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Work Exclusively with one Client?

Discussion in 'Freelancing' started by Joe F, Jun 20, 2014.

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  1. I recently got an approach from an existing client about writing for them exclusively.

    I have a number of other clients that I write for on a regular basis, which would mean by accepting this I would have to drop them.

    At first glance it doesn't seem like a good idea but they are a well paying client, who is easy to work for, with interesting work.

    Assuming they could give you enough work to make it financially viable, would you ever do it?

    • What if they end the arrangement and I am then left with no clients after sacking everyone else?
    • Less chance of getting a pay increase as I won't be able to take on new higher paying clients
    • Could get boring working for the same site
    • Could impact on my own projects (if I ever start any!)
    • Don't have to worry about picking up new clients
    • Less clients to schedule and fit into my available time
    • Fixed income each month
    • Not switching between sites and different writing styles
    What do you think?
    Jay Mayu likes this.
  2. It is a good situation to be in; though it is a tough decision. Personally, I would be reluctant to take it on unless I had a watertight contract in place that gave you security in some way.

    As you know, it can take a long time to acquire good clients and keep them happy. So if you let those clients go, there is no guarantee you will get work for them again. This happened to me after going travelling. I wrote articles regularly for Noupe and Smashing Magazine. After several months of travelling, my contact had moved on and they decided to offer less money - which I refused.

    I am not in the same situation, though I guess I could be. I currently have several regular clients. I do a varying levels of work for each of them. One article only needs two articles per month. One usually wants four to six. Another needs one or two per month.

    By far my most frequent client at the moment is Elegant Themes. I usually write for them four times per week. I thoroughly enjoy working with them as they do not heavily moderate my work and they always pay on time. They also let me link freely to websites in articles (I really don't like website owners removing useful links from my articles to "improve SEO").

    I have a lot of work on my plate, but I enjoy it (well, most days!).

    Would I like to work for Elegant Themes full time?

    Yes. It would be less juggling around and would help me focus all my attention on one client. The problem is, no full time contract has been offered, nor have I requested one.

    I have no indication that they are going to let me go and they seem happy with my work and appear to want me to work with them in the future to help drive more traffic to their blog. But there is always the risk that in a few months time, their long term strategy changes and I would no longer be necessary.

    If they were my only client, I could be in a bad situation if they let me go. I have a family to support, so I cannot let that happen.

    As it stands just now, if they decided to part ways with me, my lifestyle would not be affected that much, if at all. I am in a position where I have actually had to turn down work over the last few months because I didn't have time. Moving forward, I have one or two new clients for July that will increase my overall income. This means I will be juggling more clients, but it is a small price to pay for job security.

    I am sure you have considered all of these issues yourself.

    If I was you, I would probably ask for some additional security that you would be with them long term. But in this day and age, how secure is any job? Quite frankly, most jobs aren't worth the paper they are written on.

    In my own situation, if Elegant Themes asked me to take on more work, I would think it over, but would probably lean towards declining as it would mean turning down work from other clients and putting all my eggs in one basket.

    But, perhaps I am looking at this all wrong. Perhaps this presents you with an opportunity to launch a writing business and bring in some writers who can help you complete the work for clients.

    You also raise a very good issue about your pay rates. It is easier to increase your rates when you have a lot of clients. Even if one or two clients do not want to meet your new rates, you can still adopt the new rate if your other clients are happy to increase your rate. And any new clients would of course be quoted your new higher rate.

    In contrast, how do you increase your rate when a company is your sole client? If they say no to your higher rate, what are you going to do? It places you in a difficult position. If you are working full time hours, you will find it harder to take on additional work from other clients. The only alternative would be to contact lots of potential clients and then resign from the full time position. It can be done, but you would have to set some money aside and be prepared for a few months with low income.

    On a related issue, this discussion raises the importance of freelancers keeping savings. I think all freelancers should strive to save enough money in a savings account that would help them last at least four or five months without work. It is not something that I have really given much attention to in the past, but hindsight is a bitch :) I really don't want to piss money away when I'm doing well, only to find myself back at square one a year or two later.

    Has the client given any indication as to whether they are offering you a contract?
  3. Hard nut to crack. Kevin posted good points about your situation. You can always start posting under new nickname but it will take a while to gain authority. The next one is to start a company JoeCanWrite - you already have authority, it's pretty well know. So you could write exclusively for that one client as Joe Fylan and for other as joecanwrite/john doe from joecanwrite.com
  4. Thanks for the detailed reply Kevin.

    Yes getting some kind of contract in place would be a good idea, but as you point out, probably not enforceable. Its not a major site for a business like Elegant Themes who you could probably go after if you had a contract that got broken.

    I must write for about 8 clients now so dropping all of them would be hard and risky. I doubt many of them would re-hire me.

    I will have to discus financial details but at the moment it would be a hard decision to make.

    @Kris, that is a good idea and one I hadn't thought of. If the exclusive contract didn't take up all my time, then that could be something worth pursuing. Although not sure how important a 'brand' like that would be when hiring a writer.

