Is It Better To Have 1 Large Client or Lots of Smaller Ones?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on SEO Oasis. That’s down to 2 reasons, the first is being more busy with content of Amazon SEO, Ghost Fitness & clients rather than posts on the blog. But the bigger (not moaning) reason was I simply didn’t know what to write about, but this topic hit me again recently and it keeps coming up when I speak to a lot of SEO consultants around the world. – “Is it better to have 1 high paying, large (probably corporate) client, or lots of smaller ones (most likely smaller local businesses?)” In this post I’m going to outline the pros and cons to both and then make a decision based on my personal preference. But I am interested to hear everyone’s thoughts, so feel free to hit me up on twitter if you have an opinion.

Before I get started on the pros and cons I wanted to put a monetary value to this to make this a more “real” case study/opinions. So this is the situation – Your 1 large client is a global brand looking for a full digital marketing campaign that they pay you £10,000 a month or £120,000 a year for, this doesn’t include ad spend but everything else, such as your profit margins is down to you. The multiple smaller ones are 20 smaller, local and national businesses that total exactly £10,000 per month in earnings for yourself. So your total earnings at the end of the year are the same.

Pros of the 1 Large Client

  1. Customer Service is easier – You are only dealing with a single client and usually only a couple of individuals inside of this company. E.G. Marketing director, managing director, CEO etc. Personally I enjoy talking to successful business owners anyway and if they pay you 10k a month they are on the way.
  2. A single website to optimise – This is probably the largest positive.  You can put all your effort into optimisation of a single website. Content, links, on-page all becomes easier when there is only 1 site to look at.

mad-menCons of the 1 Large Client

  1. The risk of losing the client – Similar to the scene in Mad Men when the red stripe was lost. [Also on the Mad Men point there is a good article on how this series is applicable to digital marketing.] For an advertising company relying on 1 client for 60%+ of earnings is dangerous. So 100% of total earnings is even more dangerous. Remember losing this company might not simply mean that they decided to change companies, your client may go out of business, have health issues or might even completely cut ties, you can’t ever be safe with a single client. All of which is the biggest risk to having an individual client accounting for 100% of your earnings.
  2. Corporate Stuff– Meetings, phone calls, being available all the time is something that most self employed SEOs dislike. So having to deal with constant updates, meetings or essentially feeling like you have a job is definitely going to be a con.

Pros of Smaller Clients

  1. Easier to Close (Less corporate levels) – Generally it is easier to close a smaller business than a larger one.
  2. Losing 1 Client is only 5% of your business – Assuming you cannot generate any new business, losing 1 client isn’t the end of the world and won’t have much of an effect on your end profit.

Cons of Smaller Clients

  1. Less understanding about schedules – Generally if you have 20 clients you’re going to need to hire a VA (virtual assistant) to handle some of the admin tasks, otherwise this is going to leave very little time for you to actually optimise and promote their websites. Stuff like emails, calls and tweaks to the site that will inevitably have to be made.
  2. Hiring is Essential (Hence Profit Margins Reduced) – Hiring is essential if you have over 12-15 clients. Doing all of the tasks associated with SEO yourself for all of these clients is going to quickly lead to you burning-out and hence quality of the work being reduced. You can also outsource these tasks, but these outsourcing connections, and finding high quality individuals to outsource to, is a hiring process in itself.

My Thoughts

In an ideal world it would be easier to have 1 large client on a yearly contract, and although this is relatively easy to do for larger digital marketing companies, for smaller consultants or firms it usually isn’t an option. As a result I would personally advice splitting the small/large client down the middle. Taking on smaller clients with the end goal to have the “dream” client. If you keep this in-mind then you won’t hire “bad” clients and you will also have the capacity to take on the large(r) one(s) when they do come to you.

The perfect split (Assuming £10k maximum monthly earnings) In my opinion:

  1. 5 x £1,000 per month clients. – National businesses that can benefit from your services dramatically, but also provide the staple of your earnings.
  2. 1 x £3,000 per month clients. – A large, potentially global brand you want to land as your primary client.
  3. 4 x £500 per month clients. – Local businesses that you are looking to build a connection with and then upsell.

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