The Importance of Being Earnest…About Your Agreements!

This account of afulltime freelanceris depressing. After spending 11 years working for a company, reporting everyday, working without overtime and benefits, she was suddenlylet go.” The company got a free ride, availing of her services when they were needed (she worked in the office remember). While she was taken advantage of: 11 years of hard work with limited options (staying tied to a single employer).

The sad tale reminds me of the importance of making sure everything’s clear before at the start. And by clear I mean on paper. Admittedly, I learned this the hard way. Review the agreement between you and your client thoroughly. Feel free to ask questions or for adjustments. The point is to make sure that youre not committing to something youre unable/willing to give, or as in the example, getting peanuts for your precious time and skills.

Don’t settle for verbal agreements or handshakes. I still believe that men keep their word. But its human to be forgetful. What may seem agreed upon one day may seem ludicrous the next.

The unfortunate victim in the example probably failed to review themutual agreementbetween her and the company. Or even worse, didnt fully understand the ramifications of what she was agreeing to. Do you completely understand the terms used in an agreement? If a client hits you with a legaleseladen document, paying for a lawyers interpretation is well worth the money. Making sure you know exactly what you get into may save you from a lot grief in the long run.

Does Your Eagerness make You Vulnerable.

On a forum, a freelancer relates getting left out of the cold. Despite not being paid a single cent, he submitted many design drafts for a project, making changes as his client demanded. One day the project was called off, and the clients virtually vanished. So the victimized freelancer had nothing to show for his hard work.

I completely understand why the apparently young man jumped at the “opportunity.” His was probably aching to start using the skills he’s really passionate about, driven by youthful eagerness. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize he was being used until it was too late. It’s a textbook example of a guileless soul being taken advantage of.

Stories like this make me remember the phrase “half now, half later.” Not to mention the importance of being earnest about your agreements. Before starting a project, both parties’ expectations of each other must be clear. What are you and your client expected to deliver? Get that in writing or on record. And it’s reasonable to ask for some money down.

If a potential client balks at giving some money before seeing anything done, show that it’s in his best interest. His deposit compels the contract worker to start working on the project, lest he have to return deposit. Or worse, gain a reputation as someone who can’t meet his commitments despite getting paid.

It is possible to start working for clients immediately, based on verbal or “virtual” contract. But for their own sake, freelancers should only consider this when working with long-time or trusted clients. Because in the real world, it literally pays to make sure all your efforts will ultimately be worth it.

How to Convince Clients That You’re the Right For the Job

Aside from illustrating that they can meet a project’s requirements, a freelancer should also show a client what’s in it for them.

There are many factors a client takes into consideration when selecting a freelancer for a job. Chief among them is the answer to the question, will the freelancer help me accomplish my objectives? So convincing clients that youre right for a project requires that you prove your proficiency at achieving said objectives.

Ironically however, taking a direct approach to thissimply telling the client that you can do the jobis less than ideal. Invariably, freelancers who attempt to prove their prowess end up leaving the impression that theyre in it for themselves. The eagerness to display proficiency may leave the prospective client with a sour taste, convinced that you are more interested in how the project will benefit you.

Freelancers shouldn’t just supply the credentials (such as references and of course, the portfolio) that prove capability. They should also make it clear how their work not only fulfills the requirements, but how it benefits the client as well.

In other words, proving your capability to meet the standards set by the client should be followed by a detailed rundown of how your work will help the client. Heres where being concrete helps. Consider this: “I will get your message acrossandI will get your message across, making your website stand out among the millions out there”. Which one seems more appealing to clients?

Planning For the Worst

In a few hours, it’s forecast that a destructive “super-typhoon” will pass by where I live. Fellow local bloggers and freelancers who make their living online now rush to finish their commitments early, before power and connectivity give out.

And as a freelancer that should be the first step when preparing for calamity. Finish as much work as you can, so that nothing will be on your mind as you deal with the disaster. But only do this after you’ve wrapped up even more crucial preparations, such as bracing your house against strong winds. Don’t forget to warn clients you’ll be out of touch for a while!

Next, charge everything that has a battery. Flashlights, electric lamps, smartphones and PDAs, laptops, etc. Think of it as filling up your car before a long trip; you won’t be able to get more fuel (i.e., power) for a while. You never know if you’ll need these electronics in a pinch.

Lastly, while candles and matches are vital, buy a kerosene lamp if you don’t have one (look in wet markets, or make one yourself). It provides enough light (unlike candles) for reading and writing, two things you can do while waiting for 190 kph winds to stop battering your closed windows. Of course, don’t forget to also buy some oil, and never leave the lamp on while you sleep! Consider a safe bottle lamp for peace of mind.

The point is to take all the steps needed to make waiting out the storm as bearable as possible. The last thing on your mind should be unfinished work (”oh no, when will power come back; that presentation’s due tomorrow!”), and you should have enough electrical and biological power for your gadgets and yourself. The lamp will also allow you to write, preventing boredom or allowing work to be done.