July 3rd, 2020

Be Prepared for the Whale Client - Friday Notes 108

One of the things many freelancers advocate is that you should have multiple clients because then one big fish walking away can't have a huge effect on your business. This is the same thinking you may have when it comes to taking on an employment situation. Yes, you may have a stable paycheque instead of the variable pay that freelancers get, but it all goes away if you lose that job.

The problem for me is that I suck at dividing my attention. My best clients and longest served projects have been for single big clients. Right now I've been working for one client for almost 2 years and they're around 80% of my income for those 2 years.

Alternative Ways to Look at the Whale Client

One alternative way to look at a huge client is over the year. That thinking says that over the year no one client should be more than 50% of your revenue. While that sounds great, I've found it hard to accomplish.

When one client takes up most of my coding time all the time do I work weekends to hit some arbitrary income percentage number? Do I sacrifice time with my kids so that I can ensure that less than 50% of my income is from one client?

Both of those ideas seem stupid to me.

But You Can't Get Away from a Whale Sometimes

Sometimes you just can't get away from a whale. My client of 2 years has been the most profitable client I've had in 12 years. They always have work and always add more work in the month. They regularly have something extra to take care of instead of the tasks on the list. Then I get back to the tasks on the list. They pay on time every month and when I say I'm away for a week or go for a day no one cares we just plan what work will be deployed to the live site and what won't be deployed.

One way I help ensure that if my single big client decides to go away my business doesn't die is by not spending everything I earn. I'm sitting on many months of pay right now. I have months of expenses covered. If my client decided to drop me today I could do whatever I wanted through to October with no change in the lifestyle that happens around the house.

If you're spending everything you earn every month, you have a hobby, not a business.

While one client is my main income, it's not my only revenue stream. I earn a bit from selling my books on my site and Amazon. I earn some from affiliate links to Amazon for products I talk about here. I earn something from YouTube ads every month on my YouTube channel. I write for Nexcess and Godaddy and The Sweet Setup. I've got one small client on retainer for $500/month.

All of those together add up to around 50% of what I have to make in a month to keep things balanced. My big client simply takes my income from staying stable to earning 140% of what I need in the month. That means if the big client went away the ship would be taking on water, but at a rate that 50% slower than if they were truly my only income.

If I was going to recommend one key to take on a whale client and surviving it's this. Spend way less than you earn from them. Save the extra and build up at least 6 months, preferably 12 months, of full income. Not just what you pay yourself, but fully covered expenses at your current lifestyle. Then if the whale goes away you have months to figure something out. If you cut your lifestyle a bit, then you have even more months to figure your shit out.

Don't be afraid of a whale client, have a plan to deal with the issues that a whale client brings.

I Shipped

Monday I talked about what makes a good Zettelkasten Note. The summary, make them atomic and they contain your thoughts, not the thoughts of others that you don't expand on. If you're simply collecting the thoughts of other people without adding your stuff to it, you're a collector. You want to be a connector. Someone that's coming up with their thinking and developing it.

Wednesday I wrote about Markdown when it comes to Obsidian. That video starts with an introduction to Markdown and ends with some specifics for use with Obsidian.

Friday I talked about some of the reading I've done during quarantine. My reading has slowed down lately, but I'm still plugging away at a few books. I've been spending more time with Laracasts to improve my PHP and Laravel knowledge.