Embarking on a journey to freelancing is quite an exciting endeavour. Being your own boss, picking up projects that you love, working at the convenience of your home office – sounds exciting, right?
But just like me, if you have been working as an independent content writer for a while, you would know that the profession requires much more effort than enjoying those ‘perceived’ perks.
The world of a freelance writer is more than a full-time job. Yes, you do have the advantage of flexible schedules and no office protocols, but there are numerous things to keep you on your toes 24×7!
One of these important tasks is managing clients.
Yes, clients keep us in business and therefore it’s extremely important for freelancers to invest in a good client relationship. But does that mean clients can drive your work?
No way! As a freelancer, we need to treat ourselves as business owners. We are in this domain to assist firms and individuals with our services (for writers this means producing valuable content) – and therefore you must choose good clients to work with.
So how do you pick up the right clients? Unfortunately, there’s no barometer to measure this.
However, while certain things could be only learned through experience, there are a few red flags that you should be careful of while selecting a project.
1. Not providing a clear brief
This may look like a harmless thing, at least in the beginning. But come to think of it, if the client doesn’t take out time to list down expectations and the goal a project is meant to achieve, it’s a sign that you can be in trouble. For such clients either the project is not important, or they take the freelancer’s hard work for granted.
It’s simple – if the work is important to you, you will make time for it. A brief, howsoever unnecessary it may look, is the foundation of any project. Sometimes clients fail to understand that freelancers are no magicians. They need a base to start their work with.
So remember, if you don’t have a clear brief, re-think before committing to anything.
2. Expecting you to work like an employee
I left my full-time job a couple of years back to have a flexible work schedule. Of course, that’s not the only reason we shift to freelancing, but it certainly is one of the strongest reasons for several solopreneurs, including myself.
However, the concept of freelancing is yet to find its place in the corporate world. We can’t be available for clients’ morning huddles or an unplanned call. As freelancers, we are handling multiple projects at a time and it is impossible to be available all the time like an employee.
And then, we never wanted this life, right?
So if you feel you are expected to available 24×7, probably you need to be assertive and set the expectations right.
3. Not signing a contract
This could be one of the most alarming signs and should not be ignored at any cost. A contract or letter of agreement is ‘the’ most important thing to begin working on a project. A contract clearly defines the objective, scope of work, and all the project-related terms and conditions. In fact, it not only works in favour of the freelancer but is equally important for the client. Skipping contracts is one of the common mistakes that can hurt your freelancing career.
A contract eliminates vagueness and confusion at the later stage of the project and is definitely the foundation of a good client relationship.
4. Demanding a free trial/sample
I would admit, I have done this too. And that’s why I am completely against providing any free services, whatsoever. Interestingly, I have never secured a gig whenever I provided a free sample – not even once. And worse, I am not even sure if my work was tweaked and used by someone else. It’s heartbreaking.
Starting your freelance career can be a daunting task. Yes, that imposter syndrome is real and we may never be able to beat it completely. Trust me – I have been writing for over a decade, but every time I look at a blank document, I feel small. But this should never be the reason for you to work for anyone for free.
Asking for a free trial also reflects the lack of respect for one’s hard work and creativity. It doesn’t matter even if you are a new entrant, a free sample should not be a part of your to-do-list. Rather I would advise using that time for strengthening your portfolio or enroll in a course.
5. Not respecting your time and work
If you’re planning to enter into the world of freelancing, brace yourself. Unfortunately, the term is still associated with the word “free”. The profession is still in a very nascent stage and people often confuse freelancers as someone pursuing a hobby.
You may also feel the repercussions of this widely prevalent ignorance. I have seen many freelancers caught in the endless cycle of revisions or project delays. This is not only a source of huge frustration but also impacts your other gigs.
Every time you submit a draft or an idea to your client, ensure that your efforts are not taken for granted. This is where your contract comes as a big support. Take time to draft your terms and conditions carefully – including the number of iterations, adherence to timeline and ensuring a prompt response from the client.
6. Providing vague feedback
‘Not impressive enough’, ‘lacks cohesiveness’, ‘fragmented’, ‘disjointed’…there is just no end to the list of such remarks which actually suggest NOTHING.
Never accept such vague and pointless feedback. The last thing that should ever bother a good freelancer is her expertise. If you are in the business, trust your skills and if clients need good work, they will spend time to provide sensible feedback that adds value to the project.
7. Refusing an advance payment
We live in an age of prepaid businesses. Services are imparted only after the payment is done. Why shouldn’t this be applicable for freelancers? Working without an advance is as dangerous as working for free. Never accept any offer without a certain part of the cost being paid to you in advance. You may begin with a small percentage first but financial security in any project is a must.
Unless there is a trustworthy brand you are working for, it’s better to stay away from clients who refuse an advance payment.
8. Delayed payments
Now, this is a huge challenge even for established freelancers. While delayed payments are certainly annoying, sometimes there is a genuine reason for the client’s inability to adhere to timelines. It could be the standard procedures or an operational glitch that could lead to slow payments – and in such cases, freelancers need to give a benefit of doubt rather than burning the bridges.
However, it’s wise to be vigilant of client’s behavior and responses. Trust your gut feeling and if you feel that payment is becoming a major hurdle in dealing with a client, you need to give a second thought before collaborating in the future. To avoid such a situation, breaking your cost into parts is a smart strategy that freelancers can adopt. Broadly divide your project deliverables into two or three stages. You move to the next stage in a project only when the respective payment has been cleared.
Client relationship is set on the foundation of collaboration and mutual respect. While freelancers strive to give their best services and deliver value to a business, a good client makes the ride smooth and worth the effort. There is no standard measure to assess a client and one should even not be too stringent while making a choice. However, it is always beneficial to observe your client’s attitude and behavior that is crucial to the success of the project and a pleasant working experience.
Thank you for reading through!
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