as I learned what I liked to do and what I didn’t like to do. But, even more importantly (for me) is what do I want it to be in relation to my whole life. Now, I have my ultimate goal.

I’m not there yet, but understanding that ultimate goal has made it so much easier to say no to what doesn’t fit in with my plans. I’d also recommend not trying to do it all yesterday. Set short-term goals to reach the ultimate.

Thanks, Anne. You have such a wealth of helpful posts here. :-)
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annew June 22, 2011 at 10:41 am

lol, Cathy, and I’ll bet you when you reach your ultimate goal, which I’m sure you will, there will be yet another ultimate goal… seems to be part of the human condition once we have enough to eat.

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Nina Lewis June 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Juggling clients is more challenging when you work full-time like I do. I only have so many hours in the evening and on Saturdays that I can work . . . (I do like to sleep at least 4-5 hours a night!)

But! My goal is to be able to stop working at my current job in a little over a year. Then, my work will be 100% freelance writing. I can’t wait until then!

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annew June 22, 2011 at 10:42 am

oh yeah, when you also work full time it’s a problem… maybe you can speed up your transition to freelancing 100% a bit… but look, you’re on track! Good for you.

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