Micro Mentor

Dear MM,

Since I went freelance, I've had so much work from my previous employer that I haven't thought to look elsewhere. This month, all of a sudden, I have no work to do. How do all the other freelancers out there do it?

Shocked and Awed


Dear Shocked and Awed,

It sounds as though you have a great relationship with your previous employer. Well done. Contacts, as MM repeats each month, are the key to business.

Note the plural subject in that last sentence. Yes, contacts. As the saying goes, don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Just like in fairy tales, the magic number is three. Three regular clients, that is. If you have only one or two regular clients, then you're leaving yourself vulnerable to company restructuring or new budgetary constraints, if not to the odd wicked stepmother.

MM recently heard a well-regarded editor tell the story of how she'd had a full workload from two regular clients for three or four years. Both clients stopped outsourcing work at the same time - about a month after she'd acquired a mortgage, by herself.

So think creatively about how you can build up your client list so that there's always a fall back. Of course, you can have more than three clients. That way, you might find yourself saying 'no' to jobs. Paradoxically, that might make you more desirable as an editor - but that's another story.

And if you're not a sole trader, here's another reason to think about client numbers. If you are operating as a company or a trust and earn more than 80% of your income from only one client or one group of related clients, then you might fall foul of some fiendishly intractable ATO regulations about personal services income. This, however, is a subject for your trusty accountant and not MM.

What about our well-regarded editor, you say? She is now running a successful B&B out of her home, and her editing business is back on track. There's creative thinking in action.