Before you agree to a freelance job, you should know what you're getting into. Be aware of the ways that clients try to get more out of you.
All of my current clients are awesome. I have no complaints about the people I work with right now. However, the current situation hasn't always the norm for me. Indeed, I've done my share of projects that never seem to end, and “spec” pieces for exposure.
As a result, I've learned that there are some lies that freelance clients tell in order to get you to work hard for very little. Here are 5 of the biggest lies freelance clients could be telling you:
5. Other Freelancers Work for a Lower Rate
So, this isn't exactly a lie. Because other freelancers probably do work for a lower rate. But what sort of experience do they have? Are they any good? I've had clients lowball me in the past: “I can pay someone else half what you're asking for!” To which I've answered: “That's great! Hire that person.”
Setting freelance rates is a fiddly task no matter what you're doing. There are always negotiations, and different items to keep in mind. You might even be willing to lower your price a little bit to be accommodating. However, if you have the experience and the skill to warrant a higher price, you should charge it. Don't let someone try and force you into accepting $5 for a 500 word article, based on what they can get a non-native English speaker to do off a freelance bid site.
4. It's Just a Small Project
Ah, the “small project” that turns into a behemoth. The client tells it's just a small project, and offers a few broad strokes. You think that it's going to only take a little bit of time, and you offer a rate that reflects. However, once you accept the price, and you start working, some of the details are filled in and you start doing more than you expected. Endless revisions may ensue. Additionally, you might get a client that says, “Do you think that maybe you could do just this small extra thing?”
Soon, you're wondering why you're working for so little. Before you take on a project, be clear about how many revisions you are willing to do, and get more details from the client. Make sure to get it in writing — and not just over the phone. Even just having an email with the details is legally binding, so be sure to keep something you can refer back to, and be clear that you will re-visit the cost if things start to be more work than expected. And, of course, you need to be prepared to fire a client if necessary.
3. Your Compensation Will Based on a Percentage of Profits
There is a reason that I don't accept payment based on pageviews. It's because you never know how much promotion the site is doing, and you will have to do a lot of extra work to get enough pageviews to make writing worth it. The only way I accept payment based on pageviews or percentage of profits is if that is a “bonus” on top of a regular rate.
Watch out for freelance clients who insist that you will receive a percentage of profits — once they become successful. That success may never be realized, and if it, you have no idea of knowing how much the client is making. Unless you are a partner, or have some official ownership in the venture, run the other way when this proposal is put to you.
2. If this Goes Well, I'll Have More Work for You
This is the lie most often told by those who ask you for a “spec” piece. The client says that s/he is testing out different writers, and you should submit something on a specific topic. You won't be paid for it, but if your work is good, you'll be hired to do more work in the future. The problem? Chances are that the client is just looking for a few free posts. All of the potential freelance writers turn in their “spec” pieces, and the client has a ton of content — for free. Don't be suckered into future work. Future work won't pay the bills, and you can't rely on it for a successful financial future.
Send the potential client examples of your work, and point out that if they want something from you, they have to pay. At the very least, insist that if the client doesn't use the piece, s/he returns all rights to you so that you can offer it elsewhere, and if the client likes the piece s/he will pay for it after the fact.
1. This is Great Exposure
My favorite lie is this one. Not long ago, I had someone approach me and ask me to contribute twice-monthly to a blog. For free. “It's a great opportunity for you to get some exposure and maybe attract new clients!”
I don't have anything against writing an occasional guest post for a friend's blog, or bartering some of my skills for something else in return. However, doing a project for the exposure, or writing regularly for the exposure soon becomes an exercise is disappointment and futility. You can get exposure by creating an online portfolio, and highlighting your work on a blog, and then promoting it through social media.
What do you think? What are some of the lies freelance clients tell?
Image source: Jessica Hische