About a year into my freelance journey, I was working around the clock but my income was so inconsistent and scattered that the Dave Ramsey in me was dying (P.S. If you don’t know who Dave Ramsey is, look him up). I had a hard time figuring out exactly what my monthly income was going to be because I worked hourly! I had about 6 clients, all of them requiring varying amounts of work monthly. One month a client would be launching an event and I would be working 130 hours in a month and the next month things would slow down and she would only need me for 30 hours. I went from being extremely overwhelmed and overworked with lots of money in my pocket to bored and broke and the cycle would keep going like that for months. I was so frustrated! I had heard before starting my business that as a freelancer, one of the downsides was that I couldn’t expect consistent income but I just knew that there was a solution to this problem. I knew that I couldn’t be the only freelancer out there flustered, confused, overwhelmed and going from feeling like I am on an income high to broker than a joke all in a matter of months.
I finally realized that I had set myself up for overwhelm and inconsistency all on my own. Once I figured out that I was in control of my own business and finances, I completely reworked my packages and the way that I invoiced my clients. The biggest change that I made in my company was retainers! Retainer clients put me on the right path to having a consistent income and avoiding burnout.
What is a retainer client? A retainer client is a client who pays you the same thing each and every month for a set amount of work, this work can be a package set by you or a set number of hours that you agree on. When a client approaches me for help, during the consultation, I ask them what type of services and tasks they are looking for. I can estimate how many hours per month this will take me and that the client will sign an agreement stating that they will be paying me for X amount of hours every month for the duration of my agreement. For example, Client A needs 3 blog posts per month, 2 newsletters, 5 posts on their social media platforms every month and I think it will take 40 hours a month… voila! The client pays for 40 hours every month! Maybe they need 30 graphics designed every month and you price the package at $600 per month… voila! See what I’m saying?! Oh, how life got so much better once I started to take advantage of retainers!
Ok, so now that we have both decided that retainers are the bomb, here are 3 more tips on how to make your finances more consistent.
- Implementing a min package
- Invoicing on the same day every month
Ok, let’s dive into these…
- I decided to only accept retainer clients that needed a min of 20 hours of care. Why? Because honestly, working 5 hours a month for a client was, in my opinion, not worth the bandwidth that it took from me. Onboarding a client, communicating with clients, invoicing clients, etc, it all took energy out of my life and I wanted to work smarter not harder. By eliminating the 5 and 10 hours a month clients, I was reducing the amount of behind the scenes admin work that was necessary to run my business. Fewer invoices to send, fewer emails to send and less brainpower needed. I could take on a few bigger clients rather than many smaller clients and that worked out perfectly!
- One of the other decisions that I made in my company was to invoice everyone on the same two days a month. All of my retainer clients either get invoiced on the 15th or the end of the month. When a client contacts me and together we made the decision to work together, I will let them know that I can start work on either the mid or end of the month and to expect their first invoice then and every month after that. This made budgeting for my family so much easier!
- My agreements are for a minimum of 6 months-no exceptions. I love building close relationships with all my clients so the idea of having people in and out of my company was heartbreaking for me… I realize that not everyone gets oddly attached to their clients but for me, it was crucial that I didn’t have a revolving door of clients coming in and leaving. Onboarding is a process and it takes time and I don’t want to be spending all my day’s onboarding clients or getting to know new clients every month! Making agreements 6 months long creates space for us to build a relationship, understand each other and how we work and it also gives us long enough to see results! Early on in my business, I had a client ask to break the agreement after 1 mont… 1 month! They felt that I had spent the entire month getting to know them and not getting work done, which might have been true but I want to get to know my clients, take my time to get it right, understand their voice and how they like things done, all of these things are necessary to build a long term healthy relationship. I have had few clients leave within the first year and I credit that to be the fact that I kinda forced them to stay with me during those first 6 months of the honeymoon phase.
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