Freelancing – a term that is often associated with the brave, the hard up, or the unemployed – is a growing trend across all markets. From construction, to reporting, to Internet-based entities (such as TSR), freelancing is showing brick and mortars they’re not the only successful market available.
And considering all the perks, it’s no surprise why. Other than not receiving health insurance or a matched retirement plan, it’s a pretty sweet gig. Having been freelancing full time for some time now, I’ve decided it’s more than a great call. If I don’t want to take a project, I don’t. If I want to take a day off, I do it. Sure there’s a few down sides, like forever chasing down payments from clients who assume you’re born with a trust fund or stash of jewels. And then there’s the occasional unpaid bill that’s returned with a summons. But for every client that threatens with legal action, there’s 10 more good guys, just waiting to compliment your work and pay within the hour.
Every day is a real crapshoot, and I’ve yet to have a workday resemble another – an aspect I consider the biggest perk of all.
What We Do
As a contracted employee, I browse upcoming job listings daily. Searching for upcoming gigs – both long term and intermittent – is how I stay ahead of the when-one-project-runs-out curve. On any given day, The Social Robot is working for five-ten different companies or individuals. Some of these clients are regulars, those we perform set weekly tasks for, while others pop in and out as they please, perhaps only asking for a single blog.
Learning the Hard Way
It’s this constant flow of people and virtual correspondence that requires a freelancer to learn the game and learn it fast.
As a newbie, I wrote for too-low rates, provided uncharged edits, and basically took any job that came my way. I was stiffed on payments, had my writing critiqued by those who wrote, “We need freelancer’s for our on line campaign.” And tens of other annoyances that made me want to dance out my rage in a so-called Angry Dance.
Now, having learned what not to do, I avoid certain posts. But because writers still provide unfair services, job ads will still ask for them and get what they want. Until we learn to stand up for ourselves, the market will continue to work against us.
And contain crappy terms such as:
- Not defining a price. Posts will offer “between $4*-$20 per blog,” without giving a solid hint as to what differentiates the two. While these posts aren’t to be avoided all together, do not even consider taking the lowest bid.
When was the last time a per-hour or salaried employee was told they’d be paid between certain dollar amounts, between a number and five-times that? No one would apply, right?
Instead, prove you’re good (keep a solid portfolio on hand), and then turn in excellent work, that is, after you’ve agreed on a fair price.
- Asking too much. Job ads will request tens of requirements and then offer writers a measly rate. Usually, these posts say “you MUST” multiple times, and uses caps and bolding for good measure. If you see this type of post, move on. Anyone worth working for won’t make you jump through hoops – or if they do, they’ll be willing to pay for the trouble.
- Will only pay upon approval. If the work was requested and completed, it should be paid for. Bottom line. Edits are certainly available, but rewrites (without an added fee) is borderline stealing. Don’t offer to work for anyone who possesses this policy.
- Posts that require unpaid samples up front. (Or if you have a good portfolio, at all.) When applying for writing jobs, the reality is that you’ll only hear back from a small number of them. Don’t waste your time and efforts on samples for those who may never offer you a position.
And finally, offering to not use your post isn’t a perk (unless given a kill fee). You still spent the time and the efforts, and that employer should pay you for your time, not point out that you can still shop said piece around.
While being your own boss offers multiple perks, there are still obstacles to overcome. Whether working as a writer or looking to hire one, keep these points in mind. As a fair and equally run entity, freelance work can be a great medium. But in the wrong hands, it’s one that can leave both sides angry and broke.
To learn more, go to FreelancersUnion.org.
*Do NOT write for $4. Or even double that. It was merely an example.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Wink. Video from Flight of the Conchords.