I had lunch with an old friend yesterday. We worked together at the same company for years and now both work solo.
We were talking about 2009 and he was asking what I had done to lock down my largest clients for the coming year, in case they had budget cuts and wanted to cancel our contract.
I told him I hadn’t thought about it. In fact, I don’t have contracts with any of my clients. I write up a brief agreement when we start, just to make sure everybody’s clear on the arrangement, but from then on, I just invoice quarterly. They (or I) can stop whenever we want.
He thought this was strange; how would I keep them if they decided to cut back? What leverage would I have?
I have to admit, I initially thought that he had a good point. And I decided to do something about it when I got back to my office.
But then, a little while later and back in my car, I remembered that I don’t want clients who — for whatever reason — don’t want to work with me anymore. I only want the people who are thrilled to pay me each month for the work I do… not the ones who are waiting for the contract to expire.
Here’s how I look at it: When you start focusing on how to “lock people down,” you stop focusing on how to do your best work. Given the choice between the risk of losing a client, and the risk of just going through the motions for the money until the deal runs out, I’ll take the former every time.