Top 6 Tips to protect yourself when selling Freelance Services
If you have decided to become a freelancer, then a congratulation is in order! This is your first step towards living your dream life!
But there are a couple of things that you need to think about before making the transition. First of all, you need to know when to quit your job and begin full-time freelancing.
Before transitioning, make sure you:
- Have work lined up. Don’t jump into the self-employed life of a Freelancer without having clients or jobs ready to go. The last thing you need is to feel stressed about a lack of income.
- Have savings. Having work lined up is essential, but it might take a little while to get paid. Payment terms and lead times before that cheque hits your account, are all common in the world of B2B and freelancing. Make sure you have a financial safety net, and if you never end up using it, that’s great! Invest that money back into yourself.
- Feel confident in your skillset. The quickest way you can fail is by losing confidence. You need to be your biggest fan, right now!
- Make sure there is a demand for your service. Look on freelancing websites, such as Fiverr, to find out if there is a demand for your service. Speak to other freelancers who are offering your service and find out where their clients are coming from. You can also find blogs and articles about your service by simply Googling them.
If you have no problem getting a full-time job again, don’t be afraid to give freelancing a chance. It’s less risky than you think, and you can always go back to working full-time.
Deciding to become a freelancer can be a hard, but very rewarding decision to make. Choosing to become a freelancer allows you to be your own boss. It allows you to choose your own work schedule and build your skills as and when you see fit. Freelancing offers freedom and opportunities you won’t find in a traditional job, but it also comes with its challenges.
The hardest part of being a freelancer is dealing with troublesome clients and by extension, difficulties getting paid.
To protect your financial future and business, you need to be able to identify challenges as they arise and put in place a strategic plan to navigate your way through the hard times. Knowing where to start can be difficult. You’re likely already busy trying to figure out what you should be charging, and how do taxes work. And possibly the hardest part of all, you‘re probably still trying to convince yourself that freelancing is going to work out for you.
To save you hours of research we have put together a list of ways you can protect yourself when freelancing:
- Work through a freelancing website.
Going through a third-party website may not be for everyone, but it is a great way to start your freelancing career because, for the most part, the site will deal with a lot of the challenges for you. Websites such as Fiverr and Upwork act as a first line of defence for undesirable clients, scams and people who are trying to get you to work for free.
Freelancing websites are great because usually both the buyer and the seller need to have an account. The benefit of both parties having an account is transparency. Freelancers that have worked with a client in the past can leave a review on what it was like to work with them.
Be cautious if a client has no reviews, and they appear to be new to the website. Everyone has to start somewhere but if they begin asking you unusual questions, requesting to take the business off the site or would like work for free as a ‘sample’ – then you need to cut communication with that client. The most common scams on freelancing websites happen when the business moves offline.
- Research your client
So, perhaps you’ve decided to take your business away from freelancing websites and run it on your own. There is nothing wrong with freelancing on your own and direct with clients. It’s certainly harder to do, but it’s very much worth it once you get it right. The most important thing you need to do when taking on new clients is to research them.
You can find information about them on their website, LinkedIn profile or social media pages. The main thing you should be looking for is proof that they are a trustworthy client. This is important because you want to make sure that you will get paid when you have completed your work. Take this opportunity to observe their style and learn more about their business and the market they operate in. By doing this, it will be easier to understand where they are coming from, which will lead to fewer breakdowns in communication.
- Write a contract
Having a contract is essential for protecting yourself financially and legally. A contract eliminates breakdowns in communication by clearly outlining on paper what your client is receiving and how much they are paying for it. If you don’t have a contract, a client can refuse to pay you, and they won’t be held legally accountable. You will be astonished how the simple act of agreeing to terms in a contract early on will drastically reduce the chance of disputes and conflict later on.
In your contract, you need to outline every detail of the arrangement with your client. Including the amount they owe, their deadline for resources you need to complete the job, the timeline they have specified for you, work obligations, and payment due date.
If a client hasn’t paid you on time, having a contract is the best way to hold them accountable. It might be a simple error such as a misread date or a delay in the payment arriving. But if the client starts to ignore your messages and you can no longer get in contact with them, then you will want to have the option to take legal action. Having a contract in place opens the door for this.
- Have a billing system
To save time chasing clients for money, get yourself an excellent billing system. Platforms such as PayPal, QuickBooks or MYOB save you a lot of time because they do the heavy lifting for you. If you work with multiple clients, it can simplify your billing by clumping together every invoice you send and showing you if any are outstanding.
- Keep proof of work
As a freelancer, you will come across a variety of different clients. Sometimes you will come across clients who have unrealistic expectations or clients who are straight-up demanding. If you find yourself in a position where you are working with a problematic client, keep yourself protected by keeping track of all your work.
A client may claim that you haven’t met a deadline. They may claim that you haven’t delivered what they’ve asked for, or that the work you provided isn’t yours, or isn’t up to the standard agreed.
You can mitigate this firstly, by having a contract, and secondly, by using a reliable employee monitoring software such as Toggl or Asana. By using monitoring software, you will always have proof of work which you can use to convince clients. It can also serve as evidence, proof of work which you can take to court if a client is still refusing to pay.
- Don’t ignore red flags.
This tip could be the most important tip we can give you. Do not ignore red flags, ever.
Common red flags include:
- Lack of communication
- Poor or inconsistent communication which contradicts itself and is open to interpretation
- Vague briefs
- Wanting to work without a contract
- Asking to work in a way you aren’t comfortable with, e.g. taking your work offline when you are working through freelancing websites
- Trying to negotiate far below your rate.
- Not paying upfront and paying late
- Unreasonable or unrealistic demands
There is a whole world of wonderful clients waiting to find you so don’t waste your time with those who show any of the behaviours listed above.
Don’t let indigent clients waste your time. Especially not, when you could be spending your time finding clients who understand your value and who are enjoyable to work with.
Let’s wrap it up
There are dozens of reasons to become a freelancer. Whether you’re looking for a flexible work schedule, taking your career all over the world with you, or maybe you’re just trying to leave the world of office politics far behind. Whatever your reason, there is no denying that freelancing isn’t a walk in the park. It’s not easy, but the benefits outweigh the risk, especially if you know what the risk is and take steps to mitigate it.
It doesn’t matter what service you’re offering, make sure you keep yourself protected by researching potential clients. Always work with a contract, maintain proof of work, and be aware of red flags.
You can make your freelancing experience stress free by working through websites such as Fiverr or Upwork, but these sites aren’t always 100% safe so follow the tips mentioned above. Do your due diligence, and don’t take work offline or provide free samples.