Freelancing is about one simple thing – getting paid. Other than declaring the income, there is nothing else.
Sure, one can bang on about the freedom to work under one’s own terms, if one must – but the simple fact of the matter is, what you do – and whatever that is - it’s a business and you only get to do it full-time if it’s paying its way and that only happens if you’re getting paid for whatever it is you do.
You’re nobody’s employee except your own. Sure, accept an assignment and you’re doing work for the person you accepted the assignment from but – unless they’re paying your National Insurance Contributions for you and you’re being taxed on whatever equivalent of PAYE there is in your part of the world – you don’t work for anyone – instead you undertake to do work on the behalf of - what are to you – Clients.
To some the distinction there may be a subtle one – but when it comes to dealing with awkward, rude, pushy or just flat out mean clients – that subtle difference is everything you will ever need to be able to successfully manage anyone – no matter how problematic.
And, more importantly – profitably.
Don't get mad with a job, don’t look to get even with a Client who vexes or upsets you. Get paid instead.
Here’s how, through four of the most commonly occurring scenarios you as a freelancer worker will encounter….
Scenario 1 – The Client keeps moving the goalposts.
Probably the most common scenario you’ll ever run across – and not of itself necessarily down to anything malicious on the part of the Client: you find yourself in a situation where, no matter how close you appear to come to completing whatever task, the client keeps moving the goalposts.
Very simple fix.
Whatever work it is you’re doing you will have initially agreed to undertake it on the basis of whatever requirements the Client originally set.
Now, if you find yourself in this kind of situation where the Client keeps changing what it is they want you to do – simply refer back to their original brief and point out the disparity between what it is you originally agreed to undertake for them and what it is - currently – you are actively engaged in doing for them now.
Whatever costing you provided is based exclusively on what the Client originally said they wanted done – thus – if you have gone significantly over and above that - with no apparent end (as in payment) in sight – you are well within your rights to change payment terms, i.e. – increase them, proportionally – irrespective of whatever was agreed originally.
Yourself doing this is in no way yourself refusing to continue undertaking the work for the Client – quite the contrary – you’re actively stating an intent to actively complete the work to hand. You are however simply pointing out that the Clients changes are taking the job over original budget – the onus therefore falls to the Client to either agree to the increase or else refuse.
A declaration on the part of the Client to refuse to pay constitutes a declaration of intent on their part – the least that is is a breach of agreement.
9 times out of every 10 this kind of situation only arises through lack of experience on both party’s sides: The Client not being aware of whatever the limits there are in so far of how far the Freelancer is prepared to go before receiving payment and the Freelancer not having the confidence to make these terms clear at the onset when taking on the work.
However - very occasionally - you will run across a Client who knows exactly what it is they’re doing and is doing nothing other than simply taking advantage: know you have a way out, and one that recompenses you – considerably, if necessary - for your time.
Scenario 2 – The Client mistakes you for a doormat.
Every so often you will come across a Client who – for whatever reason – adopts the apparently genuine belief that - simply because they’re promising to pay you for undertaking whatever work for them – that that makes them your employer…
Now, it’s pretty important at the beginning of any working relationship that both parties establish who’s who and what’s what. It’s vital, actually. Be candid and perfectly upfront about what it is you are prepared to do and what it is you expect to receive in payment for carrying out whatever service you are agreeing to undertake.
Expect the Client to be no less candid and – if they are not – frankly, view them with suspicion.
Know before going in, though – you are nobody’s employee other than your own.
You’re a mercenary. Your allegiance is to the work you are undertaking to do – your expertise is being able to successfully take that work on and deliver.
That’s what your selling, that’s what the Client is buying – nothing more.
If finding the Client has the belief that’s not the case – charge them, appropriately.
And don’t stint.
It’s called “admin” …
Scenario 3 – The Client micro manages every last little thing.
"Admin" - Administrative Fees - are the costs one incurs dealing with day-to-day business chores, like office work. We don’t often think about it, but actually dealing with such things as e-mails, phone calls, billing, etc – though necessary for the completion of work – is still all time out of your working day you’re not actually being paid for unless you charge something for it.
Usually one levies an administrative fee of around 2% on any paying job – this is generally enough to cover most reasonable use of your professional working time to a nominal amount of about an hour to an hour and a half per client.
You are however perfectly entitled to include a codicil to the effect that - anything over that nominal amount - incurs additional charges. What those charges are - entirely down to you.
The purpose here is that you deter unnecessary interference on the part of the Client in the course of yourself doing your actual job – not use the system as an excuse to rip your Client off.
However – if you find yourself in the unenviable situation of finding yourself stuck with a Client emailing you 20 times a day and demanding your immediate attention and explanation of every last little thing – as can happen – by all means pacify them however you best see fit.
But at the same time – make sure you charge them for it.
You’re a business. Act like one.
Scenario 4 – The Client drops you without paying you.
This is a broad subject and – realistically – your options here come down to your specific circumstances. A Client has a right to expect from anyone a certain standard of workmanship – be that designing a website or putting up a Conservatory on the back of their house.
If you are proffering yourself as a professional in any occupation – you have to deliver on that promise. It’s more than just your word. Anything less is fraudulent misrepresentation.
The Law kind of has an opinion about that….
That being the case however – you’re in a situation where you’ve started work and the Client decides to suddenly drop you.
Specifics, may vary – the operative part of this here is that you’ve started work, for them at their request.
Providing you have that – you have grounds for compensation – something toward making up for the time you’ve put into a job cancelled through the Clients choice. You won’t get the whole amount on the whole job but – providing your claim is reasonable – you are perfectly entitled to invoice the client for a reasonable percentage – about a third - of whatever it was they agreed to originally pay you.
Naturally, a Client who pulls this kind of stunt and see’s nothing at all untoward about their action won’t - of themselves - be inclined to pay you anything at all.
Doesn’t matter. Make out an invoice, in the description state the circumstance of what happened and why you’re claiming the amount you are and – stick to your guns.
You don’t have to get angry, frustrated, mad or threaten legal action – your first order of business is to simply and coolly submit an invoice and see how it goes.
In most countries, most civil courts have a small claims division – providing you have the means to submit an invoice you have the means to take a person to small claims court for non-payment – providing you prove sufficiently you tried to settle the matter civilly, first.
It’s surprisingly inexpensive to file a claim for the minimum amount – here in the UK that’s claims for anything under the sum of £300.00. Costs £25.00 to submit a claim. The higher you go, obviously the more it costs, it’s the same all over – so keep your claims reasonable, affordable and conduct yourself with the same degree of reason.
9 times out of every 10 – you will never actually have to file a single claim; the only imperative here is that you familiarise yourself with the correct procedure and leave the Client with not the slightest doubt that you know what that procedure is and how and when it will be implemented if given no other option.
It’s really all you have to do.
Whatever suffrage we - as Freelancers - might be prepared to afford any Client. It's voluntary. Wholly on our part. What platforms such as Freelancer - universally - demonstrate as fact is that there is always someone out their looking for work to be done for them: we're nobody’s employee, we're merc's.
If a venture isn't profitable, don't do it and - problematic clients, unless profitable - for the likes of people such as ourselves (not on anyone's staff other than our own) simply aren't tenable.
Unless, of course, they’re paying us.
So, if you find yourself stuck with a problematic client – don’t get mad. Don’t get frustrated.
You’re a business.
Act like one.