The Freelancer Life: Guarding against Bad Clients


Freelancing is tough. People might have an idealized image of freelancers as having happy and carefree lives, choosing when to work or play. But the truth is, freelancers also need to pay bills. And knowing that projects could come and go any time, they sometimes need to work extra hours to meet deadlines. They make sure that there is no missed opportunity.

If you’re in the creative field who’s thinking of breaking away from your corporate ties, consider not only yourself but the people you will be working with. You will be meeting different clients, and you will have to know how to deal with them. It’s not like in those speed dating activities and online dating services where you could click pass if you don’t like the client. Even if you don’t want to accept the work, you will have to build a good relationship with everyone, not affect your reputation.

Many would be easy to get along with. In the corporate setups, someone would have that specific role of customer relations. But if you’re doing freelance, you will have to do it yourself. Of course, not all clients of freelancers are bad. Otherwise, no one would be freelancing. It’s just that people have the idea that freelancers would be cheaper to hire compared to having work done by an established agency. So be prepared to fight for a just rate.

There are specific kinds of clients, however, that you should be on the lookout for. Be polite to them and refuse them outright.

Clients who would ask you for sample work that would become their property.

That’s their way of getting freebies without deserving them. You might have a favorite client in the future, and you wouldn’t mind giving them some free designs or takeaways. But it’s another thing if the client is still starting a working relationship with you.

It’s also another thing if you’re bidding for a job. But ethical institutions wouldn’t use your work if you didn’t win the bid. Unless they had indicated earlier that they would retain the prerogative of using entry designs, and you had willingly gotten into that unfair situation, you should still get paid if your work is used.

Clients who wouldn’t give you a partial payment unless they’ve approved your design.

Because you know what, they will ask you to revise your work a million times. Always negotiate for a partial payment once you send in your draft and give a maximum number of revisions. For their part, they could have it in writing the treatment they want, including rendition, mood, etc., as detailed as you could agree on.

Clients who say they trust your creativity and will make you propose your own.

Clients who micromanage your output are a pain. So this kind of happy-go-lucky clients would sound perfect. But they’re not. You know that people have preferences. If they have no idea what they want, you will be shooting in the dark, and your time would be wasted with all those revisions.

If you encounter clients like this, show them some sample works and give them suggestions to think over. Accept the job only when they have given some initial ideas you could build on.

Clients who keep comparing you to other creative workers.

These clients would question why you would prefer to do documentary-style photography coverage instead of having the people pose for portraits. These clients would request you to make something ‘similar’ to what a multimedia company did. They might have asked you to do the project because they couldn’t afford the company.

However, much confidence you have in yourself, comparisons could affect your creativity. These clients would find it difficult to understand that you have your own thing and that you’re not copying others to satisfy their demands.

Try to stay away from friends and relatives.

It’s not that friends and relatives don’t pay well. It’s just that sometimes, you could end up doing more than what you signed up for. For example, you promise to cover a friend’s wedding. You end up doing the audio-visual presentations during the program as well. You accept a friend’s request to do a short video project. You end up doing different versions of it for varied social media platforms. But if you don’t mind doing some favors for loved ones, it’s well and good.

Again, not all clients are bad. But there’s a good deal of them. Listen to the grapevines. Fellow freelancers would share experiences with horrible clients. But do your research as well. Competition is tough, and some might make backhanded moves like ruining a client’s image so that you’d reject the project. What is more important is you would know how to deal with them.

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