So here’s a situation a lot of freelance writers are confronted with: You’ve had a great client and been working on their great project, but now you can see the end is in sight. Soon, this project will be over.
What to do? How to prevent the income and self-esteem crash that can come when suddenly, a fat account wraps up and that party’s over.
Got an interesting comment on this topic from one of my mentees this month, Boise freelance writer Lindsay Woolman. She’s in this exact situation right now, as she strives to find more direct clients and move away from working as a subcontractor:
Right now my only client (other than subcontracting) is a ghostwriting book project, which has been the best and good pay. I expect it will last through the end of the month. It makes me nervous to have the project end, but she has really liked my work, so it has given me more confidence.
Right on, Lindsay, about the confidence — it feels great to do a fun, lucrative project!
But you’ve got that bad, nagging feeling because it’s ending. What is that nervous feeling? It’s the feeling that you should be doing something about this. Either:
1) You do nothing. You’re going to work this account, and feel nervous until the bomb drops and suddenly you have less income. Then you’re going to be poor and scramble to try to find a replacement. Meanwhile, you’ll be depressed because the ego boost of having this great client is gone. This is not a good scenario.
2) You take action now to find a replacement client. You really can’t act fast enough. If you start a six-week project that you know will end, the day you start the job is the day to start looking for its replacement. Because finding another great client takes time!
3) You keep constantly prospecting, in case a client unexpectedly shuts down. In this economy, it’s happening more and more. Even if you can’t see an end, there may be one coming.
I’ve dealt with replacing big accounts myself…one of my biggest clients ever suddenly fired my editor about a year ago, and everything changed. Though I initially still had plenty of work in the pipeline from them, I felt the writing was on the wall. This account was going to wind down.
So instead of just cruising along on my remaining projects, I started looking immediately for something else to take its place. As it turned out, I didn’t find one giant account just like it to plug in when it went away — which it did, in about 4-5 months — but I found several smaller ones which together paid roughly as much.
Life went on without much of a hitch. No panic, no depression, no big income dip. The client went away mid-year in 2009, and it still wrapped up as my highest-earning year ever, because I was aggressive about replacing this account, and others that came and went, too.
This is one of the prime strategies for becoming a higher-earning freelancer — keep your pipeline of clients and projects constantly full. If you wait for the crash and then start looking for a replacement, that delay — and in this economy who knows how big a delay it will be? — will cost you big dollars over the course of the year.