Everyone is different. Profound. But seriously: I have copywriting colleagues who have three to five clients, and others who have 20+ (me, which is part of why Hire a Writer has to exist). There are a lot of factors that go into this decision, and it’s important that, as you shape your copywriting career, you take some ownership over the number of clients you take on.
Number of Clients Doesn’t Equal Volume of Work
A clarifying point: I’m not talking about how much work you can produce. Some of us are 80,000 words-a-week-ers, which can be achieved with three clients or 30 clients. That’s not really the point of this decision, although of course it factors in. If you can’t write at least 30 pieces of content a week, you obviously can’t have 30 clients. Although, I guess if they’re on a two blog a month cycle or something, maybe. Point being: number of clients doesn’t always equal volume, and you need to think through every other factor too.
Here are the factors most impacted by how many copywriting clients you have:
1 - Copywriting Income: Predictability and Stability
The argument in favor of predictability probably skews toward having fewer clients. For instance, if you have four solid clients who pay a copywriting retainer, you may be able to make your income with some predictability. However, I would argue that the stability component is actually a vote in favor of MORE clients. Here’s why: if you have four clients and one drops you (and they will drop you - you’re a freelancer, after all), you’re screwed and scrambling. However, if you have 20 clients and one drops you, fine, whatever, jump on Upwork and get the ball rolling to replace them. In my experience, more clients means better freelance pay + less financial risk.
2 - Mental Workload
This is an important personal calculation: realistically, how much can you learn on a regular basis? It’s almost impossible to envision a world in which you have 25 clients who all sell or do the same thing. This means you’re going to be on a learning curve 25 times in a row: nailing down customer personas, voice and tone, communication styles and more. Can you do that? Do you want to? It’s important to calculate the mental workload it takes to manage 25 bodies of work (or a similarly high number).
3 - Relationship Building and Maintenance
Another important point of consideration is how many client relationships you can reasonably maintain. A lot of this comes down to whether you are an introvert (relationships drain you) or an extrovert (relationships fuel you). I’m the latter, and I L-O-V-E chatting with clients all day every day. More than 15 hours of my week is spent in meetings. It energizes me. But I would say that, in my experience, more writers are introverted. This means that a constant barrage of emails, Slack messages, texts, calls, etc. could drain you. Don’t overextend yourself. Be mindful of how much energy you have to give, and how much communication you can do.
4 - Sales Cycles
As a freelance copywriter, it’s my opinion that you MUST be an excellent marketer of yourself. If you aren’t good at sales, you should probably get a staff position somewhere. If you are going to make it as a freelancer, you have to be good at sales. When it comes to the question of how many clients you want, the sales-related consideration is how often are you willing to sell? If you only have a few clients that make up most of your income, you may not have to sell as often. Smaller potato clients will come and go more frequently, which means you may have to sell more. I love sales, so that works for me - but not everyone does. Know yourself and plan accordingly.
5 - Network and Referrals
One of the best things to me about having a big roster of clients is that it means more people know me, and, consequently, will refer me to their colleagues. This has been hugely beneficial to my copywriting career. If you only have three to five clients, your network and growth potential is hugely limited. That may be fine with you if all you want is to be a solopreneur and work with dedication for a few people over the years. However, if you have bigger plans for your career, you need to consider that having more clients means a faster growth trajectory, when it comes to personal branding and awareness. The more people who know you, the more opportunities you get.
Decide How Many Copywriting Clients You Want
Ultimately, the best thing about being a freelance writer is that you have control over your career. Yes, you may have to tick certain boxes to actually make a career out of this, but you can decide on what scale you want to work. Whether you choose very few copywriting clients, or very many, I suggest you do the due diligence of these five points. It’s worth making the decision on purpose, rather than taking whatever comes and hoping you can handle it.