    I will press them for more details and see what they say.

  5. That's a good idea Kris. I have never considered using a pseudonym before, though I guess there would be some benefits. It wouldn't cost much to set up three domains with three different profiles. You could then set different rates for each website and see if it helped acquire higher rates.
  6. Do you have any other skills you can market? Friend of mine went near enough full time income with part time hours on the account that he cannot work with anybody else doing Facebook Apps. However WordPress he can pick up clients and do his own products. Can you release your own product?

    Remember exclusivity means you can charge more to them. They can market you - "Joe F: writing EXCLUSIVELY for such & such", and they need to pay you to not work.
  7. That's a good point - I like the idea of getting paid not to work!

    I have other things I can be doing to earn money, if I had the time. So if an exclusive deal meant full time income with part time hours like your friend, then I could use that extra time to work on other non-writing things.

    I'm not sure why they want an exclusive arrangement, it can't be so that they can say I only write for them. Its either so I don't write about the same stuff on other sites, therefore creating more competition for them (unlikely) or that they just want me to be more available to do more content for them (likely).

    Will see what they say...
  8. I have never had any problem with me writing similar topics on other webites. After all, there are only so many topics to write about. Does sound like they just want you to focus 100% of your energy on them.
  9. @Joe F do you have any new information regarding their request for exclusivity?

    Looking at my own path as a freelancer, I've gone from having one big client to having several big clients. Losing that one client was my main concern throughout the beginning. I was on a mission to diversify my income stream. On the other hand, one client offering a full time income for part time involvement is a golden opportunity to work on your own projects (creating your own products).

    The only good advice I can give you, is to calculate losing 8 valuable clients into your fee, if you happen to go with this exclusive arrangement. Also, it would be perfectly understandable for you to come up with a contractual agreement where they would be obliged to work with you for a at least six months or a year. This would be your security in case they change their mind two weeks after the agreement, after you have "burned your bridges" elsewhere.
    Kevin Muldoon likes this.
  10. I agree with Boris on this. You need some guarantee that you will have work for an extended period of time. Additionally, if they do not want you to work for anyone else at all, then they will have to pay you a much higher rate to compensate you for the work you will be missing.
  11. Thanks guys. The client can't offer me enough work at the moment to replace all the work I would be turning down so its a no go at the moment.

    But the good news is they can increase the amount of work they give me which will allow me to retire some of my older clients which were taking up a lot of time for lower pay. The client said as time goes by they could increase the work and move towards a more exclusive arrangement in the future.

    I think that is a better outcome then going full time with one client as the risks would be too great without contracts and things like that.
    Jay Mayu likes this.
  12. That's great news Joe. This will help you increase your bottom line.

    I think having more clients helps remove any risk of a company terminating your contract. Companies frequently change their minds about blogs and if they decide that a blog is no longer necessary for their long term future, you could be out of a job. Which is why it is better not to put all of your eggs in one basket.
  13. Yes, putting all my eggs in one basket could be very risky so hopefully a more gradual approach will solve this issue.
    Kevin Muldoon likes this.
  14. I would consider that as a risky option, and I have learnt my lessons on that count! Long back I had a client through freelancing site who started offering more work as time passed. Slowly it took up 50% of my time. Then as my work was good they said work exclusively on their projects and as and when they send work, I had to provide them a quick turnaround. Now what happened is that over the years I had built a good client base and reputation on freelancing sites. I had to refuse work because this client had agreed to provide long term work (and had been doing so for last 2 years before that). But suddenly just 6 months down the line, they stopped providing any work! Why because they made a business decision to quit their web development business :(. Now getting work again was like climbing Mt Everets and it was like starting from scratch and it took me close to an year to get full time work again on a regular basis. From that day till now, I never agree to work exclusively for a client, even if they agree to pay twice of what I would get otherwise, mainly because of the risk it carries and the kind of commitments they expect from you.
  15. Sorry to hear that Prakash. That is the risk of doing too much work for one client. It does cut down on administration and emailing etc; however it takes your own destiny out of your control.
  16. That doesn't sound good. I will bear that in mind in the future.
  17. Yes I think derisking strategy is that you have only a percentage of your business from each client that way even if the client stops providing you business, you could easily recover within a short span as it wont affect you that much in the short term. But if 100% of business is from one client it could have serious impact on your finances.
  18. Just to chime in on the topic of guarantees, call me the devil's advocate but I've learned the hard way that unless you have super powers that can ensure your client will stick to your agreements, whether that's 6 months or a year into the contract, there really is no telling when the client will just walk up and tell you they've decided to pack up and change directions.

    I had a client once who I sent a proposal and contract that states that we'd be running the blogging project for 3 months before doing an in-review. Before we hit our 2nd month, he emailed me saying that they're putting the project on hold and has since focused on other things. I eventually "left" to find other work opportunities.

    So I agree with Kevin that it's smart to not put all of your eggs in one basket even if the exclusivity is enticing. But Joe, it looks like you've made up your mind about your agreements with your client, so I wish you all the best. :)
    Kevin Muldoon likes this.
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