The other day I passed the milestone of having been freelance for 20 years. (Yikes.) So I thought I’d use this blog post to share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Lesson 1: Don’t start work with a new client until you’ve got the go ahead in writing
I say in my terms and conditions that ‘work will only start once I have received an email or purchase order confirming the budget’. And, when I start work for a brand new client, I only start when I have 50% of the project fee cleared in my bank account.
Also, make sure you have a clear, written brief so you both understand what the parameters of the project are. Specify exactly in your quote what your price covers – including the number of meetings.
Lesson 2: Planning your schedule is a waste of time
Sod’s Law says that no matter how carefully you plan your work and try to schedule in different projects, it all goes out the window. A project gets delayed or gets cancelled (or both) and, just when you thought you’d be nice and busy, you’re left twiddling your thumbs.
Lesson 3: It’s always a yo-yo of feast and famine
In June, I was wondering how on earth I’d cope with the two big web writing projects I’d landed. Then, both got delayed (see Lesson 2), so I had a very quiet month. Now, in August, everyone is phoning up and giving me work. In fact, so much so, that I’m working weekends and having to turn some stuff down. And you know what? It’s always been a case of feast and famine.
Lesson 4: It’s OK to turn work down
If you’re asked to do a job that a) doesn’t really interest you or b) doesn’t play to your strengths, then say you’re not really the right person to do it. It’s much better to be upfront. But do try and find another person who can step in and do the work, so your client/potential client isn’t left in the lurch.
Lesson 5: Gut instincts are always right
If you have an uneasy feeling about a new client or little warning bells are going off in your head, you must listen to your instinct. Don’t be enticed by the thought that it’s a lucrative project. You’ll live to regret it.
Lesson 6: Don’t work with companies that want to beat you down on price
Professional work demands a professional rate. And potential clients who want to hire you on the cheap always prove to be demanding/difficult/slow to pay. Not only have you got to put up with a troublesome client but, since your time is taken up working for less money, you have to turn away other work that would pay your proper rate.
These are all lessons I learned the hard way. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned since you’ve been freelance?