Advice for Freelancers

“Are You Having a Laugh?” What Freelancers Want To Say vs What We Should Say

This is a bit of a tongue in cheek one but sadly addresses a real problem for freelancers: cheapskate clients. We all know them. We’ve all had at least one who expect FLAWLESS ENGLISH OR YOU WONT GET PAID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! for the princely sum of $5 for a 1,000 word article and those who think they’re doing you a favour by offering you lots of work despite being unwilling to even consider coming close to your reasonable rate. This is a look at what you want to say against what you should say.

What You Want To Say: Free Article? Excuse Me While I Die Laughing

This is one of the biggest tricks they try. Whether they’re dangling “exposure” as a goose that lays the golden egg or promising to pay you if they like it, this industry is full of people who don’t want to pay anything for your work and experience. If only my landlord, utility companies and supermarket accepted payment in tweets and Facebook mentions, I’d be a very rich man indeed. But until they drag themselves into the same la-la-land that the client presently inhabits, we all have to make do with the old tried and tested method of money.

What you should say: I don’t do free samples. Here are some examples of my work on the web. These clients went away very happy. If these aren’t sufficient then I bid you good day and suggest you find somebody else more in line with your needs.

What You Want To Say: I Wouldn’t Get Out of Bed for That Price

The next step up from the client who expects you to work for nothing is the one who thinks they are doing you a favour by offering you work. You should be grateful to receive such an exciting opportunity (low payers always use that term, don’t they?) to work for such a pittance. Didn’t you know they’re one of the world’s fastest growing companies? While there may sometimes be some merits to offering a discount for a lot of work, this doesn’t always materialise so don’t take it at their word that discount now will lead to long-term stuff.

What you should say: I don’t offer discount with a significant incentive to do so. If we can contractually agree to me committing to this promised future work now, then yes. However, if it fails to materialise, I will charge you full price for the discounted work

What You Want To Say: Not My Problem, You Shouldn’t Have Left it So Late

It’s Friday morning and they want you to work over the weekend. Or, it’s Friday morning and they want it done today even though you’ve already told them you have work commitments to finish before the weekend. It might be a student who requires a proofread essay that they must submit before 5, or it’s a business launching a new marketing campaign on Monday and need all the material ready. Somebody, somewhere, has made an immense mistake and they’re rushing to get it done. Either way, there are two ways of dealing with this.

What you should say (1): No I can’t get this done today. I have too many other work commitments from long-term clients I don’t want to let down. If it really is that urgent, find somebody else. Otherwise, I can prioritise this for next week

What you should say (2):Yes I will do this but as it will eat into my personal time at gone 6pm on a Friday night, I’m afraid I’m going to charge extra on top of my usual rates

What You Want To Say: If You Know Better, Why Did You Bother to Hire Me At All?

Yeah… the armchair expert who hires you for your skills and then promptly tears down your research or writing, thinking they know better. Look, I know I’m not an expert on everything. But I know what I know. What I don’t know I’ll ask for sources. When a client attempts to muscle in on my knowledge with the insistence that my research is wrong, unless they are the expert, they are no more knowledgeable than you are. But if they’re flat wrong (for example, you’ve used an open access research report and they’re pointing to a newspaper article), it’s counterproductive.

What You Should Say: I’m afraid your source is not very reliable. If you’re in any doubt about the quality of my research, here are the links

What You Want To Say: You Might Be a Non-Profit, But I Still Have Bills To Pay

Charities. There are two ways of looking at it – you are either helping a charity reach out to donors and you feel you should give discount. Or they are just another client and should pay the same rates and be subject to the same contractual obligations as anyone else. Don’t let charitable clients guilt you into a race to the bottom. You have a business to run and bills to pay. They are trying to maximise their “profits” (for want of a better word) just like you are. They’re treating it as a business contract while putting on the veneer of a social contract.

What You Should Say: I’m sorry, I understand you’re a charity with limited budget, but I am a professional and I’m not in a position to offer my skills on a voluntary basis. If that’s what you require, I suggest you hire a volunteer, not a freelancer

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