Why Freelance Writers Need More Than One Client

by Anne Wayman

Every now and again I run into a freelance writer whose business model is, at least in theory, finding and writing for clients. The problem is they’ve only got one client who is paying them for their writing.

Even when a single client is paying you plenty, you really need more than one customer.

The truth about clients is that every one you’ve got right now will eventually disappear. If they’re an individual, they may die or go into a different business or retire or move out of the country or… the list is almost endless.
The same thing is true of a corporate client. Even big corporations fail. Any corporation may decide for whatever reason to replace you with an insider, an offshore service or the CEO’s kid who just graduated from J school.

As freelancers we have no protection against being laid off or being fired or just not being needed anymore. That is, we have no protection unless we create it ourselves.

The best way to assure work continues to come in no matter what happens to any single client is to have multiple clients.

The corollary is, of course, not to let any single client monopolize your time, at least not for any length of time. It’s one thing when a writing customer needs your full time attention for a week or so, but if they want to hire you full time for months, I’m going to suggest that you offer 30 or 35 hours a week instead. Or, if you take a full 40 hours from them, plan on developing one or two additional clients you can handle by adding a few hours to your work week.

The goal, obviously, is to provide at least some transition income if your big client goes away.
Finding additional clients is a function of your marketing. Working with more than one client also keeps your writing fresh, since they each need something different, and when the major customer goes away, keeps you from feeling desperate.

How do you keep from depending on a single client?

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Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by jbcurio

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Neil November 21, 2012 at 6:46 am

Hi Anne,
I just wanted to pick up on your point about why freelancers need more than one client. I have been a freelance writer for years, mainly print – newspapers and magazines and I had clients in the UK, US and Australia.

As tough times set in and as more people turned to online sources I started to loose clients finally being left with only two, both who paid well. They promised me that my work with them would continue and I got comfortable and stopped marketing my services.

Inevitably it all came to an end as one went out of business and the other hired cheaper freelancers, some of them did not use English as their first language. It was so disappointing and it was a hard lesson – not enough irons in not enough fires.

I guess the motto is that even if you are sitting comfortably, diversify, spread the load. I now write in more areas than I ever did before which is great because I have learned so much. Luckily my cloud had a silver lining, others don’t.

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annew November 21, 2012 at 8:27 am

Thanks for sharing your story, Neil. Sounds like it’s getting better for you again.

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Florante November 22, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Insightful points, Anne. Personally, I think getting multiple clients is a double edged sword. For those who are still learning the ropes of juggling or multi tasking with different clients, i’d suggest to take it slow with acquiring multiple clients. Focus on your current patrons and build your reputation. In the end, this same people will be the ones who will bring you the clients you need.
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annew November 23, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Florante, it can be a double-edged sword for sure, both having multiples and not… as I said below, it’s a juggling act.

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Anthony@resume writer November 22, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Anne,
As always, you raise some great points. Any suggestions for freelancers on how to balance multiple clients AND marketing? I recently worked with one client for a month almost full time while maintaining some other clients who always order a job or two during the month. This left me very little time to devote to marketing and prospecting. Subsequently, when the big job was completed I felt compelled to throw myself into marketing to replace that income. Sometimes I feel like I need a clone–so one of us can write and the other can deal with ‘the business’ effectively!
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annew November 23, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Anthony, a clone indeed might help, or a virtual assistant. What I find is my professional website, http://annewayman.com, does quite a bit of marketing for me… I’ve paid a lot of attention to SEO there. But yes, part of freelancing is the juggling. And I will indeed write about that.

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