This morning I wrote a 350 word blog article for a guy I have never met. As of the writing of this column I have no idea whether or not this guy is actually going to pay me for my work. I have several ads up for freelance work and he discovered one and contacted me late yesterday. He wanted a 500 word blog article at first and then a 250 word one. When I was done the piece was 350 words (250 would not have done it justice) and I will charge him at the 250 word price.
There are several lessons here. First, sometimes you just have to take a chance. I get a lot of response from my ads and about ¼ of the time, I don’t get paid. It’s frustrating but it is the nature of the beast when you float ads for work. Sometimes the work goes well, like a woman who contacted me to rewrite some stuff on her website that I charged $30 for. She loved what I did so much that I got an envelope in the mail several days after the completion of that job with an extra $20 in it and a note that said “thanks”. Then there is the SEO job I took on where the handler didn’t pay any of the subcontractors she hired. That job lost me about $150 worth of work. The thing is, it can go either way and often, it does. But you won’t make any money at all if you don’t take that leap of faith.
The second lesson is that we have to be smart about the way we charge for things. I generally charge a new client half down and then the rest on delivery. I know that there are a lot of clients out there who won’t buy into that but the way I figure it, if they want quality work, they will invest in it just like I am investing my time and trusting that the payment will come.
Finally, there is the lesson in human nature and communication. I believe (and this is my humble opinion) that in this day and age with the advent of all the technology we have stopped really listening to each other. We communicate in short bursts of verbiage that often amounts to nothing more than a sneeze. Long gone for many are the days when you got to “feel a person out” during initial conversations. If you are going to freelance, you have to get back to the basics and go back to the days of getting an “impression” of a potential client. Last night, when I first spoke to the blog article guy, I asked him key questions. I had him explain his blog to me and from the way he explained it, I could tell that he was passionate about it. (Good sign #1) I also discovered that he was looking for a certain “tone”, again this show me that he is serious about the work. (Good sign#2) Finally, he was willing to put that half down on the project which means he really was investing in the work. (Good sign #3) I wouldn’t have been able to determine all of this had I not listened.
So if you are going to freelance understand that it is a rough road at times to travel. It can be rewarding but it can also feel a little bit like that road in China that the truckers travel with the very large no-return drop offs. It is a road you must travel carefully and slowly, watching for the dangers along the way BUT once you get to the other side, there is a lot of reward. In the care of freelancing, slow and steady really does work best.
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