The freelancing world is truly a collaborative community. Freelancing was exceedingly rare in past generations, so in truth, most of us started freelancing with little or no idea what we were doing. We know what it’s like to go in blind so we’ve bonded together as a community to guide newcomers in the field.
One of the most common questions from new or prospective freelancers is, “How many clients do you freelancers take on a year?” The answers couldn’t be more varied. Some freelancers do all their work for one or two clients even while full time freelancing. Others juggle dozens of clients at a time.
This is because every client has a different workload size and every freelancer has goals for the clients they want to take on. Let’s work through the top factors that will affect your client load.
Factors That Affect Your Client Load
While building your freelance career, take time to set goals, standards, and limits for yourself. Otherwise, you could wind up broke or the opposite, overcommit and run yourself ragged. All the factors below will come into play.
The Amount of Work from Each Client
There’s no such thing as a “standard workload” among freelance clients, even if all your work involves the same types of projects. One client might need one hour of work per week while another needs 20. This is why it’s so critical to discuss the workload before committing to a client because you need to know if you truly have that time to spare.
Your Desired Scheduled
Not all freelancers want to work your standard 40 hours per week or 36 hours in some regions. You might want more family time, choosing to set a limit of 25 working hours. If you love your work and have few after-hours obligations, you may prefer a higher number of hours. Find your magic number and weigh how much time each client takes per week to see what new work you can add. A time tracker will help to track your total hours.
The Type of Work You Want
We’ve all had jobs where you’re hired under one title but you only spend half of your time doing the work in the job description, while the other half is taken up with tasks you didn’t expect and don’t enjoy like phone calls and office chores. For some, that’s why they chose freelancing in the first place.
You may enjoy particular types of projects and want to only work with those clients. That’s a great strategy, but it will limit your number of clients because there aren’t as many options.
The Intensity of the Work
Let’s be honest: some projects are more exhausting than others. As a freelance writer, for instance, I know there are certain types of blog posts I can breeze through with ease while others feel like I’m swimming through quicksand.
Limiting your freelance workload isn’t just about time, it’s about energy too. Review your schedule and see if you have not only enough time but enough mental breathing room to add more to each day.
Your Income Goals
Part of the beauty of freelancing is that you choose your income. You choose your fee structure or hourly rate and establish income goals. This will determine how much client work you must accept to hit that income goal.
While setting financial goals, remember to account for your expenses like workspace costs. Maybe you want to make $300 per day but you’re more productive working at a coworking space than working from home. If the coworking space costs $20 per day, aim for $320 in freelance work each day.
Your Time Balance
For a successful freelance business, you need to make time for building the business in addition to client work. Finding that balance is among the top challenges for a new freelancer.
After some experimentation, set a balance that produces your goal income level while leaving time for business development like social media marketing, networking, and updating your portfolio. If you want a 90/10 split, limit your client work to 36 hours of a 40-hour week.
Each of us chose freelancing for different reasons and has different priorities. Some want to make as much money as they can without burning out while others want to make a living and leave as much time as they can for their work-life balance. This will determine whether to take on more clients or stop when you’re making enough to pay the bills so your remaining time goes to other priorities.
Your Risk Comfort
There’s always some risk involved in freelancing because unlike salaried work, you don’t know exactly how much you’ll make each month. However, the number of clients affects your risk level too.
With one or two long term clients, you have a higher risk of losing more income than you can afford because each client accounts for a higher percentage of your income. If you have ten clients at a time, losing one client isn’t a big deal and it’s easy to fill in the gap with other freelance projects.
Choosing Your Dream Client Workload
Truth be told, there’s no singular answer to the number of clients a freelancer should have. Each project, client, and freelancer is unique. A better strategy is to gauge your workload and task list as you go and keep asking yourself whether there’s space for more work. If the answer is yes, go for it!