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Michelle Waitzman

Three Ways Long-term Clients Make Freelancing Less Stressful

Illustration of two arms reaching out of a laptop and a cellphone screen to shake hands.
Illustration of two arms reaching out of a laptop and a cellphone screen to shake hands.
Copyright: mamormo

A lot of creative professionals become freelancers because it gives them the freedom to work on projects they enjoy, make their own schedule and pursue personal goals. But life as a freelancer is stressful for some. Income and schedules can be unpredictable, and finding clients requires constant effort. These stresses can lead to anxiety and sometimes spur people to look for full-time jobs so they can stop worrying about whether they’ll be able to pay their bills.

There are other solutions, though. Building long-term relationships with your clients is one way to bring down your stress levels and enjoy freelance life more. Last year, more than 80 per cent of my income came from long-term and repeat clients. Let’s look at the main reasons these clients make my life less stressful.

1. Taming the “feast or famine” cycle

Many freelancers take every job that’s offered to them because they’re afraid to turn down income. They work ridiculously long hours, have no time to do any marketing or networking, and then end up in a dry spell. This causes them to panic and take on too much work once again. The classic “feast or famine” cycle can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Having long-term clients breaks the cycle because they often book you for ongoing work or establish a pattern, so you know how much work to expect from them and when. Suddenly you don’t need to panic about running out of work (or money). With a few long-term clients lined up, you can fill the rest of your schedule with projects that get you really excited and not just take whatever comes your way.

2. Making editing more efficient

Every time you start working with a new client, there’s stress and inefficiency because you don’t know what they’re expecting from you or how much back-and-forth will be required to make them happy.

Once you’ve worked with a client for a while, you’ll have a better idea of how involved they want to be, what style they prefer and which suggestions they’ll reject. After getting to know their preferences, it will be easier and faster for you to edit their work and deliver the product they want. You will also earn their trust, so they will be less likely to check in constantly or ask you to justify every edit. All of this reduces the stress of working with them.

3. Spending less time on marketing

Every hour you spend on marketing, making cold calls or applying for work is an hour that you aren’t working for pay — which can make it feel like wasted time. Many editors also find the marketing side of their business stressful because they’re uncomfortable “selling” themselves.

The more of your schedule you can fill with long-term clients, the fewer new clients you’ll need to find, and the less time you’ll need to spend marketing.

There are actually two more ways that long-term clients can make your life less stressful, which I’ll reveal in my session, “Get Into a Long-term Relationship With Your Clients,” at the 2022 Editors Canada online conference. I’ll be explaining how to find and keep your ideal long-term clients and reduce the stress of freelancing.


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6 Comments on “Three Ways Long-term Clients Make Freelancing Less Stressful”

  • Anita Jenkins


    Ah, yes, those editors who find the marketing side of their business stressful because they’re uncomfortable “selling” themselves. There is no way around selling yourself if you want to be freelance.

    Is there another way to get those desirable long-term clients? Possibly word of mouth or lining up a former employer. But selling is involved even then.

    • Yes, in a sense it’s all selling. But I’ve had contacts who moved on to new jobs, and by staying in touch I ended up with their new company as a client!

  • Naomi Pauls


    Well said, Michelle. I was just thinking this recently — my long-term clients are golden! Both periodicals and journals provide steady work.

    As a book editor, I’m especially pleased to edit a client’s second or third nonfiction book. Recently, a client referred me to her daughter! Long-term clients are the best.

    • Referrals are one of the best parts of having long-term clients! It carries a lot of weight when someone says they’ve been working with you for years.

  • Lynne Pearson


    I work with romantic fiction authors. My calendar is completely full with only two new clients this year.
    Long-term relationships do reduce my stress level. We know what to expect from each other.

    • Hi Lynne,
      Yes, romance authors are some of the most prolific independents. That’s a great niche for finding long-term clients! I don’t edit fiction, but my understanding is that romance and fantasy/sci-fi authors tend to publish more regularly than most other genres. And maybe cozy mysteries.

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