#149: Evaluate—and Expand or Fire—Your Clients for a Strong 2023

Podcast news: After much deliberation, I’m changing the schedule of Deliberate Freelancer slightly. We will stick to weekly Thursday episodes, and the episode format will remain the same. However, I will now publish in two big seasons, with breaks in between. So, after December 22, 2022, the podcast will go on hiatus until February. Then, the schedule will resume through May.

I will take a summer hiatus, likely June through August, then return for the fall season. I will take another break next year likely similar to this year’s: Christmas through January. 

The Deliberate Freelancer Facebook group will remain active during these breaks, so be sure to join us there. And you can also continue to listen to Melanie talk with others about building a successful freelance business on other podcasts she’s been a guest on. You can access those episodes on the Deliberate Freelancer website

Today’s episode walks you through some ways to evaluate your client list to set you up for a strong 2023. This practice is something I do during my regular solo business retreats. It’s one of the many ways I look at the big picture of my business and set goals for myself. 

But first, let’s talk about income goals. Do you set income goals? Do you set and track a yearly, quarterly, monthly or weekly income goal? Setting an income goal not only helps you pay the bills, but it helps you track and stay on track financially, can keep you motivated and can push you beyond what you think you might be able to earn.

As you take time to evaluate your income for the year, go a bit beyond just the final number. Start with how much you earned and then ask yourself a few questions:

1. Where did the bulk of your money come from? Accounting software can run these reports for you. I think it can be enlightening to do the math and figure out the percentages of how much income came from specific clients and then how much came from specific services. 

2. Did you enjoy your work this past year? Break that down and ask yourself what bothered you this past year, what drove you bananas, what stressed you out—and then what brought you joy, what energized you, what got you into that flow state. 

Your answers could be related both to your clients and to you. Then, dig deeper and figure out how to solve some of those struggles or lean into the joyful areas. 

After this, take time to rate and rank your clients. I go into detail in the podcast how to do this, but the formula is: list out all your clients, create categories that you want to rate, rank each client 1-5 (5 is best), and then rank them from top (most points) to bottom (fewest points). 

What do the numbers tell you? Did anything surprise you? 

Look at the clients at the bottom first. What is the problem there? Can you solve it to improve your relationship or do you need to fire those clients? Or raise their rates to the point that certain things don’t bother you anymore? 

Look at your best clients. Can you work with them more? Be creative. What services can you create to help them? Can you offer them a retainer? Or do you simply need to be sure you reach out to them more often for work? 

Also, why do you love them? Can you lean into that and find more clients that fit those criteria? 

As you take in all this information together—how much money you made, which clients brought in the most income, which clients rank highest in your list—consider if you should raise your rates. And remember: You’re not asking to raise your rates. You’re telling them: I wanted to let you know my rates will increase to XXX on February 1. 

By going through this process of rating and ranking my clients every year for the past several years I realized this past summer, after going through this exercise, that I currently love all my clients. What a great place to be! 

I firmly believe this evaluation process—and following through with the best and worst ranked in some manner—got me to this place. I’ve fired clients and turned down work. And I’ve really homed in on the types of services I love to provide and that pay well. 

Biz Bite: Create a “work declined” email folder.

The Bookshelf: Love & Saffron” by Kim Fay and bonus pick “84, Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff


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