A couple of years ago I had a client who accounted for a lot of my annual revenue –- too much.
I understood the (smart) conventional wisdom about not putting too many eggs in one client basket, but what could I do… they kept throwing more work (and money) at me.
I started to worry about them. I wondered what it meant when one of my e-mails to them went unanswered. I wondered how changes in the economy would hurt their business. I wondered what would happen if they decided one day that they didn’t need me any more. I wondered how long it would last.
And then one day it hit me: Without intending to, I had turned this client into my employer. A reliable, steady, large paycheck in return for owning my concern and attention. I had turned over my freedom for security. So I pulled back. I eased out of the work until before long, they had dropped down as a proportion of my overall business to become just one more great client.
One (of many) things I love about working for myself is that nobody owns me. And thanks to that experience, I know now that as soon as one client becomes so large that I start worrying about what they’re going to decide or become or think, it’s time to cut back.
Because in the end, the only real job security is knowing that you don’t need any.
Yep, this is a lesson we independents all learn sooner or later. The other thing that happens is that when clients like this start to use you less or not at all, you will probably never know the reason, as you would if you were in fact an employee. Could be you; could be something entirely beyond your control. Another reason to diversify our portfolios, as financial advisors say!
I love that line: “Nobody owns me.” I haven’t had to cut back a client (yet), but I do track the percentage of my billings taken up by each client. If any one client starts to take over, I plan to deliberately seek out ways to diversify my work portfolio, as Jean recommends.
Services Vs. Servitude. Love that distinction Sherri! Thanks. Michael
It can be tempting to take the money, but the money can end up taking over you! There’s a vast difference between providing services and servitude. Thanks for a great post.