The later you deliver a project, the more brilliant it has to be. (I have an assignment on my desk that needs to be Pulitzer and Cleo material by now.) If you think the work will be lame, send it in four days early.
The time to work on developing new clients is when you are busy as hell, and don’t have the time.
That way, those new opportunities will bloom just when your workload starts to slow down. Which is what you want. If you wait until the lull to start chasing, it’s too late. The new business won’t come around in time. There is always a lag.
You are most likely to lose money (or get chiseled by a client) precisely when you need the work and the money the most. When you really need the job, you make lousy decisions, suck up too much, believe too easily, overpromise. I speak from painful experience here.
Oddly, you have to act (and think) as if you don’t need the money. Think, “If I had plenty of work right now, what would I charge for this? Would I even consider this job?) That takes guts.
The more you narrow your focus, the more you can widen your net.
It’s somehow easier to find clients and attract work when you’re a specialist. And you become good at your work, and you can charge more. You can specialize eighteen different ways: in an industry, subject matter, type of client, technology or medium, geography, a style or genre. There’s a guy I see driving around town with a sign on his truck, “Specializing in all types of work.” He thinks he is keeping is options open, but he’s losing out.
And yes, you can specialize in a few things. Just put them on separate websites, different emails. Try a few and see what works.
The clients who want to pay the least tend to cost you the most in time, extra demands, and irritation.
When I start a job thinking “This will be dazzlingly brilliant,” it usually ends up a stinking mess that I only want to get finished.
But when I look at a job and think, “There ain’t much to work with here,” I usually like the way it comes out.
A major screw-up can endear you to a client forever. Provided you fall on your sword, go needlessly overboard in fixing it, and flog yourself mercilessly for letting them down. Especially if the client was partly to blame. They will respect you more than if nothing had ever gone wrong.