In freelancing, what matters most? Lifestyle? Freedom? Money? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The CLIENT matters most.

The best way to get what you want is to help others get what they want. That’s why the client needs matter more than any other. Though really, in a good client/freelancer relationship, everyone will be happy. You will have your lifestyle, freedom, money, etc. that you want. And your client will be happy. Good repeat business is about making sure everyone wins.

A client list, therefore, is important to get right. Your attention must be delightfully balanced between all of your clients. The following post covers what you need to consider as you build your ideal client list:

Look at Income Percentages

Freelancing can be fantastic. Though is it really freelancing if you only have one big client? After all, that couldn’t feel much different than having a boss and heading into a 9-5 each day. Furthermore, this is dangerous. This means all your eggs are in one basket. It’s very easy for a company to fire a freelancer, should business slow. It also makes your freelancing career have very little value. This is especially important if you want to open an agency someday and hire help.

Instead, get a nice spread of clients. Assign each client to a percentage of your income. This way, should a client go away, you’ll know how much income you’ll still have each month. IE: Say you have three clients. Each one pays you $1,000 per month. That means you earn $3k/month. Should one leave, that would bring you down to $2k/month. What will that do for your financial situation? Make sure you’re not overly reliant on one – or even a few – clients.

Long-Term Contracts Should Carry Extra Weight

Sometimes people will approach you with a huge project they’d like you to complete. You have a little extra time and the money is fantastic. Though it’s only for a few months. You probably shouldn’t bite.

Why?

Because it will be time you cannot devote to your long-term clients. You also cannot devote this time to finding new long-term clients (or boosting your online presence so they find you). Don’t let a quick influx in cash lure you away from your long-term goals.

People will try to grab you for these cute little opportunities. Unless you’re willing to work more hours, don’t take them. It may sound good. But honestly, the client doesn’t care that you’ll be left stranded after two months.

Diversify Your Client List

Let’s say your specialty is designing LinkedIn profiles. You’re an expert at creating these online resumes. Your work is brilliant and you are paid well. But what would happen if LinkedIn became unpopular?

Many freelancers piggy back off certain platforms. If you do so, it’s best to diversify. How else can you use your skills? Perhaps you can get good with Twitter. Or consider creating personal websites for people.

Diversity will keep you from getting trapped as a freelancer. It’s pretty easy to do as well. Just think big.

P.S. When you do different things throughout the day, it’s easier to work more hours.

Know When to Level Up

Even an unambitious wage slave gets a cost of living raise. How are you doing compared with last year? Make sure you’re always increasing your income. Thanks to inflation, if you’re not upping your income, you’re falling behind. Remember to ask for raises. You should always be happy with the clients in your portfolio. You should never feel like you’re being underpaid. Because being underpaid will lead to poor performance. And poor performance makes everything on this list impossible.

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William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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