The difference between a new freelancer and an experienced freelancer that knows their worth is that the experienced freelancer knows how to minimize headaches brought on by their clients. Some projects just aren’t worth the money when it comes down to wasted time and increased blood pressure.
When: Your “Spidey-sense” is going haywire!
You can learn a lot just talking to a prospective or new client. They can quickly change gears from kind and patient to miserable and overly-demanding. In the course of conversation, you might learn that they’ve fired 10 freelancers before you because of how inept those people were (what are the odds 10 out of 10 are all going to be bad?)
Heck, they might communicate far too much, leading you to see the writing on the wall as to how much of your time they’re going to take up. Or, you might just get the feeling they really don’t know what they want or downright have no clue how to run their business.
How: Something has come up/you’re overbooked already and you have to bail.
You could be honest, but that’s not really professional when you’re placing this kind of judgement on a client. In this case, you’re far better softening the blow, so at the very least they’ll tell others you’re a “nice person” but flaked on an important project at the last minute or simply didn’t have the time for them.
Fact is, you want to minimize the impact on both their feelings and any word-of-mouth they decide to share with others.
When: You don’t have the proper skillset.
Not many of us are wacky enough to hire a 14 year old to build a house for us. However, in the world of fast-and-loose freelance, we get bombarded to do requests for things we really have no business doing all the time. After all, just because you’re a great SEOer doesn’t mean you can write, design, or coordinate the formation of a 300-page ebook for crying out loud.
Worse, you’ll likely spend more time than is worth the pay, and will probably screw things up, making the client angry in the end.
How: Tell them you have no business doing the work.
Certainly try to help them find someone qualified, if you know a pro worth recommending. Don’t get drawn in by the promises of bigger and better projects, or fear the client will drop you in favor of a one-stop-shop type operation that can fulfill all their desires.
A little negotiation is to be expected, but honestly if you have a dollar figure in your head that makes sense and leaves you feeling valued, why bother working for less?
When: The client tries to low-ball you or offers sketchy payment terms/methods!
The low ball thing is simple. You set a price and they’re willing to pay it or not. Some are just cheap, which is normal and healthy in business and in life.
Others are cutthroat and will only go with the lowest priced freelancer they can find. Others yet, will offer sketchy (read: weird) payment terms.
How: Tell them no.
You have to be strong, and stick to your guns. I once had an add posted on Craigslist to do some freelance writing — PayPal was the only payment method I would accept, as I deal with clients all over the place and it was the most trusted at the time. A guy responded to an ad I’d placed and feverishly messaged back and forth with me telling me he could only pay with some obscure epayment service I’d never heard of — upon completion of a massive project.
I politely told him I’d never heard of the service and simply couldn’t sacrifice my time when there were clients lining up with PayPal accounts to use my service.
Words of Wisdom
In order to be a successful, happy freelancer, you really need to develop strict rules as to what types of people you do business with, and the type of work you will and will not accept. Each and every one of us has limits to how much our soul can be crushed before men in white coats come crashing through the front door and strap a straight jacket on us!
Main Image Credit: Ivan/Flickr