5 Biggest Lies Freelance Clients Could Be Telling You

Before you agree to a freelance job, you should know what you’re getting into. Here are some of the biggest lies freelance clients might tell you.

All of my current clients are awesome. I have no complaints about the people I work with right now. I have a new crop coming in soon, so we’ll see how long I feel good. For not, though, things look pretty good. The current situation hasn’t always been 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 freelance clients tell to get you to work hard for very little.

Biggest Lies Freelance Clients Use to Get You to Do More for Less

Most of the lies freelance clients tell are about getting you to do more for less. It might be to pretend that your “test” piece will actually lead to work. Or maybe it’s that you’ll get so many eyeballs that it will be worth more than your fee. Here are five of the biggest:

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 answer: “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 slightly 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 beginner 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 says it’s just a small project and offers a few broad strokes. You think it will only take a little time, and you offer a rate that reflects your assumption. However, once you accept the price and start working, some 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, 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 Be 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 you will receive a percentage of profits — once they become successful. That success may never be realized; if it is, you have no idea 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 they are testing 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 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 they have to pay if they want something from you. 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, someone approached me and asked me to contribute twice monthly to a blog. For free. “It’s a great opportunity to get some exposure and maybe attract new clients!”

I have nothing 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 in disappointment and futility. You can get exposure by creating an online portfolio, highlighting your work on a blog, and then promoting it through social media.

Image source: Jessica Hische

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