Freelancing… What a joy, what a pain! I’ve found that the biggest drawback to doing freelance work is the lack of recourse when a client doesn’t pay. Sometimes as a freelancer you take jobs that bigger firms wouldn’t take just to pay the bills. These jobs tend to be smaller and less profitable, but you take them nonetheless. That’s where the problems begin.
There are many things I’d like to talk about in this post, but I’ll keep it on point this time. There is however one point I’d like to make first – underselling yourself. Obviously, your work must be commensurate with your rates, but if you’re not charging what you’re worth, it’s a problem. Many times designers will undersell themselves because they’re trying to get work. In the beginning you may have to every once in a while, but it shouldn’t last long. Everyone does what they have to do to get by, just make sure that you’re doing it right. I’ve read countless articles about this very topic. Here’s a good one to get you started. Price Freelance Projects
Now, back to the point. The best way to ensure better success is having a good contract or statement of work. However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll collect every cent a client owes you, but your chances are much better than without one. A good rule of thumb is to include a contract at the end of every proposal or bid you put together that states your payment schedule (50% upfront, 50% on delivery – another good rule of thumb). Doing this will allow the client to sign and return the proposal if accepted. If you can get their commitment on your proposal you’re half way to a successful project. Because if they commit, they’re doing it willingly, in the beginning, with your stipulations.
Another simple thing you can do is document everything. A lot of clients prefer the phone to do business, but make sure you restate briefly your conversation in an email so you can document each conversation and interaction. Thus saving you the headache of your word vs. their word. This can be annoying and time consuming, but you’ll be glad you did it when you need to refer back.
In sum, dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Keep good records, have a solid contract (a lawyer can come in handy here), and try to be smart. Most bad clients are easy to spot. They usually dodge direct questions, have excuses about making payments, constantly change project specs, and don’t communicate their position very well. Again, it’s just a guideline and you’ll have to look out for yourself. Just be confident, demand what you’re worth even though it may be tough to walk away from money, if it’s not worth it don’t do it.