I’m Emma Cossey, a long-term freelancer, mum of toddler and all round digital geek, and I’m happy to welcome you to The Freelance Lifestyle.
I launched this blog in 2011, to provide freelancers with down-to-earth support, and practical advice. I wanted it to be a kind, supportive place to get tips and advice on living a great freelance life (without the constant narrative of ‘earn six figures or you’re failing’).
Since then, the community has morphed into that friendly and honest place I dreamt of visiting when I first started out as a freelancer back in 2009. The space to celebrate successes, discuss the challenging elements of freelancing, and to connect with others on the same path. Because working on your own shouldn’t mean being alone!
What’s here for you?
I’ve spent years building up my own freelance business. I’ve been a pro blogger, a social media consultant, a copywriter, a teacher… but my passion is helping people just like you take the next step. So whether you want to pick up tips from the blog, listen in to the podcast, come join the Facebook group or get some more focused 1-2-1 support with my coaching, there’s something here for you.
Find blog posts and podcasts all about freelancing and working from home, including interviews with freelancers about their daily lives, pitching tips, finance facts and lots of free resources to help you live your best freelance life
Looking for 1-2-1 support, accountability and mentoring from someone who GETS freelancing? I'm your coach! I've been freelance for over ten years, and I love supporting other freelancers to achieve their goals.
One of the things I learnt early on in my freelancing career, is that it’s always best to be the one contacting your client, rather than the other way around. As a freelancer, you maintain control of the situation if you can spot and fix a problem with a client without waiting for them to notice and contact you. And maintaining regular contact with a client means you’re more likely to spot a problem – or simply make sure that you and the client know that things are on track.
There are plenty of ways to keep in touch with your client on a weekly basis, without annoying them.
Set up a weekly catch up call
Send them weekly reports
Drop all of your clients a regular newsletter of the industry news
It’s also important to keep in touch with previous clients, for potential repeat business. You can do this by:
Sending ‘check-in’ emails every couple of months, checking in on how they’re getting on and if they need any help
Add them to your client newsletter, for added value (plus you could add special offers into the newsletter sidebar to potentially tempt them back)
Offer them a referral bonus if they send other clients your way
Encourage them to like your brand Facebook page, Twitter account or blog
Got loads on your plate and juggling things like a slightly tipsy clown? Thinking about hiring a freelancer to take some of the pressure off? Before you start the process of finding a freelancer (that’s a whole other post), here are five things you need to know before you start.
If you want to have a great working relationship with your freelancer and get effective results, have a firm idea what you want from them first. It’s an easy trap to fall into to think you ‘should’ have a freelancer, without having a firm idea of what you can fill their hired time with.
Hiring a freelancer often means you’re paying someone by the hour or the day to do a job. So make sure you’ve got a To Do list ready for them – otherwise you’re wasting your own money and their time.
Pay them on time
*Puts on stern face* Personally, I think paying purposely late (yes, freelancers know the difference between a ‘lost invoice’ and a lie) is bad manners and, in most cases – inexcusable. Freelancers have to pay bills at the same time as everyone else, and a freelancer paid on time is a happy and productive freelancer. After nearly six years of freelancing, I still fail to understand why some businesses, small businesses in particular, have a 60/90/120 day payment period. If you’re unhappy with their service, tell them in good time and allow them the opportunity to rectify the situation, rather than avoiding them and refusing to pay.
Basically – if you can pay your employees on time, pay your freelancer on time (Added bonus – if you pay me within a week of getting your invoice, you actually get a discount!)
Respect their hours
In the past, I’ve had clients who call me up at 9pm at night or the weekends. My terms of business now detail that my set hours are 8-5, and contact after that (unless previously agreed) will have to wait until working hours. Your freelancer had a life too, and it’s unlikely you’re paying them to work for you every day, so respect that by contacting them within business hours. If you want someone who is available at all times, get an employee. (Or, as my less polite inner voice says, a life)
Don’t insult freelancers with high expectations and teeny budgets
Say, for example, you ask for a quote from an experienced freelancer for blog posts. You’ve probably heard about them before and had a recommendation from them because they produce blog posts that excite. They offer a quote of say five posts for £100 (which is a good deal, by the way!). Please don’t go back and ask for 50 posts for £100. It’s beyond cheeky, and borders on insulting.
Oh, and saying “can you write for free, we’ll give you a byline” when you have a brand new magazine/blog with a tiny readership, isn’t the enticing offer you might think it is. If the freelancer is passionate about the subject, they might be be interested – but don’t make out that you’re doing them a favour.
If at first you don’t succeed…
Don’t give up on freelancers! Unfortunately there are a few bad eggs, as there are in every industry, but if you have a bad service from one, please don’t resign yourself to the belief that every freelancer is like that. Ask around for recommendations, check out freelance reviews like PeoplePerHour and check out their LinkedIn profile.
Working with a freelancer can be a brilliant experience. Promise!
What tips would you give someone looking to hire a freelancer?
It’s Monday, which means it’s time for the latest freelance challenge. For those new to the blog (welcome!), the Weekly Freelance Challenge is a post where I set a challenge for myself and my fellow freelancers. Sometimes, the challenges are purely business-related, and sometimes they’re about achieving a better work/life balance.
This week is a follow up on last week’s challenge. Last week, I asked you to write a list of your dream clients. Did you find an hour to scribble down who you’d love to work for? Excellent. This week, I want you to pitch to one of them.
