5 Things I Wished I had Known Before Becoming a Freelancer

So our “5 Things” series on Emerald Musings is coming to an end.  Before that happens, I definitely want to thank all our wonderful contributors — there is no way that I could have done this without you!  So without further ado, here is my humble contribution to the series.

Five Things I Wished I Had Known Before Becoming a Freelancer

 The Right Client Will Pay What You’re Worth — So Demand it.

In the beginning of my freelance career I fell into the common trap of thinking that in order to be competitive, I had to price my services low enough that someone would give me a chance.  I worked for the content mills and priced my services out at prices so far below the going market rate that I was sure that I would get the opportunities and shine like never before.

And not surprisingly, there were clients out there that were happy enough to pay me the likes of $0.0005 per word, or even $0.001 per word if I was lucky.

Do you know what was also not surprising?  The fact that I was working nearly 80 hours a week just to make ends meet.  If I wanted to do that, I could have easily stayed at my grueling 9-5 job.  No thank you.

Here’s the truth — Clients will pay you what you demand, as long as your quality justifies it.  If you can show that your work is great enough to justify $50 – $60 an hour or $2.00 per word then, by all means, charge it and only negotiate to a minimum that you are comfortable with.  Will there be potential clients that scoff at you and walk away from what you offer?  Yes.  But honestly, in the long run, the clients that do take you up on your offer will be the ones that are worth having.

Always Work Under a Contract

If you have read any of my posts dealing with freelance work or the articles that I have written, you’ll quickly realize that a practice that I believe strongly in is working under contract.  This idea is something I definitely wished someone had told me in the beginning.

I am ashamed to say that in the beginning, I was a very trusting individual when it came to working with clients.  I routinely did work based on a handshake or a phone call, without any type of formal contract.  It wasn’t until I lost nearly a month’s worth of pay when a client skipped town without paying that I learned a hard lesson.  While the contract is truly only as good as the people who enter into it, a contract can offer you as a freelancer a legal way to have your grievances addressed if necessary.  Plus, it protects your clients as well.  Having a contract is always a good idea.

Be Very Specific About What You Will (And Won’t) Do.

Chances are, if you work as a freelancer for any length of time, you’ll run into a client suffering from the “One More Thing..” syndrome.  A common symptom of this ailment is that the client will email you or call you up and say “oh, I was thinking… in addition to doing ‘X’  can you also do ‘Y’, ‘Z’ or maybe  ‘A through F’ as well?  For the same price?  Thanks, dearie!  I knew I could count on you!”

While it is tempting to try to use this extra work to build a stronger relationship with the client, resist the urge.  It’s better to be very specific in your contract of what you’re willing to do and at what price.  For example, my first ghostwriting and blogging contracts were very vague when it came to rewrites and edits.  I figured that once the client was happy, I would get paid, and everything would be great.  Now I know that there are people out there that will choose (perhaps not consciously) to take advantage of my goodwill.  Now, for each job, I offer a set number of “revision events” in the contract, with the opportunity for the client to purchase additional ones at a flat fee.  And yes, I do clearly define what I consider a revision event.  The bottom line is if the client and you are on the same page from the beginning, the only place you can move is forward.

Be Professional

These two words may sound simple enough, but they are very powerful.  As a freelancer, you need to be professional in all that you do, regardless of how your client or other colleagues are acting.  Why?  Because even if your current client is not paying attention, someone else is.

Freelancers work and continue to work, based on their reputation and word of mouth.  You can have the most glorious website and social media presence in the world, but if your clients start telling people how unprofessional you are, their words will carry much more weight than anything.

But keep in mind, being professional doesn’t mean being a push over.  Very far from it.  Decide early on where you’re boundaries are, and how you are willing to adapt and adjust from there.

Freelancing Isn’t The Answer For Everyone

I know, it may seem strange to hear a freelancer say that freelancing isn’t the answer, but it’s the truth.  Freelancing is hard work.  There are long hours, times of financial uncertainty, the need to hustle, and I have obtained more gray hairs than in any other times in my life.  There are days when I wouldn’t wish this life on anyone.

But then there are days when I can glance over at my husband and decide to take a two-hour break to go out to our favorite sushi restaurant that makes it all worthwhile.

Good luck, and as always, happy reading!

 

 

© 2017, Laura Seeber. All rights reserved.

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One Response to 5 Things I Wished I had Known Before Becoming a Freelancer

  1. Vladimir says:

    Excellent points. I especially agree about having a contract and being specific. The first one protects you in case something happens (it protects the client as well, so it’s a win-win) and the other because it’s important to establish the ground rules early on.

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