The ultimate guide to balance client work and networking (even if you have a large deal on)

As a junior professional you always have drummed into you that client work always comes first. That’s fine when you are a junior professional. But what happens when you need to grow a partner-sized client portfolio AND still hit high chargeable time targets? Or if you are a new partner and if you don’t do business development you wouldn’t have any client work to complete? This blog explores how to balance client work and networking.

The problem

If all you do is client work then you will never win your own clients or client work. Of course, you know that. The problem is there is no exact science which predicts how much time it takes to win a client. There is rarely a straight line from one piece of business development activity to a client win. And, there is always more business development activities you can do. Effective business development is always about having a mix of purposeful business development activities done consistently.  Purposeful business development is the opposite of ‘spray and pray’ or ‘random acts of marketing’. It’s about well-thought out business development that links together.

A mindset shift is needed

I could just list of a series of tactical stuff you could do to balance your client work and networking activities. But if you haven’t embraced the fact that business development is now part of your day job, then there is no point. Let me emphasise that, unless you truly see business development as your day job you are always going to struggle with finding the right balance of client work and networking.

Networking isn’t the only form of effective business development activity

As I have mentioned earlier in this blog post effective business development is a mix of activities. The traditional route to market for any accountant, lawyer or consultant is typically about going out and meeting potential referrers or possible clients. This can be one of the most time consuming ways of NOT winning business. Effective business development is normally about a mix of prospecting, building and strengthening relationships with introducers, content marketing, profile building and occasionally a big dollop of luck.

Have a plan

I often talk about the 5Ps to find the time for business development. The first of these Ps are Plan. In other words know exactly what business development activities and why you are doing them. This often helps when it comes to making a priority call on balancing client work and networking.


The 3rd P is prioritise. There is never a perfect answer for what is the right balance of client work to networking. It isn’t always client work, and it definitely isn’t always networking. There is a middle ground and one you need to find for your own practice. My own view is that you should have 3 different levels of business development activity. A high level when your client work is very light. For example after a big deal has concluded or after audit silly season. Then there is a non-negotiable level of business development for when your client workload is extremely high. And finally, there is the normal level of business development for you. For example, my non-negotiable level of business development typically involves me being on LinkedIn at least once a day and twitter most days, plus publishing a blog post every week.

Plan ahead

It’s not just about having a plan for your business development activities. It’s also about planning ahead with your client work. What needs to get done in order to be able to go out to that networking event, meet that introducer or write that blog post?

In summary

If you want to build a partner-sized client portfolio, you will need to balance your client work and business development activities. Business development needs to be seen as part of your day job. That takes planning but also an awareness of exactly what is essential to do to hit your new business targets.