Six Ways to Balance Your Writing Income

What’s on the iPod: Falling by Desmond Myers

How was the holiday and your weekend? Mine was nice. I woke up Friday morning and realized that much of corporate America had taken an extended holiday, so I tossed some things in an overnight bag and headed the car west. Five hours later, I was sitting in my parents’ house and enjoying an impromptu visit. That was the entire goal — spend time with them without the usual holiday chaos getting in the way.

I wanted to stay longer, but projects pulled me home. Today I’ll be working on two client projects, and hoping I don’t get too many interruptions. I need to make real progress on a bigger one, so I’m thinking of turning the ringer on the phone off. I’m also intending to make good use of my Surface tablet and research in front of the tv tonight. I don’t normally do that, but my husband is in Phoenix with his brothers handling his mom’s estate. Plus it’s summer — not much on tv anyway that would warrant my full attention.

One thing I will be doing today is my usual marketing. Right now I have two clients I’m working with. That makes me nervous, as it should any writer. While it may be great that one client is funneling a ton of work my way, it’s not great that one client is funneling a ton of work. Here’s why– if that client loses a budget, changes direction, or decides to get another writer, I’m left scrambling to get another income stream.

Not good.

That begs the question: How many clients should a writer have at any given time? In my opinion only, I would love to have at least four. In most cases, that’s how many I work with or have some sort of agreement with at any given time. Last month I had two magazine articles, one newsletter, one white paper, and a conference sales sheet as projects, all from different clients. That’s usually my goal. But goals don’t always get met, do they?

How can you find another source of income and work? Here are some things I try:

New-to-you clients. Time for the letters of introduction. If you think you have time, reach out to about seven people a day. If not, as many as you can muster would work. If that’s one, fine. Just know that the more letters circulating, the better your odds of finding a company that needs your help.

Existing clients. What about getting back in touch with that company that gave you all that work last year or six months ago? That’s what I intend to do, and the list of possibilities is pretty long. If you had success with them in the past, they’ll be much more willing to hire you again.

Magazines. Right now, it’s still not too late in the year to try magazines with your article ideas. I mentioned before that budgets do tend to dry up around October, but not every magazine has that dilemma. Keep those query letters on target and make sure your ideas are suitable to what they already publish.

Local clients. You’ve seen that nasty brochure or website your local real estate agent/pizzeria/restaurant/auto body shop has. Why not offer to clean up the content? These people are competing on a local level, which means they see their competition frequently. There’s a real urgency in place with local businesses as opposed to those whose competition is a name in another city or country.

Your current followers. Time for you to dust off that e-newsletter, get a little promotional on Twitter, and reach out to some of your LinkedIn contacts. Your next client could be sitting right in front of you. Let them know you’re here.

Sales. Sometimes a little incentive goes a long way. Why not offer a discount on the first project if the client signs on with you for a few projects? Give it some urgency by putting a deadline on your offer.

How many clients do you like to have as regular clients? Where do you turn to locate quick work, or to locate more work over time?

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  • Cathy Miller July 8, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    I found out the hard way, never get too comfortable. I lost (or had work significantly cut back) on 3 anchor clients through a bizarre twist of events.

    **It was one of your readers who coined that term and I love it-anchor client – do you remember who it was? I totally stole it and would give her credit if I could remember**

    Typically, I do have 4 anchor clients who bring work every month. Unfortunately, I have not replaced the one I lost (who was laid off), but she has a new job with an international firm so I hope to work with her again soon. I moved with her once before.

  • Paula July 8, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    I like the anchor clients term, too. I currently have three that I'd consider anchor clients, but have no guarantee of work from any of them, so the marketing always continues. (I just sent another batch of fall story ideas to Favorite Editor this morning.)

    I have two more clients I work with several times per year, but not consistently.

    And it seems like the new client I wrote catalog copy for last week likes my work, because she assigned another section for this week and said there will be more if I have time. I will make time if I need to.

  • Lori July 8, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    I don't remember, Cathy. It sounds like Jenn or Jake.

    Spoken like a true freelancer, Paula. We always make time where we can. 🙂