Don't Quit Clients

The dream of many freelancers is to quit clients and focus on products. It may be themes, or books, or custom yoga pants that you want to make and sell.

The specific product doesn’t matter. It’s the thought that no more clients around would be awesome.

Quitter is a book about moving from your ‘day job’ to your ‘dream job’. One of the things that has stuck out to me as I’ve been reading it is the thought that you should probably stay in your ‘day job’ a lot longer than you really want to.

This concept applies to quitting clients in favour of product based income.

Why quit clients

At it’s simplest level many freelancers want to quit clients because they are tired of unreasonable requests and silly deadlines.

I got tired of that as well and by positioning my relationship with clients in a totally different manner I was able to kill most of those silly requests. I have better clients at higher rates with some strategy.

I think that the reason to build products is to help diversify your income streams. What if you get hurt or sick and can’t work for a bit.

If you're only doing client work (even if you price based on value) your income will dry up at some point. You won’t be doing work and that means that you won’t be earning anything.

Having a fleet of products around can smooth out the bumps in health and work hours till they don’t really matter.

Having a decent amount of product income can mean that the low income months are still more than enough to pay all the bills and live comfortably on. Instead of having the low months eat in to the profit of the good months.

I’m all for having diverse income streams with a bunch of products that don't not rely on you doing much work once they are set up.

But clients allow you to…

The thing is that quitting clients too soon may mean you kill that product dream.

Right now clients bring in 95% of my income. If I was to quit client work right now I’d also have to figure out how to live on a few thousand dollars a year.

Not possible and my wife would be pretty upset.

Hey honey I just quit all my clients so you’ll have to start growing cotton and making all our clothes. Okay? It’s my dream so just go with it.

Yup I’d sound like a privileged ass and I’d deserve the cast iron frying pan upside the head.

Instead I devote time each week to working on longer term projects (books, writing here, plugins…) and to client work.

It’s likely that at the end of this year my client work will be more than 50% of my income still. Who knows maybe client work will be more than 75% of my total income.

Working for clients allows me a flexible schedule and no one looking over my shoulder to make sure I put in my 40 hours. Working for myself gives me freedom in how I allocate my time, and clients make it all possible.

I’ll never quit clients

While I’d love to have less income reliant on clients I don’t think I’ll ever quit client work entirely.

The fact is that clients ask for things that are hard because they don’t know it’s hard. They want that last pixel adjusted and get you to do it. Sure it can be frustrating since we think it’s close enough but it pushes us. I know when I’m working on something for myself I can be biased to sticking with the easy way I already know to do things.

Even if the easy way I know how to do things is not actually in the best interest of the project.

My ideal would be to take 1 client a quarter for minimum 4 week engagements. Then spend the rest of the quarter finding that right client for the next quarter and working on my own products.

What I want is the ability to not find that right client for a quarter and not worry about how that will affect my life at all. That is my goal with product income, not to quit clients entirely.

So if you want to build products, take a good hard look and where you income is coming from. Make sure you don’t quit that income stream too soon.

Unless you like killing your product dream before it’s really had time to mature.

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc