It's time for a little Mistakes and Lessons of my going freelance story. I want to get real with you in hopes that it shows you what to expect.
Takeaways and Quick Wins
- Build up your savings so you can feel free to say no to "red flag" clients.
- Say no to red flag clients!
- “Clients from hell” is the wrong way to look at it.
- You'll likely take on clients that will end up not being a good fit for you. Learn from the experience and move on.
- Remember that the best clients will value and trust you as a professional, which will result in you being compensated well for the value you provide and they will trust that your solution is the right one for their problem. (They won't ask for revisions on revisions.)
It's been two months since I left my full time job. I've gotten more freelance requests than I expected. And here's what I want to talk about today...
I've regretfully said yes to almost every request.
But I mean, why wouldn't I?
Saying yes to more clients means more money, right?
When I left my job, it was a little more abrupt than I was planning. And while I was confident I could make it work, there was a scared little boy in the back of my head worried I wouldn't get any jobs.
So when the requests came in, I almost said yes before I really knew what they were. "You want to pay me money? I'll do whatever you want."
I should give myself a little more credit than that. I was trying to walk most clients through my process, but I definitely let myself bend my own "rules."
When you say yes to every project, you're going to get what people call "clients from hell."
That term is inaccurate and unhelpful because it just passes blame to someone that you didn't explain your process to well enough.
I have gotten myself in a couple less-than-fun situations by not being clear enough and also by not being discerning enough (aka spotting red flags).
A client is someone you choose to take money from.
If you spot red flags, don't take their money. That way, they can't be a client from hell to you.
I knew this going into freelance, but it was harder to do in practice.
In an ideal world, I would have cut back my hours at my day job to take on only ideal freelance clients.
And when I wasn't working on those ideal client projects, I would be making personal projects that demonstrated the type of work I want to produce.
That's not what happened, so I'm figuring this out as I go. I'm doing a bit of learning the hard way.
It's really (like really really) helpful to have money in savings.
Save up six months of living expenses and you reduce the level of scarcity in you life by many factors. Like I said, I left my job a little sooner than I planned to, so my savings wasn't quite where I wanted it. We still had a good chunk, but not a full six months.
Spotting red flags is something you’ll get better at as you go.
Here is a small running list of some of red flags:
- “I don’t really have a big budget.” This often means they do not value what you do as a professional.
- The term “really simple” added to “really fast” (a sign they don’t value the hard work it takes to makes something “really simple”).
- When a potential client wants me to abandon my process (usually to make it go faster).
These two aren't “red flags” per se, but I have said no to:
- 3D animation requests. I could probably figure it out, but I have basically no 3D experience right now, so I’m not going to take projects that require skills (and software) that I don’t have.
- When a client requests a style that is way outside anything in my portfolio.
These scenarios are a great opportunity to send projects to my talented friends that do have those particular skill sets!
Saying no to the wrong clients keeps your schedule free for the right clients.
I've had to turn down projects I wish I could have taken. I was busy working on less than ideal projects and had no time for the good opportunity. Like I said before, I'm learning the hard way. And you likely will as well. And that's ok.
The most important thing is to always be learning.
Learn from your mistakes. Learn from examples of other's mistakes (aka mine). Learn what works for you.