Out with the Old and in with the New
When people first decide they want to freelance full-time, they’re pretty hungry for work. They’re eager to make a name for themselves, put a portfolio together and to start getting paid to do what they love. Their philosophy might be, any client is a good client, no matter how little the pay may be. And that’s fine. I actually recommend it. At first. It’s a great way to dive into the freelance world, learn a lot fast, produce content and start getting paid, but (and this is a big but), it is not a sustainable business model.
You, like everyone else on the planet, want a better life, a better couch, car, apartment, house, whatever. You want to move up the ladder just as you would if you worked for somebody else. As a freelancer, however, you are your own boss. It is your responsibility to move yourself up in your own company and to give yourself a raise. That means getting better paying clients.
Know When to Let Go
Periodically, as a freelancer you have to filter your clients and dump the ones who no longer offer any benefits to you other than just a paycheck. If you’ve been freelancing even a short time, you already know you have clients who you would love to kick to the curb. Likewise, you have clients who you love even though they may not pay that well. There are different things to consider when deciding who to keep and who to let go. Money is a big factor, of course, but it shouldn’t be the only one.
You may have a client that can’t afford to pay you much, but they may value your work, they communicate their needs effectively and they pay on time. These are not small things in the freelance world. On the other hand, your best paying client may treat you like dirt. They may be disorganized and take forever to pay, requiring multiple reminders and resending invoices. See what I’m getting at?
You need to think about which clients are worth the hassle.
Sometimes a low rate for work that is easy and can be done quickly is far preferable to work that requires a lot of research, takes a long time, but pays well. Do the math. Figure out what each pays by the hour and use that in your decision.
Take Care of Yourself First
Hopefully, your decision to start some client filtering is due to your becoming so overloaded with work that you just can’t do it all. Good for you, you’re on the right path. Once you reach this level, it’s not only important to weed out clients who may cause you stress, it’s also important to make sure you’re getting enough free time while still earning decent money.
Do What Interests You
Another good thing to consider is how you feel about the work you do for each client. Is it an area that genuinely interests you? Do you learn new things while working on your projects for them? Getting paid to learn is a huge bonus.
Another bonus is when you work on new and varied projects you also expand your skills, knowledge and portfolio. Rote, boring but well paying gigs may not be worth the effort. Sure, you can do them for a while, but if they don’t inspire you, or worse yet, you dread doing them, then it’s time to reconsider your relationship with that client.
Keep Clients in Your Preferred Industries
Another way to filter out a client is to determine what type of clients you prefer and deciding to target only those who fall into that category. Do you love doing corporate work? Yes? Then ditch the smaller companies and stick with the big ones. Maybe you prefer working with the smaller companies. Avoid the corporate work. Easy enough.
There are other areas you can categorize clients into as well. You may choose to only work for nonprofits, or strictly for agencies, or only with other freelancers, etc. This may help you focus your writing and sharpen your skills.
Let Clients Filter Themselves
You can also try letting your clients do the filtering for you. Take a client that you are either on the fence about or one you really don’t think pays you fairly and tell them you are sorry, but you have to increase your rate. See what they say. Best case scenario, you got a raise. Worst case, you dump a client you didn’t like and who would never pay you what you’re worth anyway.
Not everyone is at the point where they can filter their clients. You may not be there yet, but you’ll get there. Remember how you felt when you left your day job to become a full-time freelancer? It was a huge, happy-but-scary step. That’s going to be similar to the feeling you’ll get when you start getting rid off clients you’re not happy with.
Think about it this way, you’re moving up and leaving the door open for the newly arrived freelancer behind you who will take any job they can get… for now.