How not to freelance in your skivvies

To be blunt a lot of the so-called advice for successful freelancing you’ll read online is utter crap. A good piece of it is full of generalizations in the most useless form of vague. At best it’ll be rife with platitudes. At it’s worst freelancing advice is chock full of unrealistic sunny disposition extolling the merits of wearing pajamas to your office desk. Can we please by the way STFU about not getting dressed to sit down to work. Nobody finds this business like or admirable so keep it to yourself. I’d argue it isn’t even that awesome and mildly anti-social. Because yeah why not work the day away with sweaty pits, uncombed hair and wrinkly jammies. That’s what every life partner looks forward to right? That piece of advice is a freebie, slacker chatter about how how you finally showered at noon for your 1:30 meeting. This will not make you friends with the 9 to fivers.

A big roadblock for most people considering a freelance life is the terror over where is the money going to come from. This is a legitimate terror. My best advice if you are serious and freelance is the goal for you you ask? I’ve got some thoughts on how to avoid some of the horrors and horrible people I’ve experienced.

1. The one thing all freelance advice is right about is contracts, and by that I mean make sure you have contracts and use them. It may not get you your money in the long run depending on the amount of your billings, but it may be just enough to convince most folks they must pay you. And if you do decide to go through with small claims this is probably the one tool you have to get a judge to rule in your favor. Every once in a while I forget and break this rule for a tiny job and it bites me in the ass. Just don’t do it, seriously don’t.

2. Don’t think your friends won’t try to screw you over. I’m not saying it’s intentional but don’t cut friends and family deals, or dump your contracts or protocol because you “trust” them to do you right. Just don’t, you have a skill charge appropriately for it. And if you do cut a friend or family member a deal, and you will, expect them to be unreasonable.

3. Which brings me to a biggie, make clear estimates and expectations for proofs and deliverables. Clarity is gold, generalizations will get you three things. Heinous scope creep, frustrated clients, and bumpkiss monies because you’ll spend all your waking hours adding features that weren’t planned for and tweaking hexadecimal/pantone colors until you want to impale yourself with your wacom tablet pen. ESPECIALLY in web or multimedia do not fail on this one. Do it all, estimates, wireframes, and clearly outline all features included in aforementioned estimate, and proofs have them signed off on or refuse to proceed.

4. Brings me to a new one for me. Establish kill fees for jobs. What’s a “kill fee” a kill fee is to protect yourself from jackholes who want to belabor their 200 dollar job for 4 months. Yes this really happened to me. Wait, is happening to me. A kill fee gives you the right to terminate a phase of a project at a certain drop dead date and collect a payment. Be sure your client clearly understands this clause. Then go forth and rule your project with a properly iron cast fist.

5. When you are desperate if your mom is game she will make an excellent collections agent. Because c’mon who can instill more guilt and sense of responsibility than a mom? You already know the answer to this, so yes that was rhetorical. If your mom is not game borrow someone elses. Plus extra bonus if the client is screening your collections calls your mum has an entirely different number so you may get lucky.

Godspeed fellow freelancers and please share your real world Freelance tips. You can do it in your bathrobe. Damn… I wasn’t going to go there.