When creative people want to break away from full-time employment, and make a career with their talent, the most common starting point is going freelance. But freelance is also the place that many burn their fingers as they quickly learn the ropes of running a business. That’s right, you are no longer a photographer, model, make-up artist, designer, artist, painter, sculptor, etc. You are now an entrepreneur.
Welcome To The World Of Business
First thing’s first – You have to reorganise your priority list. You are in this business for the profit, not hobby. Your talent, of which you base your business model on, is now the “service” that you want to sell. Being freelance doesn’t mean you are “doing it because you like to do it”. At the end of the day, you are still an entrepreneur. Liking something alone doesn’t put food on the table. Remember this…
Next important thing is that your selling activity should take precedence over your talent. You are a salesman (or woman) first, and your talent second. You may be very good at what you do, but if you can’t sell it, you’re a failure. Or worse, you can sell a lot of your services, and your clients like your work very much, but you have a hard time getting any payment for your work.
Freelance or not, you have to learn to say “No” every once in a while. You are not obligated to take every job that comes along the way.
Pitfalls And Traps To Watch Out For in the Creative Business
You know what you are good at, and you know clients will like the quality of your work. But what you may not know is how much you can charge for the kind of job that you are now offering to do for them. So do your homework, and look around to see what your competitors are charging for the service that you plan to offer. Then match it to their skills and experience, and you will get a gauge of how much your work is worth.
If there is one thing that you have to drill into your head right now, it is that there is no such thing as a “standard market price”. Know how good (or bad) you are at your work, and know how much similar work is being charge by your competitors. Then work out a ballpark figure that both your clients and you can agree upon.
“I will begin by charging a very low price, so that I can get the business started. And when the clients are familiar with the quality of my work, then I will start raising my fees.”
Never, ever think of doing that. Once you start off with a low price, and the word gets around, there is no way you can increase your price. Repeat clients will argue that you are taking advantage of them by overcharging them for subsequent jobs, and referred clients will argue that you are charging them higher than the people that recommended you to them in the first place. You will forever be stuck doing the low-priced jobs.
The creative person inside you will simply agree to do the job at a lower price, but at a dissatisfied low quality work. You think that your clients will understand that they got low quality jobs from you because they pay you a low price. But people that they recommend your job to will forever believe that all you offer is cheap, low quality work. And once you are in that hole, it is next to impossible to climb out of it.
Freelance Or Not, Always Ask For A Downpayment
Never agree to commence a job until you have received a downpayment for the job, preferably about half of the agreed upon amount. And never give in to the client’s sweet talk that they’re a large corporation, or that they’re very reputable, and that it is unlike them to “runaway” from payment. Believe me, they can, and they will.
With a downpayment, at least you are covered of your wasted time if they really do “runaway” from paying you, although it will be highly unlikely at that point. Without a downpayment, anything is possible…
Upon completion of the job, whenever possible, ask for the balance of the payment upon delivery. Unless absolutely trustworthy, never take a delayed payment. There will be instances that the client will insist that it is their “company policy” that they only deal with credit payment (most likely 30 days or 60 days credit). You can always counter this by saying that you also have your own business policy, of only accepting credit payment for returning customers with a positive payment history… That will force their hand into coughing up the money if they want to collect the finished product from you.
Do Not Be Afraid To Walk Away
There will be times when you have to play hard-ball with them, and simply walk away with the finished product in hand. Some clients tend to bully freelance talents more than established agencies. So should the client show up expecting to collect the finished product from you without paying the balance of the payment, do not be afraid to walk away. You have already collected the downpayment, so your cost is already covered.
Never, ever, pass the finished product to the client without first collecting your payment. Not even to “put away” first, while the client treats you to coffee at a nearby coffeeshop.
If, for any reason, that the expected balance of the payment isn’t ready to be paid to you during the delivery of the finished product, just walk away. You can always make another appointment another time. Never be afraid to walk away,
Business First, Talent Second
At the end of the day, always remember why you wanted to go into the business of selling your talent in the first place – to earn a living doing what you like doing in the first place. The keyword here being “earn”. Whether you like it or not, the love of your talent will have to take the back seat, while you earn a living selling the service of your talent to your clients.