I have been doing freelance design, site promotion and writing for several years and have learned a few things along the road. While most of my experiences have been positive, a few negative experiences early on made me wonder whether to continue pursuing projects on a freelance basis. Here’s some tips and wisdom I can offer you if you’re considering some freelance work.
1. Determine how and when communication will occur.
Once I accept a project I offer my new client my email as well as a couple of options for instant messaging. I will collect the information required and give them an estimated time of completion or when a first draft will become available and let them know I will contact them as soon as it is completed. I always communicate any delays that are occurring but I rarely give status updates as part of the creative process. I had one particular client who constantly asked for status updates, sometimes on an hourly basis even though it was a 14-day project. Giving these constant updates and fielding the multiple questions distracted me in general, interrupted my workflow and became incredible frustrating.
2. Set achievable timelines and allow for unforeseen circumstances.
When bidding on a project I will estimate roughly how many hours it will take to complete and then see how it would fit into my schedule. I will always tack on at least an extra day of open work time in case I fall behind, the creative process stalls or for general unforeseen circumstances. This had saved me a lot of hassle recently when a thunderstorm rolled through town and knocked out the power in my area for over 8 hours. Nothing will damage your relationship more with a client than having to constantly delay timelines. Schedule properly and hit your deadlines.
3. Set reasonable pricing for yourself and the client and remain firm on it.
I have had a lot of requests from clients to offer a lower rate for a service because they have found someone who will do it at a lower cost. 99% of the time I will decline these requests and let the client know that I have given them pricing that I am comfortable with for their particular project. When bidding or pricing a job make sure you are being fair to yourself and getting an hourly rate that you’re comfortable with. There are many people who will complete projects in lower economic areas of the world (especially freelance writing) at a vastly lower rate than your own. Pitch the quality of your work, show examples and use customer feedback and references to sell your services. In the end if the customer insists on a lower rate then you’re comfortable with, decline the project and move on. If you start working on a project you’re not happy with from the get go, chances are you will not produce your best work.
4. Use escrow and feedback services
I do a lot of work on Scriptlance ( http://www.scriptlance.com) and I utilize their services quite a bit. They offer feedback on both programmers and webmasters and I will not work with a webmaster unless they have some positive feedback and their profile is clear of anything negative or a low rating. This prevents you working with someone who is not familiar with hiring a freelancer and ensures they have some experience in the field.
I also require all webmasters to put 100% of the project fee in escrow, to be released upon successful completion of the job. This ensures you’ll get paid for the work you do and there won’t be any delays in getting your money once you’ve delivered your work.
I hope this has been helpful and I will be sure to share additional tips in the future.