Does [Client] Size Matter?
The bigger the client, the better?
That’s the mindset of some professional services solopreneurs and freelancers I’ve met.
And what’s not to love about landing that big-time corporate client with a limitless budget and an endless stream of exciting projects waiting for you?
When I first started my freelance writing business, I had my sights set on moving away from working with smaller businesses and marketing firms to getting signed on by larger companies. After all, they’re bigger so they have to be a better quality client, right?
After working full-time as a freelance writer these past five years, I’ve learned that the size of clients often has very little to do with how fulfilling—and lucrative—the working relationships will be.
What Really Matters
If your skills, expertise, and services are a match for a client’s needs, don’t discount them as a bad fit purely because their business is small.
Good clients come in all sizes. And so do the not-so-good clients.
Rather than using size as a way to qualify or disqualify prospective clients, consider other qualities and characteristics:
Can they/are they willing to pay you what you ask?
You might be surprised to discover that the largest of businesses might claim to have the smallest of budgets when outsourcing work. I’ve already turned down work from a very large international company because they proposed to pay an amount so much lower than my billable rate that it was downright insulting. Conversely, I have solopreneur clients and business clients with two or three employees who give me no pushback on my pricing because they value what I do for them.
Do they pay on time?
This might be difficult to assess until you’re actually working with a client, but you’ll want to know what to expect. I’ve heard and read horror stories from a few solopreneurs who have waited up to six months to get paid by large corporate clients. When you need that income to pay your bills—and pay yourself—waiting 180 days for a check can hurt. Smaller sized clients can be late payers, too, but there’s far less administrative red tape to get through to get paid. As you’re discussing an opportunity with a prospective client, ask them what their typical payment cycle is and identify what your payment terms are in your proposal. One of my large corporate clients shared that they pay in 45 days rather than in 30 days as my proposal requested. I was fine with that—and they have indeed paid all my invoices within 45 days.
Tip: Some companies will shorten their accounts payable cycle if you accept payments electronically through PayPal or credit card.
Do they have their act together?
Clients who are all over the place with their idea of what they need from you can suck up a lot of your time and energy. If they don’t have clear goals or vision of what they want to achieve, you could find yourself doing a lot of rework or completely scrapping what you’ve done to accommodate their whims. Note that good clients will often need your guidance and recommendations to fully shape their vision. As an expert in your field, you should expect that. But a client who is a “hot mess” will likely be high maintenance and give you more stress than the opportunity is worth.
How many layers of approval will your work need to go through?
If you’re an impatient person, prepare for frustration if your work will need the seal of approval from multiple people within a company. Expect to wait longer for feedback and expect multiple change requests. This can happen with small clients, but it’s more typical of larger businesses with various departments and a corporate hierarchy in place.
What Really, Really Matters
Last, but not least, never underestimate your intuition. Are you feeling a connection with your prospect? Are you getting a good vibe from them?
This may sound superficial, but it can make or break how much you enjoy your work. AND it can affect your attitude and energy level overall. It’s tough enough to manage all aspects of your business. If you’re working with clients who are nasty to you, make unreasonable demands, or are otherwise difficult to deal with, you’ll find yourself mentally drained, unmotivated, and void of self-confidence.
You don’t have time for that and your business could suffer under those circumstances.
Size up your clients carefully. And remember, bigger may not be better.
Your turn! What qualities make clients a good fit for you?
Image courtesy of Felixco, Inc. at FreeDigitalPhotos.net