How's your client mix?

In a superficial way, there are really only two types of clients; good and bad. But the reality is that you need a client mix. If all your clients are the same you might as well have one boss and go back to working for someone else.
There are lots of different ways to categorise your client mix. Here’s one way.

Meal tickets

Meal tickets are a critical part of your client mix. They are regular clients you can reasonably rely on to commission work and pay reliably every month.
They may not offer the most exciting or enjoyable work on your ticket but it’s regular, pays your required rate and keeps things ticking over. You have a good relationship with these clients and you rely on each other. These clients are as close to a regular job as you can get.
One thing to watch out for are your local tax rules. In some jurisdictions, if you get too much of your income from a single source then you may be deemed to be an actual employee – the very thing you’re trying to avoid as a freelancer. If you’re in Australia, the ATO provides information for contractors.

Specials and one-offs

There will be times when clients come out of the blue. They commission you for one-off jobs, never to be seen from again. Can also be clients that commission you once, seem like they’ll be good but aren’t worth the hassle as they keep changing the brief, are slow payers or get started on a project only to try and milk you for extra services for no charge.
In other words, they’ll be one-offs either because they only need you once or because they haven’t been great clients.
If a one-off client proves to be a good client then make sure you keep in regular contact. Even though their need might have only been short term, add them to your newsletter list and stay in regular contact. It’s always good to stay in touch as you never know when they’ll need some help again.


As a general rule you should never work for free. If you don’t value your work why should anyone else. However, when you start out, doing a small number of freebies can be a good way to build a CV, references and portfolio of work. Include clients that pay low rates but are great for your profile.
Also, doing local community work or helping out a preferred charity can be a great way to network as well as providing assistance to someone in need.

Profile Builders

There are some clients that look great on your client list as they are well known, high profile, prestigious or could direct you towards other clients. You should make an effort to pursue some of these as they give your business a great credibility boost. Also, if these clients are large companies they’re likely to have great budgets.
Make a list of profile builders and make a plan to contact them regularly. Do your research and find out where the best contact points into those companies are – and there may be more than one.
With the right client mix you can be assured that you’ll have enough variety in your workload so that you don;t get bored.

Comments (2)

  1. Hamish Blair


    These comments apply to anyone in professional services where each day you have to find a new client, or get a new engagement from an existing client (so not as relevant to auditors and tax accountants who get recurring work).
    So – how do you get new clients? Referrals are great, but sometimes cold calling etc. is needed.

  2. Reply

    Thanks Hamish
    That’s the subject of another post that’s coming up. But cold calling, networking, looking at job listings, etc are all parts of a strategy.

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