Back in 2009 and 2010 when I was starting out as a full-time copywriter, I was scrambling for crumbs underneath the table.
I was hustling like crazy and taking on any clients I could get. My first full year in business for myself, 2010, I made $54,000 and some change. Not great money, but I was happy with it.
One of the clients was a small gig I got on Elance.
Yes, I was an Elancer for about a year, along with a bunch of local clients I had.
And you know what? If everything else fell apart, or if I was on the run and had to move to Estonia tomorrow, I’d go right back and do the same thing.
Anyway, Elance is now Upwork, and it’s a valid way to get gigs. Especially when you’re starting out.
This client I snagged back in February of 2010 was a small fitness center in San Diego.
I dealt directly with the owner, and they paid me a whopping $120 on that first project, helping out with their newsletter.
Today, almost eight years later, I’m still working for them. I interview two clients and one trainer every month, and write up three good stories.
They pay me quite a bit more, and the whole thing takes less than a day of my time every month.
So why do I keep a client like this when I have so many other things going on?
One, it’s fun and rewarding work. I absolutely love talking to the clients and trainers, and it motivates me to stay in shape.
I also get a lot of positive feedback on the newsletter, and I’ve made a lot of really interesting connections. Their client base includes a lot of doctors, lawyers, CEO’s, a few actors, and even a New York Jets cheerleader (who’s on my list to contact soon).
The other reason is because the owner is a top-notch guy who’s building a very solid business. When I started he had seven studios in the San Diego area. He now has 74, and he’s opening more all the time.
Over the years I’ve gotten to know him and his wife. We’ve had dinner a few times, he’s personally worked me out at their La Jolla studio, and we swap emails now and then talking about business ideas.
My point with this story and today’s message?
1. Start where you are!
Whatever level you’re at, there are clients out there. Whether it’s a $120 gig on Upwork or a local client who can’t afford a marketing agency, you can help people wherever you are.
2. Hustle for anything you can get.
I say this all the time, but we could all stand to move a little faster and ramp up the activity.
3. Deliver good work.
4. Turn small clients into big and/or ongoing ones.
5. Have one client you keep for non-financial reasons.
One client you keep for fun, networking, or other reasons. The money is decent, but more of a bonus. I would almost do the work for this client for free, it’s that rewarding.
6. Get to know clients on a deeper level than just business.
It’s fun to be able to email them and say, “hey, I’m coming into San Diego next month” and know that they’re going to make time for me. And probably treat me to dinner at The Chart House in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.
7. Have a back-up plan.
If I had more time on my hands, and wasn’t doing anything else, I could call this client up tomorrow and easily turn this into a full-time gig. Or do the same thing I’m doing for them for a handful of other clients and make a good full-time income, working maybe eight days a month.
Maybe your back-up plan is Upwork, or small, local clients.
The things is, you have a skill that should always be able to make you money. Knowing that you have that, and having a back-up plan of some kind, should give you peace of mind.
It’s like insurance. Good to have, you hope you never have to use it.
My challenge to you: Find a client you can grow with, and who could possibly become a full-time endeavor if you wanted it to. Just as a back-up plan, even if you never tap into it.
Even better? Get cracking on your own business. One where you have lots of clients who are buying your products or services, month after month.
I’d like to know. Do you have a client you keep for reasons other than money?