Freelance In 40 Days [Day 39]: Just In Case You Run Into Trouble

Posted: December 11th, 2009

Photo by Richard Parmiter (Flickr)

Photo by Richard Parmiter (Flickr)

This is Day 39 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll see how to tackle some common issues that freelancers face.

Freelancers are guaranteed to face some sort of challenges in their careers. It’s all a part of the growing process.

Sometimes, though, they can leave you a bit frustrated.

To get you aquainted with some of them, though, I’ll list some common issues that freelancers face and how to handle them.

Issues With Clients

Sometimes you run into clients that tend to butt heads with you or require a lot of your time to maintain outside of projects. Usually, they usually fall under one or more of these types:

  • Excessive emailing or phone calls with questions.
  • Trying to get more work out of you than what they are paying for (i.e. haggling).
  • Constantly coming to you with changes in a project scope.
  • Vague in what they want done in a project.
  • No specific idea of what they really want. They just want some kind of X.

It’s wrong to consider these types of clients as bad clients. If you work with them properly, you can handle these situations coming out on top and with minimal time wasted. These are ways to do so:

  • Always use a project agreement with every project, big or small. Review Day 16 for more on these.
  • In the project agreement, be sure to clearly define the scope of the project, or outlining exactly the things you will do and the cost to the client.
  • Also in the project agreement, be sure to define any costs associated with revisions or any “extras” a client decides they want at the last minute.
  • One last thing in the project agreement, too, don’t forget to define the costs of maintaining the project after it is completed.
  • Review the project agreement with the client through a phone/Skype call  and make sure they understand each point of it.
  • After the project starts, if you notice a client emails or calls excessively, set aside a time for a phone/Skype call and let your client voice and his questions and concerns. Most of the time, he just needs reassurance that a project will get done correctly.

The Never Ending Project

Once in a while you could run into a project where the scope grows and grows and grows beyond your control. This happen when you encounter some kind of obstacle or extra work needed that adds time to a project. Most of the time, you aren’t able to see this coming beforehand.

It’s quite normal for projects to go over budget and time slightly, but other times they can go over significantly by 50% to 100% or even more. So when this happens create a detailed list of the extra work that has to be completed. Then estimate the time and the cost to complete it.

Now comes the hard part. Negotiate with your client to be compensated for the extra work. A client always expects that you know these kind of things will happen and you’ll draw resistance. If you are willing to meet halfway, though, by charging a discounted fee and giving him ample reason why you couldn’t foresee the extra work, then they will be more willing to give in.

If your client decides they will not pay any extra fees, then you have a decision to make: complete the extra work for anyway for free or leave the project altogether. By leaving the project, you may save face financially but your reputation will be severely affected and it could cost you future work.

By completing the project, though, you notch another piece for the portfolio and your reputation stays intact as well as client relations. It may hurt the wallet, but in the short term, it probably won’t matter for long.

I Have No Work At The Moment

All freelancers will go through periods of slow business. Much of the time it is welcome so freelancers can catch up on personal projects, administrative work or just take some time off.

If you go through periods where you are working followed by periods where you are desperately searching for work, know as the feast or famine cycle, then this is not healthy for your business. The feast or famine cycle is covered in Day 26.

I can’t say this enough, but always be looking for new clients, even when you have work at the moment. If you don’t see yourself with projects to work on three weeks ahead, then set aside an extra hour or so each workday dedicated to hitting the job boards and submitting a bid or two for projects.

Missing A Deadline

Every freelancer should try his or her best to never miss a single deadline. Your reputation and reliability depend on it.

Once in a while, though, a missed deadline can happen. Such is life. To keep things cool with the client, however, follow these tips:

  • Try to foresee a missed deadline well in advance and let your client know.
  • Remember, how your client reacts is inversely proportional to the notice you give him. In other words, you won’t look good telling him the day before or, worse, the day of the deadline.
  • Let your client know the new deadline date.
  • Do whatever you can to meet that second deadline. If you have to stay awake three days straight, hire other freelancers or whatever, just do it. Two missed deadlines in a row murders your reputation.

Waiting For Payments

In a perfect world, a freelancer receives a payment the very second a project is completed. Many of your clients will even be more than happy to send off a PayPal payment immediately when work is finished without even asking.

Freelancers are businesses, however, and we work with other clients that are businesses. So we need to get use to the business standard of NET 30, or allowing 30 days for payment from the date of the invoice. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t absolutely necessary (review Day 17 for more on invoicing).

When I first started freelancing, though, I demanded payment on receipt and usually had to send reminder emails every few days to politely say that I needed my money NOW. What I realized this does is create a burden for the clients since most handle their payables once a month as what typically businesses do.

Switching to NET 30 will keep you from stressing and sending out frequent payment reminders. Plus, the clients that pay right away will still continue to pay right away anyway.

More on the author, Johnny Spence
Johnny is the founder of The Freelance Rant and a freelance web programmer with 8 years in the business. Have a visit at his company Oscarrr!web or see what he's up to on Twitter.

Comments are closed.