Clients are your business’s lifeline. But, if your plate is overflowing, you can’t neglect your work and expect to maintain the clients you do have. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. And sometimes, it’s not even your fault that you’re working 2 – 3 extra hours a day.
A client’s project is taking up too much time. Another client has unrealistic demands. You can’t follow the path of adding more and more work into your schedule.
When your workload is overflowing and you’re not at the point where hiring another person is an option, it’s time to take the proper measures to reduce your workload and get back on track. Trust me, there are only so many times you can pull an all-nighter and expect your work to not suffer in the process.
#1. Stop Taking on New Clients
The hardest reality to swallow is that you need to stop taking on new clients until your workload clears. It’s difficult. Clients add to your bottom line, and everyone wants to make more money.
But, you’re buckling under your work.
You don’t have time to socialize outside of work, and new clients mean that you’ll spend another hour or two per week in the office – it adds up quickly. Clients will respect you if you tell them that you’re not taking on new clients at the moment.
Freelancers are notorious for taking on too many clients and not being able to handle the workload.
If you want to do this the right way, just tell your potential leads: “I’ve made the business decision to not take on any new clients at this time. I take pride in my work, and if I take on any more clients, I won’t be able to dedicate the time and resources my client’s expect.”
What’s the alternative?
- You’re miserable
- Your work suffers
- You’re late completing projects
- You look unprofessional
#2. Reduce Clients That Take Up Too Much Time
Clients can take up too much time, and this is a very difficult concept for all parties involved. You don’t want to come out and be rude – saying “sorry, you take up too much time Rick, we’re done here” won’t be good for business.
And if you have contracts in place, this may not be an option at this time.
A way to judge if a client takes up too much time is simple:
- Does the client have unrealistic demands?
- Does the client’s work really take longer?
- Can you get other, similar-priced projects done faster?
There are times when a client makes your life miserable. It’s not even intentional sometimes, but it happens. You wake up in the morning, and the thought of checking your email puts a pit in your stomach.
These are times when you need to reconsider the client in your life.
You’re already overloaded with work, so if you’re able to “break up” with your client, you’ll often get more work done faster – without being afraid to open your inbox.
A few signs (aside from those listed above) that a client may need to be “fired” are:
- They always want more
- They change the scope of projects
- You chase them for invoices
- They always complain, and keep coming back
- The client doesn’t respect you or your time
- The client doesn’t respond even when you’re on “mission impossible”
It’s difficult, and you may feel sick to your stomach, but if you’ve been mulling over a client and wishing you could part ways, maybe it’s time to let them go.
#3. Raise Your Rates
Raising your rates is never a bad thing – it’s just difficult. Companies and freelancers always struggle when trying to know when to raise rates. And the biggest issue is knowing that you may lose clients along the way.
The truth is that you are likely to lose some clients.
But, if you’re overloaded with work, you may make more by raising rates while also reducing your lower-paying clients. This is a very difficult step for businesses to take, too. You’ve likely built some relationships along the way, and you don’t want to jeopardize these friendships.
The key thing to remember is you’re a business.
Business decisions require us to raise rates. If you haven’t raised your rates in years, it may be time to give yourself a rise.
How Do You Know When to Raise Rates?
Never raise your rates mid-project or without telling a client. If you’ve been charging $50 an hour, and the client asks for new work, you can’t just charge them $100 an hour without telling them.
There are right and wrong ways to raise rates.
- Justify the rate increase. If your competitors are charging more, explain to your clients that the quality of service and work you offer can only be maintained at a higher rate. Even go as far as offering to match prices if someone offers a lower price for the same quality of work (it shows you’re flexible).
- Offer an initial discount to current clients. Everyone is on a budget, and one way to cater to clients is to tell them you’re going to provide them a discount for a few months when rates are raised.
Some “professionals” recommend an inflated rate and artificial discount offer. For example, you may want to charge $100 an hour, so you’ll tell the client your new rate is $125, but for them, you’re willing to charge $100 an hour.
This personally steps on my own moral grounds, as upfront and honest has always worked best in my case.
If you’re unsure of when to raise rates, you’re not alone. Even large businesses are reluctant to raise rates. A good indicator that it’s time to raise rates are:
- You haven’t raised your rates in years.
- Your competitors charge more than you.
- You’re offering more and not being compensated fairly.
You can’t keep the same rates forever if you already undervalued your product or service. But you will have difficulty when trying to raise rates drastically (30%+) unless the project or product is unique or different.
#4. Explain the Situation to Potential Clients and Keep in Touch
Remember how you should stop taking new clients? You also don’t want to leave these potential clients in the dark. It’s inevitable that your workload will start to become reduced, and if you lose an account or client in the future, it’s perfectly acceptable to reach back out to the prospects.
The right thing to do is explain the situation to the potential clients (in person, on the phone, on email or even on your e-commerce site).
Explain that you’re not taking on new clients with a good reason attached. This reason should display your commitment to your work:
- You want to ensure projects are able to be completed by their deadline
- You want to ensure the quality of your work meets the demands of your clients
And this is all true.
The way you close the discussion is what can lead to future work or orders if needed. “But, I’m very interested in working with you and would love to contact you back when we’re taking on new clients” is a good way to keep the lines of communication open.
If you run an e-commerce site, create a new mailing list people can join to know when you’re taking new orders.
All of the orders, clients and work you turn away doesn’t need to be lost. Keep in touch with these new contacts in the future – they’re your target audience.
So, what do you do when you can’t take on any new clients or orders? Let us know in the comments below.
Image: Busy officer hands with files