I do some small-scale freelance work in addition to working a 9-6 job. I have a couple of clients who regularly commission work from me, and who trust me to get stuff done on time because I've never, ever missed a deadline.

I have just this moment been offered a big commission from a new client. It's really exciting stuff - high-profile material for a big name in the business, who are offering to pay well. I'd be mad to turn it down.

However, it's going to eat up my entire non-working week to get finished. That means letting down my regular clients, whose work is not going to get turned over by the asking date.

How can I best handle this situation, short of loading up on amphetamines and working the nights away?

  • Why not hire some help..online or offline. Even if it means breaking even for first few projects, won't it be good if you also acquire trust of a newer clients that pay more and want more. You could have hybrid of freelance and business. Sure it'd mean you role will slightly transfer to managing then creating but you should be happy with profit it will give you Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 19:07
  • @MuhammadUmer It's a good suggestion, but not possible. There's a significant subjective element in what I do - someone's hired me because they want my style.
    – Bob Tway
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 7:59
  • 2
    Related, possible duplicate freelancing.stackexchange.com/questions/1761/…
    – user152
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 8:43
  • Also similar to: freelancing.stackexchange.com/q/2050/1018 Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 23:06

4 Answers 4


If the new client needs you to start immediately, I would ask you existing clients: How urgent is this? I've had some things come up and I'm trying to prioritize. Will it impact you negatively to push back our deadline to ____?"

You may be pleasantly surprised to learn they really don't care. I have nearly killed myself over deadlines only to learn later they were pretty arbitrary on the client's part, and the client was clueless that I stayed up all night. When I hire freelancers I let them know if something is not urgent because I know what it's like to be the freelancer, freaking over deadlines.

Most clients aren't thinking about that but they must be aware you have other clients/projects and if they like you and your work so far they'll probably be perfectly happy to let you coast a week or two.

ALSO - one way to buy yourself time is to send them some questions that need to be answered before you can resume their work (and will take a little thought on their part). 9 times out of 10 they won't get back to you for some time unless the work is truly urgent. Maybe I'm a bad person but I have had great success with that technique - just bounce that ball back into their court and and get cranking on the new client's project.

FINALLY - do you have any personal days you can take off from your 9 to 6 job? If so, you could use that time to get things under control. May be a downer to use your time that way but it could also launch you into new work that may ultimately free you up to quit your day job...


Be very, very careful putting all your eggs in one basket. No matter how shiny and sparkly that basket may be.

If you already have deadlines then you should honor those. Prior commitments should never be ignored due to a new offer. You need to negotiate the new offer so that it allows you to complete anything you have already committed to. If that can not be done, it may be best to pass on the new offer, no matter how great it looks. By abandoning existing commitments you do far more harm to your reputation than any new client will add.

Now, since you already have a 9-5 job, there isn't the same need for security which full time freelancers have. So, if you're okay burning your existing clients, possibly upsetting them and never seeing another project from them, and realizing they aren't going to be recommending you to anyone.. then burn the bridges down if that's what you want to do. Just realize that if things don't work out with this new client, you may have to start all over from zero (even less than zero since you failed to meet commitments with previous clients).

  • what if he could bring another person and pay him to do it. This way he will get to keep his current clients happy, and get a new client who is going to boost his status more..only price to pay would be lesser profit in short term Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 19:10
  • If working part time... you might try subcontracting. .. but subcontracting often can take as much or more time to complete something if you've worked with a client for a long period of time and developed some mutual understandings.
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 20:22
  • Definitely agree with this, but, it should also be noted that after you meet your current clients' deadlines, it is time to raise your rates.
    – daaxix
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 5:46

The number of hours that you are willing to stay awake and working is entirely up to you. Be careful of the downward spiral this could create, as all of your projects could be negatively impacted.

I believe your primary focus should be your existing customers. Trust lost is very hard to regain. These customers are a known commodity. They are a reliable stream of projects and your best references for additional clients.

I'd be mad to turn it down.

Maybe, or maybe not. Maybe you'd be mad to take it, if the work would knowingly diminish the quality of the work for your other clients. You don't know what the future will hold for this new client, do you want to risk the business relationship with your current customers for that unknown future?

Can you suggest to the new client that you'd love to take on the project, but can't start for a short period of time?


I worked for a client in Los Angeles whose bread and butter was high-profile independent movie studios and the fashion folks. One of their salespeople got a lead from, uh, the guys with the famous animated mouse :) That company wanted to have my client do some work, but allegedly had reservations because my client did work with its competitors (other studios).

My client's people got greedy and in an effort to secure work from said potential customer, basically told all their small clients in broadcast that they'd have to find a new provider.

Then the great big potential client CHANGED ITS MIND.

The moral of the story: respect what you've got going on already, and clients who are already paying.

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