You've locked down a promising freelance gig, you're making a decent amount of money off of it, and you're thoroughly enjoying the self-employed lifestyle – why not go full-time with it? Sounds simple, right? Well, in the ideal world… yes. But, if that one gig is all you've got to hold down your bank account, I highly recommend that you secure a few more contracts before “going rogue.”
Here's why you shouldn't put all of your eggs in one basket (or all of your hours in one client) as a freelancer:
Nothing Lasts Forever
Anyone who has ever had a freelance gig knows that long-term needs come as fast as they go, and that they are few and far between. Most of us have experienced a sudden let-down. Relying on one client as your only source of work can end your freelance career in the blink of an eye. One day a client may think they need your services for at least 6 months, the next day they could realize that it better suits them to have the tasks completed in-house. There goes 6 months of “guaranteed income.” Rather than losing work and sitting down to start from scratch, have enough back-up work to get you by as you apply.
If you can rely on hours from at least 2-3 different projects in any given month, you will always have something to fall back on until you can replace what was lost. Giving all of your hours to one client is an enormous risk because regardless of contracts or how many hours they promise they can give you, THINGS HAPPEN. Now, it is important to note here that there is a big difference between being a freelancer with one client and being a remote employee for one company. A remote employee has much more security than someone who relies on hours in order to get paid because they're on contract. With one-off freelance gigs, you may not be required to sign anything, unless you, as the freelancer, present a contract to a client. And even then, you never know if they will just one day disappear.
Like diversifying your investment portfolio, a diverse CLIENT portfolio is essential. First and foremost, it allows for variety. Having the luxury of working on different types of projects throughout the day, or deciding to work for Client A on Monday and Client B on Tuesday, has made my schedule more interesting. This is because I have also diversified my services, catering to different people and companies' specific needs. Whether I edit and write for one in the morning, and work on a website for another in the afternoon, diversification has kept me from getting bored.
There was a time when I focused the majority of my attention on one major task, and then squeezed in smaller to-dos when I could. That got tedious pretty quickly. Allotting a specific amount of hours toward each project has made it easier for me to say (if necessary), “Client A, I can give you 15 hours per week” and have wiggle room to adjust as needed. A menu of services also makes you more attractive as a contractor and company.
You'll Learn More
Organizing your schedule to accommodate different types of clients will work to your advantage for many reasons – one of the most important being that you will learn more, faster. I can't even begin to tell you how much I've learned over the past 5 years by simply working for a smorgasboard of companies in various scopes. The technical skills I've picked up, the tips I've been given, the contacts I've made, and the general know-how has allowed me to build said menu of services, and apply them to paid jobs and personal business endeavors.
You may get hired by a company simply looking for your graphic design skills, only for them to learn that you also have some basic HTML knowledge. They could ask you to try making some website fixes, and the next thing you know, your basic skills have become intermediate. Or, maybe you'll find yourself learning how to use a new program for a client, only to later realize that you can apply that knowledge to a business idea you've been wanting to try.
Knowledge is POWER.
If your schedule is jam-packed with work for your one and only client, chances are you will one day have to pass on an opportunity of a lifetime. You may be thinking, “well, if I was offered an opportunity of a lifetime, why wouldn't I just quit working for the other guy?”
Easy. You would be taking your eggs from one basket and dumping them into another, unknown basket. Perhaps a potential “missed opportunity” basket, but an unknown basket all the same.
You know you've got work with your client, and if you've worked for them for a while, you're probably satisfied. So, unless you're completely unsatisfied, you'd be taking a major risk by trusting that this “huge opportunity” is really as exciting as it was made out to be. Maybe you'd be OK with taking that risk, maybe you wouldn't… it all depends on how adventurous and confident you are.
Rather than taking an unpredictable risk, why not make time for both? Don't limit yourself as a freelancer by putting yourself in a position that doesn't have any room for exploration. I would rather split my time between new and old clients in order to learn what else is out there than potentially end up with nothing. It would help maintain the relationships I have developed while keeping my door open for more. Doing so has enabled me to take on opportunities that I may not have even been able to consider if I was wrapped up in one thing and one thing only.
Take risks, but tread carefully. Chase an opportunity of a lifetime, but diversify yourself and make time for it rather than jumping the gun. Sustain your income and existing relationships, while keeping your eyes peeled for more.