Working With Local Clients:Pros and Cons

It seems that once you get a few good, national clients, the people at home start to notice you. Local businesses are interested in this “offsite help” or “remote professional” concept. I was recently asked by a friend if I would be working with the locals now that I’m living in the city. My answer? “I’m not interested.”

Why? For me, the “cons” outweigh the “pros” of working locally. Have you weighed out the pros and cons to determine if a local client list is more beneficial than a long distance one? Maybe you should…

Benefits of working with local clients:

  • You are available for face-to-face meetings.
  • You “know” your clients in a more concrete way.
  • You can travel onsite to see how they operate.
  • You can deliver something across town quicker than you can overnight it.
  • You are in the same time zone so workday hours mesh.
  • You are more likely to work with the subordinates, instead of just the boss.
  • You may find that the number of projects you are assigned increases because you are local and/or more involved in the business.
  • You can take your clients out to lunch occasionally and find other ways to build that working relationship with personal contact.
  • Word of mouth marketing may be stronger on a local level and you may grow a local client base more quickly than a national or global one.
  • You can market locally by joining local networking groups and business clubs and feel less “isolated” in your work.

Possible problems with working with local clients:

  • You are expected to be physically present when there’s a crisis.
  • You spend more time traveling to the client’s site (and if you don’t charge for travel time, you lose billable hours).
  • You may experience a resistance to work done “virtually” when you are physically close. (“Can you just come in, it’s so much easier if I can just show you what I need…”)
  • You can’t use “off hours” to complete projects and deliver them using the time difference (so you may work later).
  • You may experience fewer eggs in your business basket: clients who lean on you more (because you are close) may monopolize your time and prevent you from maintaining a variety of clients.
  • You may notice a less distinct line between “employee” and “independent contractor” — be sure to review the IRS guidelines on employee vs. contract labor.
  • Getting paid may actually take longer. (Waiting when the “check is in the mail” takes longer than immediate electronic, credit card or PayPal funding.)
  • You may spend more time being PC and less time doing the work when you are physically close to the client.
  • You are easier to find and may encounter clients when you are off the clock, when you are at school functions, even at the grocery store.
  • Your “business attire” is completely different when you have local clients that may “drop by” than when you have distance clients that never see how you dress to work.

That gives you ten pros and ten cons for cultivating a local client base. Personally, I have one local client that I maintain. The rest are long distance. Why? I find that on the average, local clients are “needy” compared to my national clients (my current client being the exception). I find that local clients expect me to drop everything and help when they have a crisis. I find that they plan less and are less likely to try to problem solve on their own before picking up the phone and calling me to come in. And, I like having the option to work in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. My days of the daily “power suit” are long gone. Thankfully, my “local” client is still a couple hours away, so I don’t have “drop in” surprises in my home office.

What do you like about local clients? What do you like about national/global clients? Help build the pros and cons list!