When you decided to go freelance, you thought it’s the road to freedom. A few months in, however, you realize that there’s no such thing as total freedom. You thought you got freedom from having a boss from hell but now you have a client from hell. You thought you got the freedom from clocking in hours but now you’re working 16 hours a day! But the perks of going freelance, especially if you are really good at what you’re doing, will always outweigh the cons. Just the feeling of having the freedom when to cram and when to relax is liberating enough. However, there will be problems. Make sure you’re prepared for these scenarios before you burn out and go back to 9-5. Here are the most common problems freelancers face and their possible solutions:
VERY FEW CLIENTS OR GIGS (AKA THE DRY SPELL)
This is one of the toughest yet the most inevitable challenge that freelancers face month to month, or even day to day. Even if you’ve been doing the freelance route for years, there will always be dry spells. Imagine yourself as a store selling goods. There are good days and there are bad days. When the bad days happen, all you have to do is be patient. But of course, patience can lead you nowhere. You have to market yourself better. Keep improving! This doesn’t only mean posting on Craigslist or adorning your website, this means you have to make kick-ass brochures, business cards, demo reels, and whatever traditional things you think you need to market yourself better offline. Word of mouth remains as one of the best ways to get new gigs. Reach out to your friends and tell them what you need. Maybe someone knows someone that needs you. Don’t despair. Things will get better if you persist.
TOO MANY CLIENTS OR GIGS (AKA “SAY YES, CRAM LATER” )
This is actually the kind of “problem” you want to be facing on a regular basis. To solve this problem, learn to supervise and work with a team. Pass some projects to trusted friends or colleagues. Just make sure you know the brief by heart so you can relay it clearly to the other freelancer. Also, since this is your project, it’s advisable that all transactions with the client should be through you. It’s also advisable that you don’t divulge all the details (like the actual budget) to the other freelancer. You need to think like an entrepreneur if you want to get more projects. You’re not being selfish, it’s just that there are plenty of risks if you pass a project to someone else. For one, what if the client won’t pay and you already quoted a big fee to the other freelancer. Or what if the client’s not satisfied and demands a revision? Many things could go wrong. Be frugal in so you’d be safe when something bad happens.
CLIENTS NOT PAYING ON TIME
There are just those clients who keep changing their promises. The last time this happened to you, it brought you a lot of stress because you had to pay your team using your own money and there’s no money coming in, so you promised yourself that it won’t happen again but look where you are now: Dealing with the same old problem. You ask yourself why. And you remember the time when you first met with the client and all you cared is that you bag the project, so you didn’t mention about the terms of payment. And now…you and your check book are at your wit’s end once again. The problem is, you still try to be very nice with the client because you don’t want to burn bridges.
Okay, enough with the beating. You already know your mistake. So what should you do next time to avoid this scenario which is starting to feel like deja vu? Put the terms in the contract (no matter how small the project is!) and make sure they pay down payment before you even think about their project. The down payment should be enough to cover all expenses but don’t make it too big it becomes unattractive to the clients. Make it a fair risk for both parties.
CLIENTS CHANGING MINDS 20 TIMES PER MINUTE.
You have to indicate in your contract how many revisions are allowed and if they exceed that number, they have to pay for revision fee. You also have to make sure that all of you agree on the instances that they changed their ideas, concepts, and what not. It could be as informal as an e-mail or you could ask them to sign the contract everytime there are revisions. The tricky thing about this is that you have to balance this with the amount of effort you make for these changes because let us not forget, you are not perfect too. Maybe your output is even lame and they’re just very patient in guiding you realize their vision. For me, as long as it is not a MAJOR revision and as long as it does not take more than three hours to finish and that you’re not spending cash for such revisions, there’s no need to count that as a “revision” in the contract. As a freelancer, you should include in the budget these little revisions because if you always keep track of these minor revisions and take it against your client, you’d slowly lose your charm.
LAZY, FORGETFUL CLIENTS
These clients are pretty common and they always say they’re just too busy and they probably are, but who isn’t? They say they will send you materials that will be needed for the project but it’s been two months and you’re tired of reminding them about it. You start to sound like a nagging parent and you’re starting to lose dignity and a lot of money. To solve this problem, let them be accountable for their laziness. Put in the contract that if they ever hold the project up by 10 days (set your own number of days), then they will be billed for it.
CLIENTS CANCELLING PROJECTS
For those of you who still has not encountered this, it’s either you’re new to this freelancing thing or you’re just lucky. However, for the rest of us, it’s a rather common experience it’s causing us to lose a lot of hair. There are a million reasons a client cancels- from lack of budget to personality issues. But once they signed a contract and you’ve started doing work (that’s why tranches/milestones are important), then make sure you put in the contract that they must pay the work you’ve done on top of penalties. You need this even if it’s too “business-y” to protect yourself. Imagine if you have 10 clients do this to you in a month or imagine if a client does this to you for the second time. Protect yourself before you get stung again and again.
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