A good quality client is the secret to awesome freelancing. Making sure you never run out of clients as a freelancer should then be your top priority. Even when you feel like you’re about to lose one of your main clients, as in, income streams you should immediately have a Plan B to put into action. Why? Because freelancing means you can’t take time off, even when you’re doing great. You always have to plan in advance, way in advance!
For me, what works best is to never get caught by surprise of losing a client, or having a contract end sooner than planned. Because of this, I am always ready with a response and a technique, should things go south. First of all, I don’t get comfortable regardless of how great I’m doing. The last five years have been nothing but growth for me and my business.
And still, I take the worst possible scenario into consideration every single day. Budgets get cut, companies go into financial troubles, clients leave. It’s the normality of freelancing, and I’ve seen it at its very worst over the past years. In order to never be left without clients, here’s what I do even before I realise that I’m about to remain without work, regardless of motive.
-Find at least two whales every January-
First, let’s talk about the term “whale”. This is not a term that’s used with disrespect to clients, on the contrary. A “whale” client is that client who you can trust and can rely on with consistent, well paid, great work. Whales are usually hard to find, as most clients you will find online will hire you based on projects, not for years on end. When you find a whale, they’re there to stay.
Finding yourself two whale clients at the start of the year is not easy. You’ll go through countless emails, Upwork jobs, Instagram chats, and so on. What you want to look for is how determined the client is with their project. If they’re talking about weeks or months of work, it’s not a whale. If they’re up for years and have good money poured into the project, that’s your whale right there!
If you can find two whales at the start of the year, that would be incredible, because you have a safety net. Even with whale clients, things can go bad in a heartbeat. Projects fail, budgets get cut, you know the whole charade. That is why I’m so set up on finding two clients like this, not just one. Be patient, but persistent, and you’ll surely find your long-lasting, reliable clients.
-Make yourself reliable and indispensable-
Now that you’ve secured your whales, and that’s the last time I’m typing that word in here, it’s time to seal the deal, sort of speak. By this I mean, you have to turn yourself into a reliable and indispensable “piece” of work for your client. By being reliable I mean communicating with them on a daily basis, even if they don’t reply back sometimes. Tell them where you are with the work.
Clients love being told what you do for their money. They hate being left in the dark for days, having no clue where you’re at with the deadline. By talking to them, they know they can rely on you with your skills and communication. The other factor, being indispensable, is a little harder because nobody is irreplaceable. And you don’t want that. You want to be there for your client.
Making yourself indispensable requires perfect behaviour on your part, in terms of deliverables, communication, and finding solutions to the problems of your clients. You’re not just a freelancer but part of a company now, even if not entirely. So show the people who’ve hired you that you care. This will make them stick with you for longer, a win-win situation for both.
-Deliver the same quality every single time-
Speaking of making yourself indispensable, you better deliver those tasks on time, should you want to stick with your clients for longer than ever before. If you have a due date tomorrow but are not yet done with the piece, stop whatever it is that you’re doing and work on it. Don’t stop unless it’s an emergency before you’re done. Delivery dates are crucial for both parties.
For you, they’re crucial because they show your client that you are taking their tasks and therefore company very seriously. For the client, they’re crucial because they could make the difference between failure and success. So never take a due date lightly! Deliver on time, make an effort and even send the work ahead of the due hour. It’s greatly appreciated for sure!
-Talk to your client when things are rough-
Most clients who’re running online businesses will get to a point where things will get rough. It’s inevitable. I’ve been there many times as a freelancer, working my ass to just pay the bills for months on end. When this happens, clients usually start to behave in a certain way. The first sign of trouble is the lack of communication. They respond late, or once a week, at best.
When this happens, you need to talk to your client and let them know you’re there for them. Especially if this is one of your main clients, you have to compromise and allow them to get back on their feet. If they need a few weeks to get through the situation, tell them you understand and are there for them and for work, even if the payment is done later. Be there for them.
