Freelancing is not easy to do because it requires skills, time management, self-discipline and failure is always right around the corner.
Is it actually easier to fail than to succeed if you are a self-employed freelancer, as opposed to working in a company, so here are some tips about mistakes you should avoid doing if you work by yourself.
Working without a contract is something that happens a lot nowadays. Websites like oDesk, 99designs, Elance or Freelancer.com all give freelancers lots of work, but in rare cases the amount of money promised is secured through different methods. Elance has a good system which assures the money is transferred in their accounts once the job has started, and delivers the money when the deadline has been reached and the contractor received the final product. But in most of the cases freelancers work without a contract, which is dangerous for an obvious reason. You never believe a client can stiff you until he actually does it. It’s enough to happen once and you will never work without a signed deal anymore.
Don’t miss deadlines or meetings! It’s not professional and it is very unlikely for you to get another job from the same client (or to get recommended) if you deliver the work too late, or if you don’t show up to appointments. What I do is I always set a larger deadline than I actually need, so I am always sure of the fact that I will deliver the product on time. This is not only good for me and my time management, but it is also very good for clients, who get the product earlier than you promised it. They don’t know that you set a larger deadline for your own good, so they will be surprised with your fast work – but don’t forget to keep it at a high-quality level too. That’s even more important. You can specify the deadline in the deal with the company or client.
Taking on too many jobs will also cost you. Even if you are able to finish the jobs in time, you will not be able to avoid freelancing burnout, which we will talk about in a later article. It is good to also have some free time for yourself, otherwise the quality of the work you deliver will be lower and lower. Relaxation is good and will help you work better. Also, it is very much possible that you will not be able to finish all the jobs on time, because many times unexpected events come along, and you just can’t keep it up if you have three or more projects in the same time. If you have too much work and clients still want to hire you, ask them to get back to you in a couple of weeks, because you are currently busy. But don’t be rude – it is not their fault that you don’t have time. Try to explain the reasons and put the problem in such a way so they know that working with you in that moment will affect the quality of their product.
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Not having a termination clause in the contract. When you pen the deal, explain the customer that you want a termination clause in case he decides not to work with you anymore during the period you should deliver for him. This might help you and the contractor to work together for a longer time and you will not get fired for one childish mistake, because nobody is ready to pay money just to get rid of you – especially in this tough financial period.
Submitting the final product without getting paid is something you might regret too, because clients can just disappear and voila, you’ve worked for free. Unfortunately, when the rent and bills are due, you won’t be able to excuse yourself saying you were stiffed. So ask for the money you deserve (or most of the money if you’ve worked with the client before) and deliver the product as soon as possible after you get them. Assure the client that you have the product, maybe show some glimpses of it, but do not give him the full work until he pays.
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Not having clear clauses in the contract is something you want to avoid as well, because for example the client might come back and ask for more work for free, if you did not specify that once the project is delivered you have to be paid again to work. This happened to me and I was quite annoyed by clients coming back to ask for small adjustments after the final product was delivered. It is not only that I do not have time for them coming back, but why should I work for free? So I have decided to include a clause in my contracts explaining that once the project is delivered, every small change costs an amount of dollars per hour; just like that. And now, if the client changes his mind and wants some small adjustments, I also get paid for them – which is normal, because I invest time in it. Don’t forget about this clause, it is really important.
Not asking for milestone payments. Milestone payments are a way for you to ensure you get paid at certain moments during the developing process and it is also a way for the client to ensure he pays for what is already done. If at some point in time you can’t continue working, he will pass the project to another and pay you for how much you’ve worked. It is also good to ask for some money in the beginning of the project, like 15% or 20%, and depending on how long the project is, ask for milestone payments at certain points. It will save you some headaches, and who knows, maybe some money one day.
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Working with just anyone is not a good idea either. There are different types of clients out there and some of them you really don’t want to work with – they are just too difficult to handle, pay way too little and have many requirements. Beginners might want to take on these jobs, because they need reputation and experience, but if you’ve been in the field for some time you can start to be picky and choose the clients you want to work with. Having a good client-freelancer relationship is good for both of you in the development process.
These were a few of the mistakes freelancers make, but I am sure you also know some examples. It is not easy to stay away from making these mistakes, but if you manage to do it, you will always be sure to get paid, you will have a good relationship with your client and you will also increase your productivity.
So what do you think about these mistakes? Did you ever do one of them, and if yes, why did you choose to ignore such common sense rules?