The freelancer’s nightmare

I have been freelancing full-time for three months, but I’ve been doing it part time for the past eight years or so. When I started doing odd freelancing jobs, I wasn’t confident enough in myself, and I felt safe sub-contracting for small presses, editing for magazines, because it meant I wasn’t yet in the position where I’d have to quote a price or answer a client’s heavy questions. For now, the client was dictating the price, and I did what I was told. I wasn’t ready for full-time freelancing, and I knew it.

I’m grateful I’ve had the chance to step into it willingly; I haven’t been forced into freelancing by suddenly losing a full-time job. Over the course of many years, beginning when I was a small child, I knew I wanted to be my own boss, so I worked carefully toward that goal, learning as much as I could, observing others.

I remember my mother quipping, “If it were up to her, she’d stay in bed and write all day.” Well, here I am, living proof that a person can stay in her pajamas if she wishes, recline in her bed, getting paid to read and write all day.

But I’ve hit some bumps in the road, which is inevitable and expected. I’d like to share those with you.

Learning when to say no:

For quite a while, the people I worked for were either writers I knew well in person, or small presses who hired me over the internet. So, my first ever in-person total-stranger client was a very large, imposing, somewhat batty man, who had a penchant for telling wild tales and claiming they were true. No, this didn’t end well.

We made an appointment to meet, and talked for a while in a café. I walked away with a heavy paper copy of his book, because at that point I still preferred my red pen. I’d been warned he was a tad off-kilter, and I should’ve stayed away from him. But I needed the money.

Woah, stop right there.

Sorry, my friend. Never say yes to a client who gives you the willies just because you need money. The writing was terrible, the client was creepy, I quoted too low of a price, and then the author grew anxious, demanded we end our collaboration, and I returned his manuscript and was never paid.

If you want to be a freelancer, especially full-time, learn when to say no during an uncomfortable situation. It’ll save you a lot of time and hassle in the long run.

Undercutting:

The word along the grapevine is there aren’t enough good editors to go around. And I’ve heard too many horror stories from my clients that make me think, yeah, they’re probably right. When you’re first starting out, you may be tempted to do anything for just about any amount.

“Wait, what, too much? Okay, okay, how about fifty bucks?”

Hey there, buddy. Not good!

Have confidence in your abilities.

Some people can’t afford good services. Others can afford them, but don’t want to pay. Whatever you do, don’t become the desperate freelancer who is more anxious about getting paid something, anything, than providing good, honest services for a reasonable price. Being on the bottom of the barrel means you’ll be treated that way; you won’t be respected by clients, when in fact you deserve respect. Be proud of your skills, and make sure you get paid fairly. Don’t engage other freelancers in a game of dirty pool; it isn’t fair and it won’t help your reputation.

Organize your life:

Recently, my business has been getting hectic. I don’t mind; it’s a good thing. My client base is increasing, and things are going well. Maybe this has happened to you.

One day, you check your inbox, and you have an email from a client that says, hey, what happened? I haven’t heard from you in a week.

Ouch!

You never want to be that freelancer. We all make mistakes, but remember to learn from them. I am learning every day from my mistakes. When something like this happens, step back, re-examine things, and ask yourself where you can organize to keep things like this from happening.

I printed out two check-lists, daily and monthly, and put various copies around and on my desk. Every day, I train myself to look at those check-lists so I don’t miss anything. Other than my editing clients, I also have marketing clients, and I have to keep up with them on a regular basis. The check-lists help.

I also utilize Microsoft Outlook’s notifications and task manager to keep track of projects, as well as Excel.

There will always be bumps in the road. But rather than pretending they aren’t there, it makes more sense to fix the path. Make your mistakes, and move on. The freelancer’s nightmare doesn’t have to be reoccurring.

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