Advice on Freelancing within the Creative Digital Industry
The wonderful world of freelancing can seem very appealing, especially in these tough economic times, being able to work your own hours and essentially becoming your own boss. No more office politics, long commutes and so on are just many of the aspects that appeal to people wanting to quit their office job and become a freelancer.
Many, perhaps hold an idealistic view of freelancing and if they were to quit their job tomorrow and launch their career as a freelancer they may find it’s not as rosy as they pictured. As a freelancer myself I hope to address some common misconceptions about freelancing and some of my own key learnings and advice for anyone considering freelancing.
How my life as a freelancer began
When I look back now on how I started as a freelancer it was quite by chance, and something I hadn’t really contemplated in great detail. After leaving my old company, based in Asia, and returning to the UK I was in- between jobs and just to tide over, I continued doing odd bits of content work for them. The trouble was that they were paying peanuts and not enough to survive back in the UK.
I began registering on as many freelance websites as I could, and got bits of work through this, but again the money was just enough to scrape by on and I was largely competing with people in developing countries who always undercut me. I then decided to advertise on local sites advertising my SEO services and started to work with a local client.
My first mistake here was to go through a very well known free listings website, which attracted clients with low budgets. Quite new to the freelancing industry I didn’t really know the best way to price my services and what I could realistically charge. I was just happy to have a first client. Like most SEO clients today, he’d previously used an SEO company and had a bad experience so was looking for a freelancer who would be able to devote more time to his company. I started out doing some small bits and pieces on the onsite SEO, and would invoice the client once the work was completed. Of course, having working knowledge of typical SEO agency pricing I knew the client was getting a great deal.
It’s always exciting starting a new project and I knew I would retain this client. However, as time went on there were several alarm bells that I should have paid more attention to. He became increasingly time consuming, asking questions, and my time was being more consumed with this than anything else. I didn’t have much time to actually do the work anymore, as I always had to attend to this “needy” client and his crazy ideas. After a few invoices had been sent, I was also finding out what kind of payer he was – a very late one.
Every invoice that was sent had to be constantly chased up, and he was always late paying. It took an average of at least 3 or 4 emails plus several phone calls to get him to pay up well after the due date. Now, most people would have ditched the client here and then, working out that there’s plenty more fish in the sea and with this type of client you end up investing more than you get back.
The next mistake I made was to let him switch from; quote, do the work, invoice, to a commission on orders basis. I knew this would work out as more manageable for him, and perhaps he would now start paying his bills on time. Although, each month I wouldn’t be earning as much as the previous payment system, at least this would guarantee retention and over the long-term would be worth it.
However, little changed and payments were always late, sometimes months. At this point, I did what I should have done ages ago in the business relationship I started looking for other clients. I couldn’t afford to lose him until I found a new client, so I continued to work with him to the best of my ability. He did throw me other projects of new websites of his, but again all this was done on a very low fixed and/or commission rate. By this time, he had also learnt enough about SEO, from me, to start doing things himself.
Chalk it up to experience – Lessons learned
My learning experience from this has been to reject work from clients who I think will be detrimental to my freelancing career. I’ve learnt to spot these kinds of clients more easily, usually their budget will give it away and who’ve they’ve been working with previously. I’ve also learned not to be afraid to ask for more money and more in-line with industry standards.
If you start short-selling your services it becomes a slippery slope from there. Whilst, I’m not the most expensive freelancer out there, I’m also not the cheapest. Clients still get incredible value for money, I get job satisfaction by picking who I work with (this now has enabled me to work with just one client), and the business relationship ends up more healthy and productive.
Check out our previous articles:
- Managing Freelance Projects – How to Keep Yourself Sane
- We All Hate Accounting – 5 Tools For Freelancers That Make it Easy
- Ten Tips to Work Efficient Online
- 5 Tell-Tale Signs that Your Relationship with a Freelance Client Has Gone Awry
- The Little Things: 4 Basic Necessities before Starting your Freelance Career
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