The Dangers of Relying on One Major Client
Love makes the world go ‘round. Dozens of singers have sung these lyrics, and the phrase has become part of our collective lexicon.
And, it’s true … falling in love is scientifically proven to be an amazing feeling. Chemicals are released in our brains and hormones in our bodies that make us feel good, even euphoric. We become hyper-focused and aware. We’re happy.
But some of those hormones also cause stress and anxiety. How often have you seen someone “in love” become desperate, clingy, and fearful?
It’s similar when you land a major client …
You’re excited and happy. You feel a sense of accomplishment — validation that you are, in fact, good at what you do. You become more confident. There’s a “high” when that client hires you.
But there’s also stress and anxiety in that adrenaline-filled high. You can become nervous or anxious about your work and fearful of losing the client.
So you’re on a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. This is normal. You can ride it out.
But it turns dangerous when it becomes counterproductive. And it easily can.
Warning Signs That You’re Experiencing a “Bad Love” Relationship With a Client:
- You’re so focused on one client that you stop marketing yourself.
- You stop following up with new leads.
- You put up with unreasonable demands for your time and/or attention.
- You don’t stand up for yourself and your boundaries.
- You make decisions from a fear that they’ll stop doing business with you.
Love itself isn’t dangerous. How you act when you’re in love with just one major client can be. So, let’s look at each of these warning-sign behaviors and how you can turn them around …
1. You stop marketing yourself.
This generally happens when you land a retainer deal to do work for a client on a regular basis each month. These deals are SWEET! But they can hurt you in the long run if you become so comfortable, so complacent, that you stop marketing yourself.
Imagine this …
Your retainer agreement is a win-win for both you and the client. They’re happy with your work, and you’re happy to have a steady gig.
Then the marketing director (or whatever title the person you work with has) leaves to take a job with another company. Maybe they get laid off during a company reorganization. And, after they’re gone, maybe the powers that be decide they want a family member to perform the services you were providing.
Whatever the cause … you’re out.
If you’ve let your pipeline of prospects go dry, you’re now in the stressful position of needing to find new clients immediately. That’s not a good place to be.
So the lesson here is to always be marketing. Stay active — professionally — on social media. Send regular emails to your list. Maintain your blog, even if that means just one or two new blog posts each month. Network.
Keep yourself visible to your audience so your pump is always primed.
2. You stop following up with leads.
Maybe you’ve continued to market yourself, but you’ve stopped following up with the prospects who have expressed interest. What’s the point, when your schedule is full of work from your one major client, right?
A better strategy may be to start a waiting list for your services. Follow up with regular emails to stay top of mind. Even if your prospects find another solution or hire someone else, they may end up unhappy with that alternative solution. Or, maybe their project gets delayed.
You just don’t know what may be happening in their world. There are so many variables out of your control. The only thing you can control is what you do. So, commit to always following up, then continuing to communicate on a regular basis.
3. You start putting up with unreasonable demands.
Clients can be demanding. Like kids, they’ll test boundaries and get away with whatever they can. Whatever you let them get away with.
I have a client who, at first, wanted to meet during the evening. She’d also call and text over the weekend. I wanted to be responsive, but I have a policy of not working on weekends or evenings. That’s family time.
So, I explained my working hours policy and let her know I wasn’t ignoring her during my “off” times, I was just honoring my commitment to my family. I assured her she’d get a prompt reply during business hours. She was perfectly fine with this.
She still calls, texts, and sends emails at odd hours, but the difference is she knows not to expect an immediate reply. And I know she’s just sending me thoughts as she has them, and she doesn’t expect me to jump right on it. We’ve established clear expectations and boundaries.
You can, too.
4. You don’t stand up for yourself and your boundaries.
Have you ever seen (or maybe been in) a relationship where one person has all the power? That person makes all the decisions about what the couple does, who they socialize with, how much time they spend together, etc.
When it’s a client, that domineering person is constantly changing the scope of work, moving agreed-upon deadlines, making last-minute changes … you get the picture.
Of course, it’s good business to always strive to please the client. It’s also good business to maintain boundaries of what you can accommodate and what you can’t.
If you’re so in love with this major client that you’ve given them all the power in your relationship and don’t stand up for yourself, it’s no longer good business.
But you can salvage the relationship by setting clear expectations. Call them “policies,” like I did with the client I told you about above. It may seem scary at first, but a domineering client will actually respect you more when you stand up for yourself.
And, a relationship of mutual respect will last much longer than one built on an imbalance of power.
5.You make decisions from a fear that the client will stop doing business with you.
It’s never good to work from a position of fear or desperation. It’s unhealthy for your mind, body, and spirit, not to mention your business and income.
If you’re fearful a client will stop doing business with you, you may hesitate to increase your fees when you know you should. You may not renegotiate a contract to cover a change in the scope of work. You may let them get behind in paying their invoices.
While they may continue doing business with you, is this the kind of business you want?
Possibly the most important thing you can do to eliminate the fear of this client leaving you is to take on more clients. Client relationships aren’t like romantic relationships. It isn’t “cheating” to have a relationship with more than one client at a time. It’s a good thing.
Investment advisors preach about having a diversified portfolio. As a freelancer, your portfolio of clients should be diversified, too.
Don’t let your relationship with one major client give love a bad name. Take the steps I’ve outlined here to maintain a healthy business and positive relationships with your clients.
Doing so really is a win-win for everybody involved.
I want to hear from YOU! Share your thoughts and experiences in a comment below.
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