As every freelancer knows, the relationship you have with your clients defines how much you enjoy your work. If you’re lucky, you’ll work on inspiring projects with clients who pay well, set reasonable deadlines, and value your talent. If you’re not so lucky (and hey, we’ve all been there), you might be feeling stressed, overworked and underpaid. As we slowly but steadily approach the midpoint of the year (sorry!), it’s a great time to take a look at the work you’ve got on, and figure out how you’d like to move forward. Let’s take a look at how to audit your clients — and how to decide whether you need to end a working relationship.
Take a look at your business goals
The clients you choose to work with will largely impact your chances of reaching your business goals. To take a simple example, if you’ve set yourself ambitious income goals, but work with small businesses or NGOs with tight budgets, you might have to adjust your expectations (or work with a lot of different clients). Running your own business is a whirlwind, and sometimes, we take on work that doesn’t align with our wider goals because we need the money or the experience. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that — but if you feel like some of your clients aren’t aligned with where you want your business to go, it’s important to decide how long you’d like to work with them for, and how you might transition to a different type of client. If you’d like to hire or grow a team, think about how that might work with the clients you’re currently working with. It takes a bit of practice, but being able to keep your long-term vision in sight whilst focusing on the present is a valuable business skill.
Look at your career big-picture
Closely aligned to your business goals, we’ve got your own career goals. If you’re a freelancer, chances are these will overlap, but your career goals should really put you at the centre. Maybe you’ve always wanted to build your personal brand and become known as an authority in your field. If that’s the case, it’s worth going after some big-name clients — even if the pay isn’t as good as you’d find elsewhere. The same goes for press: you won’t always get paid to write guest articles, but you might find it’s worth it for the sake of building your public profile.
Hone in on what you enjoy doing
It’s not all about the metrics. We all chose to become freelancers or start our own businesses because we wanted freedom, right? Part of that freedom is choosing who to work with, and which projects to take on. Have a look at the type of work you do on a monthly basis. Which clients do you most enjoy working with? Is there any way for you to increase the amount of time you spend working for that client? Could you look for more work from similar clients? This is your reminder to hone in on the fun — it’s a stressful career path, so let’s do our best to ensure we enjoy what we’re doing.
Go with your gut instinct
You’ll probably have a few red lines when it comes to firing your clients. Late pay, rudeness and over-the-top false urgency are big no’s in my book. I’ll give a few gentle warnings and set up a conversation in which we can both reaffirm our expectations of the working relationship, but if you get to a point where you’re overly stressed when your client’s name pops up in your inbox (or even worse, when the phone rings after hours…), it’s time to pull the plug. Go with your gut instinct here — there will always be more work available, and it’s never worth sacrificing your mental health for the sake of a few hundred pounds here and there. The more you work with clients that align with your values, the better work you’ll do — and the more you’ll enjoy your job!
If you’re after support from a community of like-minded entrepreneurs, look no further. At Found and Flourish, we host a wide variety of monthly events, talks and meet-ups (both IRL and online), covering everything you need to know to run a successful business. We’re about taking care of the whole you, so you’ll also find us chatting all things wellness, mental health and happiness. Want to join? Find out more here.
About your author
Phoebe is Found & Flourish’s resident Business blogger, she is London-born and Frankfurt-, Paris- and Amsterdam-raised. Combining her Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship with 10 years writing for international publications, she’s the founder of BURO155 and Wellby, helping female entrepreneurs achieve their business goals through strategic online content. Phoebe is also a writer, and has written for outlets including the Huffington Post, the Guardian, the Next Web, For Working Ladies and Restless Magazine.
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