We, the freelancers, have one big problem. Often we are so concentrated in getting a new customer, giving a good quote and closing that deal, so we forget that the job will have actually to be done.
Sometimes after closing a deal I start counting the money as if the project is done. Of course we all want our freelance projects to be easy and to be finished smoothly. But very often various troubles happen which bring a lot of hassle to our heads.
Of course there are no problems which can’t be solved. But isn’t it much better to prevent the issues before they happen? Remember, in most cases both you and your customer want the same – the project to be finished sooner, the payment completed and everything to work perfectly. To fight the troubles before they appear is the best way to make it happen.
So what can turn your freelance project into a nightmare and how to avoid it?
Low Quality Work
This is so obvious and yet so many freelances skip it. If your program does not work or your design is ugly or your article has grammatical errors you can’t expect the buyer to be happy and pay for it.
You are a professional and value your skills. Use them to create a wonderful product or service. Never ever work just to complete that project “somehow”. Not only that you may miss the payment, but you may degrade your great reputation.
These are easy to catch. It may be your or your customer fault, but that does not matter. If there is no communication, there is no successful freelance project.
You must update your customers about the progress of the projects you handle. Let them know when you expect it or part of it to be done. If you take a vacation, let them know. Never let them wonder where you are and why you don’t respond emails. This is essential for your success and your name.
If your clients are silent, bother them. Being too gentle not to disturb them is not a good freelance practice. They are responsible for the projects just like you are. If you have nothing special to ask, just give them update and ask about their opinion. Don’t let them forget you.
Unclear Project Specification
This has failed several projects for me. It is essential to understand very well from the beginning what you have to do, how much you will paid and when you should be ready.
If something is unclear, don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is no stupid question. Ask about everything until you get it perfectly clear.
Sometimes I can’t manage to understand the whole project in detail from the beginning. But I don’t start work before having the overall picture. The small details can be clarified later with questions.
Just trying to read your customer’s mind usually results in extra and unpaid work, bugs, broken deadlines or project failure.
Ask questions and get clear specifications. Don’t work without that.
Non Secured Payment
It’s nice to have trust in your customers, but some people will abuse your trust. Unless you know well your client, you do need to secure your payment in advance. You can either ask for advance payment, partial advance payment, escrow (the bets option especially if you work through a freelance marketplace) or partial payments when parts of the job are completed.
Negotiate the payment terms before starting the project. If you don’t do that and try asking for advance payment later, your customer may feel pushed.
Using Third Party Products
If you are a programmer and want to use a third party or GPL code in the program, you must ask the client to agree. Some buyers will want to resell the program you make for them, or may want to use it in environment with special license requirements.
Don’t break any licenses – it will not only break your reputation, but you can see yourself ending up as defendant.
The freelance writers may quote or retell in their own words someone else’s texts. But you should never just copy text from anywhere.
In general, any usage of third party work must be discussed with the client. You can’t know all the considerations your buyer may have. Instead to risk your payment and reputation, negotiate using any kind of third party products.
Lack Of Trust
This is the interest and you can’t trust anyone at 100%. There are many scammers or simply guys who can’t do business normally and will try to scam or outsmart you in hundred of ways.
But don’t be paranoid. Without a basic level of trust you can’t do freelance business. There is a delicate balance which should be reached. Once agreed to some basic payment terms and timelines, stick to them and don’t be oversuspicious. If you have agreed to send part of your work first, just take the risk and do it.
Obviously if your customer does not trust you, there is no way to be productive either. I always avoid customers who start directly asking what I’ll do if there are bugs in my work and wanting me to guarantee 1 year free support. Of course I’ll fix any bugs, but I hate to be pushed and to feel suspected in dishonesty without giving any reason for that. Better avoid such clients from the beginning.
The freelance business is riskier than the traditional business. Your customers are often virtual and there is little you can do in case the things go wrong. So the best you can do is to prevent the issues which can lead your projects to failure.
Have you met some of these issues in your freelance career and how did you solve them?
Filed under: Freelance Beginner Guides