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.