When you first get started with freelancing, even the prospect of meeting with a client is exhilarating. Every request they make, whether it’s unreasonable or not, you agree to. Lower budget than usual? No problem. Well, now’s the time to stop and recognize when you’re being exploited and how to handle it. Here are a couple situations that should trigger alarms, and how to prevent them.
Just starting out with no funds – mind partnering up?
“Partnering up” for a startup usually is not the right kind of partnership a freelancer wants. Unless you have a lot of confidence in the project, don’t take it on. A partnership as a coder, or designer, not only entails the pleasantries of whatever a partnership entails, but also the endless amounts of changes you’ll be doing free of charge since you’re working for a total percentage.
Also, because most of these “partnering up” deals are just bad ideas with no direction – if they don’t have the funding to pay off a freelancer living off pizza and ramen, then what’s to say they have funds for bigger things later on?
Overusage of “simple”, “easy”, and their cousins
“Hey, can you make me a quick little website, provide simple promotion, and create me a neat little brand for $100? It’s simple stuff really, my cousin Vinny who didn’t make it as a mobster offered to make it for $80 – but you know, the whole mobster thing..”
No, I don’t know. First of all, if they keep using the words “easy” and “simple” a lot, you already know they’re undermining your skills. The fact that the most complex thing you “coded” was a forum post with “BBCode” 4 years ago shouldn’t matter – you’re better than this.
Hey, I have future work for you, but..
Oh, they always do, don’t they? They lead you on, seduce you with a little money, and then the prospect of finding the legendary “good long-term client”.. every time, every time.. But then they drop the whole three date rule: payments are small until third or fourth project, sorry.. little funding. Forget them, now. Being lead on won’t benefit anybody.
I want you to create me a brand and a website by tomorrow, ok?
These are the clients that want everything ASAP. Fast and furious, in the most literal sense, and very uncompromising. It’s best to find someone who has some knowledge of what’s being done (not too much, more on that later), as they generally recognize the timeframe needed, costs associated with it, and as an added bonus, truly appreciates difficult work as they can understand the complexity of it. Leave the ASAP-type clients to other needy freelancers.
Can’t pay deposit, maybe full upon completion?
Take a deposit, regardless of prior relationships with the client. I once told a client back for his 4th project to forget about the deposit – very big mistake. Upon finishing the designs and coding them, the client bailed – with the code and everything. Needless to say, I was extremely frustrated and painfully new to freelancing. Very new.
My rule of thumb is generally 50% upfront, 50% upon completion for first time clients, and then around 30% / 70% afterwards. Also, if the client sends an eCheck as the deposit – wait for the payment to clear before starting any work. An eCheck is a very big warning sign.
Hey, I know I didn’t mention this earlier.. but..
You’re just starting out with a client – great guy, great relationship between you two. He’s polite, respectful, and not full of it. You’re starting to feel like this could be a long term thing – but then, as you near the end of the project.. the requests start coming in. All the “Hey, I know.. but..”s, “I just think.. I can understand if..”s, and “If you don’t.. you have 3 hours to live”s type of comments start making an appearance. What do you do?
Say no. Learn the word: embrace it, love it, most importantly, learn to use it. Too often coders and designers alike honor every single request made by the client – regardless of how tedious it may be.
It’s the final stretch of the project: you want to get paid, I get it – but even so, you may have just taken the last stretch in a 800m run and turned it into 2 miles into a 26 mile marathon. The whole mindset of almost finishing, then realizing there’s more left to do leaves freelancers exhausted and desperate. Desperation leads to further exploitation – a vicious cycle that benefits nobody. Not even the client, as your work is just barely cutting it at this point.
At least charge for additional work (be it hourly or fixed – at your discretion). Just don’t be afraid in thinking that upping the original quote is unprofessional; if they’re adding to what was not originally covered in the brief, then you are simply adjusting the quote accordingly. Just be reasonable: installing a plugin shouldn’t cost $400.
All of this is from experience, and all the anecdotes are, unfortunately, not made up for usage in this post and very, painfully true. Except the death threat – I’v received lawsuits, arson threats, “spreading the word about you” threats – but no death threats.
If you didn’t read any of that, here’s a summary: always look out for when and how you’re getting the money, have some insurance (aka deposit) to be on the safe side, make sure both you and the client are on the same playing field, and most importantly, it took me 2 hours to write this article, you jerk. The least you could have done was read it..
Oh, one last point: trust your gut.
Image credit: source