Drop your worst client. You know the one. You're thinking of them right now. Maybe they offer the lowest pay. Maybe they're always in crisis mode. Horrendous topic? Cut! Gruelingly detailed style sheet and sloppy writing? Out! Late payer? Bottom of the list.
Remember last week, when we resolved to start finding better clients? We're doing this cull to make room for them.
You don't need to do anything but turn down this client the next time they call. If that's scary, just turn down one truly horrendous assignment. (And then the next, and the one after that, too. It's definitely habit-forming.)
Here's what you might say:
“I’m becoming more selective with my assignments in order to deliver my best work. At this time, I can not accommodate this assignment. You and I have had success working together and I hope to work together in the future when there is more [time, budget, speedy payment, work related to my specialty, etc.]. “
If you don't have other work to fill that space, use the time to build your skills or consult your other clients on how you can serve them better or make their job easier.
This year, my worst client is even someone I like. She has good and interesting products that push me to grow, and she pays well. But she's always in an unholy tear and pays her invoices months late. I actually would like to keep working with her, when we can change those two things.
For now, I'm going to tell this client “I'd be happy to refer you to another editor,” and I will give that editor a heads-up about the slow payment and chronic mad rush.
*Can't picture your worst client? Review that ideal client you wrote up last time and rate each new offer against it.