If you haven’t pitched to anyone before, this can be a hugely intimidating task. Let’s go old school though, and break it down into ‘bite-sized chunks’ (anyone else having GCSE revision flashbacks?)
Look at what the potential client is currently doing. Do your research – better to be knowledgable about their business than look clueless if they ask further questions. Have a look on LinkedIn, google the company and check out the industry news if you don’t already.
Look at what they might be missing, and how you can help. Try and nail down exactly why what you can offer is unique. It might be a particular case study, a contact or information they can’t find elsewhere.
Draft an email. Clients potentially get lots of pitches, so keep it brief, to the point and clear.
If you’re pitching to an editor, give them a hint of what you want to write about, but don’t go into too much detail. Sadly some magazines and newspapers will say no to you, but give your idea to their in-house team as freelance budgets are tight.
Don’t talk prices. Yet. But do give them a link to your website or portfolio. If your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and filled with recommendations from previous clients, send that too.
Get a couple of friends/family members to check it through. Then hit send.
Don’t forget to think outside the box. Send a client an infographic of your pitch, a video or a podcast. It’s not always suitable, but sometimes it can help you stand out.
I’m going to be doing this later this week. If you’ve pitched before, I’d love to hear any tips you might have – just leave them in the comments below.
Will you be taking part in this week’s Freelance Challenge?
In the years that I’ve been freelancing, I’ve had a mix of clients. On the whole, 80% have been brilliant. They communicate well, pay on time and generally make the job enjoyable. I love working with them and giving them the results they want.
Then you’ve got those that make you question whether the work is really worth it.
Difficult clients are par for the course in freelancing. I’m not talking about demanding clients here (I actually love working with clients who work as hard as I do to get the results they want). I’m talking about the ones that move the goal posts constantly, are late paying (or come up with reasons why they shouldn’t have to pay you) or take advantage of your good nature.
So, who are these difficult clients and how do you deal with them?
The constant late payer (or non payer)
I invoice on the 24th of each month. My favourite clients are the ones that pay by the end of the first week of the next month. It means I can pay the mortgage. My least favourite are those that require constant chasing – and they’re often the ones that I stop working with if I have to spend large amounts of time requesting payment. My opinion is, if they can afford to pay their staff for their work, they can afford to pay their freelancer for their work.
Make your payment expectations clear in your Terms and Conditions, and put into place late fees for those that pay outside that set period.
If you’re working long-term with a client and they’ve continuously put off paying you, stop producing any work for them until they pay up. It’s surprising how many clients suddenly find the money when you do this.
If you’re working on a project (or you’re unsure of the client), you should also ask for half the payment up front.
If all also fails and it’s a sizeable amount, you can take legal action against them.
The goal post changer
The goal post changer, is the client who constantly changes their mind about what they want you to do. This isn’t the same as a client who challenges you so you’re constantly learning and improving. They might want you to do Facebook, then change their mind a week later as they’ve not had the 1,000 likes they had hoped for. Essentially, they want instant gratification. More often than not, this client wants to have all their correspondence on the phone.
This kind of client is often in charge of a start-up business (my personal experience is that they often fail, as actions are not seen through.)
If they insist that all correspondence should be done on the phone, make sure you follow up with a summary email of your confirmation and ask them to confirm it. This should help if they ask to change direction again, as you can forward that email as evidence of what you’re currently doing.
Go with your gut when deciding to work with them. If your gut says no, it’s probably right!
Ask for 50% deposit for a project
The vague one
The vague client isn’t necessarily a difficult client. They just need a little guidance. They want the results, but they’re not quite sure how to get there. The great thing about this client, is that they’re generally open to suggestions and are great to work with on a project. Managed well, working with this client can actually be great.
I have a feeling these clients are toughest for web and graphic designers, who get vague directions like “I’d like it to ‘pop’ more” or “Can you make it…better?”
Sit down with them (online or offline) and discuss a plan going forward. Set deadlines and targets, so you both know what is going on.
Have a thorough discussion of what they do and don’t want, so it’s clear what both parties want.
Keep them constantly informed.
The 24/7 one
The internet has completely revolutionised the business world. Sadly, it’s also meant that some clients expect you to be on call all the time.
This is particularly frustrating when clients call you at 8 or 9pm at night, without forward notice. Especially when you’re at the pub.
Include your work hours in your Terms and Conditions, and explain what your client can expect
While you might work at the weekends, I wouldn’t let your clients know that unless strictly necessary.
Request that phone conversations be booked in advance, rather than spontaneous.
The manipulative one
The manipulative client is the most difficult client. They’ll probably have attributes of all the above. They won’t pay on time (but they’ll have dozens of reasons why), they’ll constantly change the goal posts so you’re unable to finish anything (which they’ll use as an excuse for not paying you) and they’ll play constant mind games.
They’re not always easy to spot. Some manipulative clients will play on your good nature, and spin you a sob story for why they can’t pay you. There are definitely cases where clients can’t pay, and I’m sympathetic to that. But if it’s month after month, they’re probably not genuine.
Honestly? Get rid. No matter how much they’re going to pay, it’s probably not going to make working for them any easier.
If the money is amazing, or you’re really passionate about it, stick with them but create some strict guidelines.
Have you experienced working with any of the above? Let me know in the comments how you dealt with them!
(It should be noted that there are just as many difficult freelancers. Neither party is perfect!)
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