Tag Archives: worst clients

Worst Clients and the Pay-to-Hassle Ratio

By Jake Poinier

I was on a Twitter chat this morning with the Editorial Freelancers Association, and the topic came up of “what if you have tons of work, but aren’t making much money: what to do if you’re charging too little for your time?”

Perhaps a bit flippantly, someone answered “Charge more!”, which I rejoined with “STAT!”

But upon further reflection, as much as a fast-moving Twitter chat allows, I added, “dump your worst client on an annual basis.” To which the moderator responded, “how do you choose your worst client?”

Ah, now we’re on to something. How do you identify your worst client? My gut reaction was that it’s your lowest paying one, but that’s not true. Your worst client is…drum roll please…the one with the least favorable pay-to-hassle ratio.

For example, your lowest paying client might offer interesting projects or pieces that look great in your portfolio, or they might offer a wellspring of referrals that make it a more lucrative relationship than shows up in Quickbooks. So, my equation includes the following factors:

  • Pay: Do they pay well? Do they pay promptly, or are you always chasing them?
  • Project quality: Is it work you enjoy? Is it stuff you’re proud to have in your portfolio to attract new clients?
  • Maintenance level: Is the client pleasant to work with or do they require lots of handholding/revisions/weekends?
  • Ancillary benefits: Do you get referrals from them? Discounts on their company’s products and services?

No two clients are the same, and some of the items may be more important to you than others. (Personally, pay rate weighs pretty heavily!) And while you may not necessarily want to dump your worst client, it’s worth having perspective in order to take corrective action.

Freelancers, what would you add to the equation? Which factors are most important to you?

Jake Poinier blogs regularly at DoctorFreelance.com. His most recent post was “3 ideas beyond the freelance echo chamber.” And he’s happy to swap Twitter follows at @drfreelance.