-Be willing to change terms in your contract-
Clients who’re giving you work consistently will eventually reach a point in which they will stop requiring you to do that certain task, or will demand just a shorter version of it. This will imply some changes in your contract, for example reducing the number of hours or tasks, and therefore the monthly check. When this happens, be willing to change the terms of the contract and stick to it.
Contracts can and will be changed over the course of months and years you’ll be spending with a certain client. It’s natural, because as time moves forwards, so does the company you’re working for and it’s needs. Show some willingness to change things like working time, payments, and even other options about your contract, and the client will appreciate your dedication for sure!
-Know when it’s time to let go and move on-
Inevitably, you and your client will have to part ways at one time. This is again natural, and the reason why you’re reading this piece. When that happens, it is wise to know when to let go of one client who’s not worth it. If this far I talked about how to keep a client close, even a struggling one, now I’ll tell you when to let go of them, and move on finding other clients.
The first big question mark when a client is about to quit on the job is, again, the lack of communication. If the client is unresponsive for a week, that can be a personal issue. The minute day 8 comes about and they say nothing, it’s time to leave. It’s certain they’re not interested anymore and either don’t want to bother or don’t have the courage to say it.
Regardless, you should leave and never look back. Another sign is with payments that are intentionally left unpaid. If the client is usually sharp with payments, but once of a sudden starts to be late with them on more than three occasions, thank them for their collaboration and move on. Finally, weird talk or jokes that are not right are also signs you need to look into new clients.
When you do run out of clients…
I know you’ve clicked on this article to read about how to make sure you never run out of clients as a freelancer, and so far you’ve read about how to keep your clients close. But that is the way, of how you can never run out of jobs and contracts. Sadly, there is no 100% tested way for you to NEVER be left without a client, as a freelancer. What to do when the inevitable happens?
-Use savings to run your life properly-
As freelancers, we quickly learn the value of the dollar. Regardless if we have 1 or 100.000 of them, we know how important it is to put those dollars we’ve earned to good use. And the best thing you can do with every single dollar that you make is to split it in three and put 1/3 of it away for bad and very bad weeks or months. I don’t care what you do with the other two thirds.
If you’ve done this from the moment you became a freelancer, by now you should be having a nice sum put away. Use that sum to manage your life properly and with calm until you find your next job. It can be a week, two, four, two months, but it should not matter. If you’ve saved money like this for at least a year, you should now have about 6 months worth of money to live.
Speaking of living, while in the “looking for my next big client” period, avoid splurging. Avoid splurging in general, sure, but especially now. Okay, don’t live frugally, as this is not an ashram. Live well, but more down to earth. Go out less, maybe once every other week or so, spend money on good food but not just takeout, stop buying clothes and other things you don’t need right now, and really put the money you’ve saved to good use.
-Use your free time to find clients-
Obviously, now that you’re out of clients, the best thing you can do is to start looking for new ones. Chances are, if you’ve been in the business for long enough, you’ve got some great offers on hand already. Maybe some client wants you for the next year and they proposed something nice to you. Or maybe you kept in touch with an older client, who now needs a freelancer.
Use this free time you’ve got not for relaxing by the pool or at the mall all day. Use it to find the right client for you, the next long-term contract, and the next big paycheck by the end of each month. Do it gently, with patience and calm, and never jump into the first offer you think it’s awesome. It’s most likely not as great as advertised. Take your time, even if you’re without work.
-Use your expertise to have clients stay-
When you do find the client you’ve been looking for, make sure you have them stick with you for as long as possible. Sign a 6-months deal, with weekly or monthly payments, and stipulate what will happen if they can’t keep up with it. Show your client you mean business by delivering on time, and always the high-quality deliverables they know you can. Never drop the bar on quality!
Again, communicate with them on a daily basis and let them know what you’re up to, and how the task is coming along. Clients adore the fact you’re taking time out of your schedule to write about their job, even if it’s just a line of text. Those 10 words make all of the difference. That is how you create a bond, higher than a paycheck, with them. With the smallest of things.
That’s how you never run out of clients.
Hei, just a quick thing before you leave:
First, nice of you to read thus far, it means that you’ve enjoyed my writing!
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