Know When to Hold and When To Fold Clients

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Measuring the Reward vs. Risk with your clients
to grow your business.

Most of us have clients for which we love the work but there comes a time when the reward (creative enjoyment) and the risk (low pay) force us to make what is a very tough decision.   Do you keep working for this client because you LOVE the work you’re doing or do you let them go because the time investment and low pay scale hurt you in going after / accepting new clients?

The use of the word “risk” is not a misnomer.  There is a very real risk to your business & livelihood by dedicating too much time to clients who monopolize your time for projects at less than your scale.   These are often projects for which you feel a particular passion for and are willing to do the work for much less because you feel good about the project and/or message.   This is great for small projects and I do a couple of small pro-bono projects per year because I like to do my part for the local community.

But when these passion project clients turn in to ongoing, long term commitments vs. taking on new clients and potentially higher scale jobs, that’s when you risk hurting your business. The risk is two-fold.  Obviously you’re taking on work for less than you’d like to make. The second risk is relying too much on a single client for too much of your business.

All clients go away.  Let me repeat that.  ALL clients go away at some point in time for a myriad of reasons.  It’s vitally important to keep networking, keep your name in front of people and most of all, be ready to accept jobs from as many new clients as possible.

Keep a log somewhere of projects you had to turn away or lost and save a short description of the reason why / project you were working on / client you were servicing.   From that you can see if you’ve lost any meaningful work due to a particular passion project or particular client that might be standing in the way of your business growth.  It’s very hard to see a pattern or know that something is happening “in the moment” but if you have a 6 or 12 month log, it becomes much clearer.  I’m not saying drop a client altogether, but if you see you’re losing out on some great potentials at least consider scaling back the amount of work you do for the “passion” client(s).

This is an individual decision you have to make for yourself.  I have to make these decisions continually as I’ve grown both personally and professionally with my company. I can tell you these are not easy choices and something you really need to think about before making a decision.  But it’s something that you SHOULD be thinking about on a regular basis as you grow your career and business.

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