Are You Putting All Your Eggs in One Basket?

December 10, 2012

I’m a 23 year old freelance writer with a great salary – when I actually have work to do. Over the past four years, I have perfected my craft and acquired hundreds of clients to put on my resume. But six months ago, I nearly lost everything. I fell into a trap that so many other freelancers are victim to – I trusted one client to provide all of my work. I relied on someone – let’s call him Client X – for 90% of my income. Then, without warning, he cut off my assignments completely.

Shocked, confused and devastated, I was forced to build a new client list in a matter of days, settling for less than half of the money I was used to making. I had just bought a new car and was getting ready to move in less than a month. My usually-full savings account was totally drained because of false hope and lack of preparation.

In the midst of all this, I made some important changes to my work habits that have significantly improved my job security. Here’s a brief look at my journey:

Why Freelancers Need Multiple Clients

The main reason I started working solely with one client is because the money and work were always available. Why should I mess with 10 different people throughout the week when I can just focus on pleasing one? This theory suits traditional 9-5ers, but it doesn’t fit the life of a freelancer. Even the most consistent clients can run out of work, money, or a combination of the two at a moment’s notice, and some of them will do so without ever telling you. That’s why it’s important to always have a range of clients.

Finding the Right Balance of Clients

Since my debacle with Client X, I have tried to pick up as many jobs as possible. Rather than relying on one client for 90% of my work, I now devote no more than 10-25% of my time to any given employer. The key here is to make sure that you have a way to pay your bills, even if one or two clients stop giving you work. There are weeks when I won’t have assignments from half my clients, but I’m still able to take care of my family because my income is stable. That’s the power of proper balance.

Preparing for the Worst Case Scenario

On top of getting new clients to work with, I have striven to ensure that I always have money to support myself in emergencies. I have a special savings account that gets anywhere from 15-30% of my income every week, and I only use that money when I desperately need it. No matter what I need it for, I make sure to keep a little money in there to cover food and fuel for a couple weeks.

I also focus on getting through work when it is available to counterbalance the times when it’s not. Like many freelancers, I used to only work on what was needed, never squeezing in extra assignments. Now, I’ll pull 70 hour weeks if I have to in order to take extra work when it’s there, often working less the following week because I have nothing left to do.

Avoiding a Potential Loss of Income

Now I constantly apply for jobs, whether I have a full schedule or not. I’ve found that most clients are willing to wait for my schedule to clear up, and those that won’t usually come back to me when they realize how good I am at what I do. If you seek out new work all throughout the year, you shouldn’t have to worry about earning enough income.

Finding New Hope for the Future

I had to learn my lesson the hard way but now I’m a better writer for it. In fact, I have managed to find new employers that pay three to four times as much as Client X, all because I was forced to look for them. Avoid putting all your eggs in one basket, and you’ll never worry about your business cracking.

about the author

This is a guest post for the FreshBooks blog. FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.

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