As a freelance writer, blogging fiend entrepreneur (yes I know that’s not a word, neither is the next) and moonlighting ghostblogger, I know the inherent risks that are associated with working for people you only meet over the Internet.
Some folks are only too willing to brand me crazy for agreeing to take on a job that isn’t as secure as the paper-pushing, desk-occupying work that they are used to.
And I have to admit, working as a freelancer on the web does have its drawbacks, so please don’t get it twisted.
I don’t like all the clients I’ve had in the past.
There are clients who think that they’re God or Buddha or mayhap Paris Hilton… and never dream of considering they are the ones mistaken when giving you instructions on what they want that are about as clear as mud… or changing their minds ten ways to Sunday, AFTER you’ve already completed their project.
There are those who simply refuse to be given a result that’s less than perfect, and who will make you pay dearly for all your (for shame!) missing commas and dangling modifiers.
And granted, this kind of a career and lifestyle may seem baffling to a less hardy sort, but it’s a great fit for sturdier stock… someone who loves variety of work and killer learning experiences along the way.
Someone such as myself.
But there’s one type of folk I dislike the most, that often makes me wonder just how darn sturdy I gotta be!
They are those who… in addition to expecting perfection… also expect to pay peanuts. And for the quality I give them, it’s sometimes downright insulting.
You know the type.
They are the folks who don’t know how to say thank you and appreciate your best efforts on a project that dang well took you night and day to finish! Talk about a lack of gratitude. NOT my favourite kind of person by any stretch of imagination.
So what do you do if you’re faced with someone who doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase ‘fair compensation’? It’s not easy to haggle about fairness and convince the other party that you deserve the payment you’re asking for. Take it from the not exactly outgoing girl who knows!
So to skip the haggling part, you have to be very clear about how much you should charge based on the length, difficulty and extent of the work you’re doing… and then (novel idea here…) charge it!
No back-downs, no take-backs.
Remember that being a freelancer online doesn’t mean that you have to go penniless—you just have to know how much your work is worth and how much your ideal client is willing and able to pay you.
So before you get all desperate and accept that new project with the client that thinks “exposure” is payment enough (and don’t get me wrong, sometimes it IS… but really… only sometimes people…), you might want to review these friendly little reminders first.
Consider these little reminders the rappel rope to help you gain better footing on this admittedly slippery slope called a freelancer’s life.
Know How Much You Deserve
It always helps if you already have an idea of how much you can work within a specified period of time, because that’s one of the things that your clients will look for when they are reviewing your profile or application. They want to know if you fit their budget, but they don’t want to be short-changed by a cheap and crappy job.
Don’t price yourself too low, but don’t max out the budget of your potential clients by quoting stratospheric prices. The best way to go about it is to choose a price that’s average, something that reflects your expertise, experience and availability. (And then I like to bump it up a dollar or two.)
And don’t worry too much if you think your price is too low or too high—you’ll know soon enough if you picked the right number, and then you can adjust as needed from project to project.
Peg a Framework for Adjusting Your Pricing Accordingly
Make sure that you come up with a reasonable price that’s quantifiable—meaning that your client can actually measure your progress and see that every penny paid is a penny actually worked.
Of course, you are free (in fact, it’s advisable) to look into each and every assignment to see if the price you quoted is just right for the type of tasks you’re being given, but the general rule is that you “should” already have a good idea of how much your work is worth.
If you’re a freelance writer, you can charge hourly rates or rates based on the number of words you write (for example, $8 for every 500 words). Alternatively you can also charge a per word rate, which is a better metric for writers in my book, than a flat rate.
With definite figures like these, your clients can calculate their costs more accurately and see if they can actually pay you the asking price. But if the job is a fixed price one, be ready to haggle a bit; keeping in mind your skills and the rigors of the job being offered.
Choose a Reliable Payment Scheme
Many new freelancers forget that they are not working for nothing. They underestimate their value, are worried about charging too much, and end up agreeing to something that is NOT in their best interests fiscally. A pack of smokes and a “Thanks, great job!” ain’t gonna pay the bills.
Like Milton Friedman said, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and by inference there is also no such thing as a free job—unless you want to go pro-bono, that is.
If you’ve got kids to feed and a mortgage to pay, then you certainly can’t afford to churn out work without getting fair compensation for your time. After all, it’s still work, and you sure as hell put a lot of thought and effort to come up with whatever it is that you’ve submitted to your client. (I hope!)
That’s why you need a payment transfer method that’s pretty fast and actually works. I personally prefer PayPal because it’s all paperless and relatively fast, but you can also choose other payment methods that are more suitable for your particular circumstances. I know folks based in South Africa that use a company called PayFast. Some folks like to use Xoom. And some folks like to have their own shopping cart with payment processor, like KickStart Cart.
Get Acquainted With the Market and the Latest Tools of the Trade
Don’t be content with just being a minor-league player in whatever field you choose to do freelance work in.
Where’s the fun in that?!
Go hard or go home is one of my fave expressions on the planet… and it’s never more true than when trying to work for yourself and live life on your terms. The only thing that’s constant in this world is change, so when it comes to your business and your industry, you have to always be in the know.
If you’re a freelance writer, you must have a pretty good idea of the market demand for people with your set of skills and knowledge, and see how much they are charging for their services. If you’re a freelance graphic designer, you have to familiarize yourself with the new software that the more advanced guys are using so you can also learn it on your own and add it to your current portfolio.
Improve on Your Current Skills and Experience
The more exposure and experience you get in the field, the better you become and the more ready you are to take on challenging tasks at higher prices. It’s like role-playing games, where every strike of your sword and fire of your weapon earns you level-up points or good health.
If you’re content with the current set of skills and knowledge that you have, that’s fine.
But remember that your clients are likely to have a variety of tasks for you, tasks that may require finer skills and more in-depth knowledge of a particular topic or project.
That’s why you need to continuously polish your skills and make sure that you are keeping up with the rest of the competition in terms of your abilities, experience, and knowledge.
Remember… go hard, or go home.
So how about you? Are you keeping up on your game? Are you charging what you’re worth? Do you unintentionally short-change yourself with your clients? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear them.