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By Terry Lee Stone |

3 Truths About Freelancing


After years of working as an employee for several design firms, I came to freelancing later in my career—and found that I needed to acquire a few new skills.

Here are some things I’ve learned as a freelancer:

1. Clients are good.

Great work comes from great client relationships. Keeping clients satisfied has a lot to do with managing their expectations throughout the project.

Apart from an inability to agree on a price or fee for creative services, the classic problems clients have with freelancers are missed deadlines and off-target or unappealing creative. Maybe the client wanted more involvement and consultation time. Nearly all clients hate surprises, whether it’s in terms of work process, the creative itself, or any financial matters.

And freelancers have their own pet peeves: excessive revisions, delays in client approvals and anything else that leads to extra work for the freelancer—and of course payment delays.

You can avoid some of these mishaps with frequent and thorough communication between the client and freelancer.

In any case, don’t burn bridges because you just never know—maybe you’ll want to work with that client again in the future.

2. Contracts are your friends.

Formal agreements set you up as a professional and that helps clients trust you. A signed agreement provides legal backup if you have a dispute, but that’s not the only benefit of having a contract.

Writing one forces you to think through what you’ll do, how you’ll do it, and how much you’ll get paid. Plus formal written agreements provide an opportunity to discuss the project up front in detail with clients—which is key to managing client expectations.

The key components of contracts to discuss with your client include: basic contact information (yours and theirs); the project description and scope of work; an outline of the project development process defined as specific phases or work modules; your fees and estimated expenses; and the terms and conditions—the legal language that describes your working relationship with the client on this project.

If contracts and consulting agreements are new to you, check out my course, Running a Design Business: Designer-Client Agreements here at lynda.com. In this course, I break down all the information you need to develop a contract and show you contract samples.

3. Compartmentalization is key.

Juggling multiple clients and projects can be challenging. Think triage: What needs to be done? For whom? By when?

Focus on one thing at a time; push everything else from your mind.

Schedule your day and stick to it. Work when you are supposed to, and do life maintenance or fun things when planned. Monitor yourself with some kind of time-tracking system. Time sheets help with estimating future projects, and show you how you’ve spent your days.

Also, in setting up schedules, try to be slightly vague with clients when possible. That gives you a little wiggle room, in case you need it. But once committed, always honor your deadlines.

Remember to schedule time for yourself. All work and no play makes a creative person very dull.

Make sure to have a designated workspace and maintain the area for that purpose. Close the door at quitting time. Give yourself permission to stop thinking about work.

To learn more, watch my Running a Design Business series of courses on lynda.com.


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