Over the past few years, I have been actively seeking a living as a freelance writer and webmaster. For the most part I have been successful in making enough money to pay the bills and avoid returning to the workforce during these rather uncertain economic times. During my short freelancing career, I have had a few occasions where I ended up learning some lessons the hard way with dishonest or unreasonable clients. If you’re embarking on a freelance career of your own, here are some pitfalls you may want to look at before accepting work from others.
Non-Payment or Slow Paying Customers
Not getting paid for your work is probably one of the most discouraging things ever, especially when you have that income earmarked for some pressing household bills. This has happened to me on a few occasions where a customer has disappeared once the work is completed or becomes non-responsive for several days.
There are a few ways you can protect yourself from slow paying or non-paying customers. The first is to require a deposit for a portion of the project in advance to ensure the customer is serious about having the work done. Most clients will accept this request and as you build a relationship with them, this could be a requirement you drop as you become more comfortable with them.
For larger projects, set up payment milestones. For example, if you are completing 100 articles for a client, request partial payment each time 20 articles are submitted and sent. Another way to avoid this particular pitfall of freelancing is to ensure the customer is fully aware of your payment terms before you accept the project. Indicate when you will be paid of your work and in what manner.
Unclear Project Specifications
This is a rather troublesome problem that has caused me issues several times. Accepting projects that have vague descriptions generally tend to end rather miserably as you have to make assumptions in order to proceed. And we all now what happens when you assume! If you don’t understand certain areas of the assignment, make sure you clarify it in advance. If the customer says something to the affect of “I’ll leave it in your capable hands”, do quick drafts of titles or designs and send them over to the client to make sure you’re on the right track rather then spending too much time and effort going in the wrong direction.
Ambition and Motivation
This can be one of the hardest things for a freelancer. You need to have a great deal of ambition and motivation in order to keep on track with assignments and recruiting new customers. With so many distractions in the home and online, it’s quite easy to procrastinate on either of these important items and severely limit your productivity and outcome. Make sure you commit to a schedule and attempt to block out all outside distractions during your work time. Reward yourself when you complete certain items like taking a half hour break to catch up on your favourite television program or heading out to have a coffee break with a friend.