One of the trickiest aspects of running a freelance business is maintaining a steady enough income to pay your bills—without taking on so much work that you can’t do a good job or meet deadlines.
The secret is to diversify your clients a bit, by both the types of work you do and even by industry. It’s never a good idea as a freelancer to rely on one source for all of your income, no matter how lucrative or steady an individual gig may seem. A client who no longer needs your services—or can’t afford them anymore—may tell you this suddenly. And that customer is not going to pay you severance. One reason many of your clients may be using freelancers instead of permanent staffers is to avoid such expenses.
To keep a roof over your head until your next big project, you’ll need to quickly take on work from other customers. How many clients do you need to keep a healthy flow of work available? Each freelance business is different, but building a half dozen solid, ongoing relationships seems like a reasonable goal for many creative professionals. Leave room in your schedule to accept assignments from some members of this core group, even when you’re working on a major project, and you’ll always find yourself able to recover quickly if a significant gig comes to an end.
Of course, if you take on a big job with long term potential, it can be a good opportunity to reevaluate your client mix a bit. If there are customers who are unpleasant—perhaps very stressful to deal with or slow in paying you—this may be a good time to stop soliciting work from them or tell them you’re too busy to take on new work.
Be forewarned: Just when you feel like you’ve achieved the perfect client list and workload, something will change. A client’s budget will dry up, a key contact will leave, or a new opportunity will present itself to you. Freelancing is full of surprises that will keep you thinking like an entrepreneur. That’s why it’s never boring!