Freelancing Work: Small Clients VS Big Clients

Your Customers Will Shape Your Business

Before you hang your shingle, you should have a clear picture of your ideal customer. Close your eyes: Do you see a local, independent business? A chain of smallish stores? Or do you see a major corporation?

As you build your brand, your customers will help define your business. Beyond budgets and deadlines, beyond your income and the reputation of your firm—your clients will shape the way you do business. Larger, more demanding clients will be a catalyst for growth. Working with a bigger group of smaller clients will help you build a broad network.


The choice can look like, ‘six of one, half a dozen of the other,’ but which makes more sense for your business?

What Factors to Consider When Thinking About Clients

Solopreneurs need to plan ahead—flexibility and firmness in equal measure is the recipe for success in small business. As a new solopreneur, you might be thinking that you’ll have to spend the next few years working exclusively with smaller clients, accepting more or less any job you can get. Once you have a solid reputation, once things settle down, then you can go after the big fish.  For now, you need to focus on the little guys. Work hard, let the projects pile up, and keep your eyes peeled for a big score.

Here’s the catch: things never settle down. And that’s the best case scenario! If all goes well, your business will begin to grow, your clients will return, and you will have more work than you can handle. Just imagine: you have an inbox full of unread emails, your desk is piled high with projects in the works, your phone is ringing off the hook….

So when exactly are you going to find the time to track down leads, arrange meetings, and pitch yourself to a big client?

Maybe never. That’s why you need to understand the pros and cons of working with both small and large clients.

Working With Little Clients Allows You to Build Your Business Gradually

Generally, smaller firms have smaller budgets. This means that Pa’s Gourmet Grocery might offer you significantly less money than Whole Foods. However, smaller firms tend to be more flexible. You are able to contact the manager or owner directly, rather than an underling, which streamlines the entire process. And unlike a large client with an established brand identity, a small client is more likely to value your creative input. In short: small clients appreciate your work.

What’s more, by working with a larger pool of clients, you protect your business from the possibility that one or two big accounts will suddenly pull out and leave a huge hole in your budget. You can easily replace the revenue from a few small clients, but will you be able to find a new big fish before your debts swallow you whole?

Now, the downside. Small clients can be erratic—a large multinational corporation is unlikely to run off without paying (they are too big to hide), but small clients with serious financial problems have been known to skip a bill.

Large Clients Push Your Business to Its Maximum Potential

Big clients move more slowly—everything’s decided by committee—but they spend more money. That means more resources, bigger expectations, and, hopefully, bigger returns. If your primary business objective is maximum profit and growth, then eventually your business will need to attract larger clients. It’s simple mathematics.

Working with a small group of big clients saves you time: there is less paperwork, legal, accounting, administration, and more billable hours on the clock. Yes, you’ve got all your eggs in one or two or ten baskets, rather than 100, but you can protect yourself from losing clients by providing excellent service, flexible terms, and a fantastic product. Be the best at what you do… your clients will follow you step for step!

Marshall Lee

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