Just a Page of Candy & Other Freelancing Adventures

A guest post from Natalie Graham

Being a freelancer is a great experience. As long as you keep a steady stream of clients, you will never be bored. No two jobs are ever the same and that also applies to the people you work with. However, the first year or so can be rough.

Working to build up a base of excellent,loyal clients is the hardest part. I had to communicate with all sorts of people. Most were great while others were just looking for a deal. The latter are the people you want to avoid.

Learning The Art of Saying No

JAPOC-1One email I received simply said “quote please” with no explanation of the project whatsoever. Others admit that they were looking for the cheapest designer possible while some expected multiple designs to be finished on that same day.

If you are new to freelancing, it is hard to say no to these types of people. You are probably trying to build up a reputation, portfolio and of course pay the bills. Eventually, I learned how to pick and choose the people I communicated best with, it made the  design process much easier and now I am never short on work.

The Good and The Bad Clients

JAPOC-2Although it was stressful at the time, some of my experiences have made great stories, for example, a new company wanted an infographic. Once we made a deal, I asked for the information they wanted on it. They responded with a vague email about how they weren’t really sure and that they just wanted a design for now. After trying to explain that the design would change after the fact, and that I needed info to make an infographic I realized it was hopeless. They paid me for my design which was just a page of pictures of candy. They neither had nor wanted a logo. I never heard from that company again. It was a great example of putting the carriage before the horse, in that they wanted to advertise before they even had a product or business.

On the opposite end, there are many companies that have their priorities straight. I have helped a few grow right from the ground up – logos, packaging design and advertisements. These are very rewarding processes that make up for everything else and of course look great in a portfolio!

The Risk of Not Getting Paid

JAPOC-3Now, most of my clients are online, I never get to meet them in person. This was the easiest way for me to start out. I could do small jobs for people and build up experience.

Once I started doing local work, I had one of the most classic experiences with someone who decided not to pay. He had asked for a full color ad for a new line of clothing that he planned on running in the local newspaper.

We agreed on a price, but decided not to meet since he was located about an hour away. He agreed to mail a check, however, once the ad was complete, he realized how expensve running a full color ad in the newspaper was, then – poof! He disappeared.

I knew something was up, but how do you call someone out on dodging payment? Maybe he just got busy, maybe he already sent the check? Who could tell? After multiple unanswered voicemails and emails over the span of a month, I decided to take action.

I sent a “Warning email” containing big words like “robbery,” “scam artist,” and “it looks bad on your business”. He replied within the hour, assuring me that he never meant to dodge payment and had simply been too busy.

Momma to the Rescue!

JAPOC-4Another month went by and we had the same conversation two more times. Still with no payment. Exasperated, I explained what was going on to my mother. At this point I didn’t even care about the money, I was more angry at the fact that someone thought it was ok not to pay. Just because they don’t plan on using a design doesn’t mean they don’t have to pay for it. Conveniently, my mother was heading that direction in a few days to visit a friend.“Ha! I will pick up your check! Don’t worry!” She exclaimed.

I was embarrassed of course, the days of having my mom fix my problems were suppose to be gone. Nevertheless, I wanted to prove my point. I called the client who of course didn’t pick up, left a voicemail (which was also horribly embarrassing) explaining when my mother would be coming to get the check. She stopped by and he had it ready for her on the counter, no excuses given at all.

How Do You Protect Yourself and Your Clients at The Same Time?

JAPOC-5Ever since then, I’ve wanted to protect myself from people like that. I could have asked for a portion of the payment up front but there are scammers out there who pretend to be freelancers, ask for payment first and then disappear. I found that clients are very cautious of this and I don’t blame them.

On the other hand, there are websites like Design Crowd and oDesk that protect both sides. Although they take a portion of your profits, sometimes it is worth it. Many of my repeat clients find me through these sites, once we do one job we trust each other enough to work over email/Paypal.

Every freelancer of every kind will have experiences like this. It is very frustrating sometimes but professionalism must be maintained. I am telling these stories so that people will learn from them, and not to ruin someone else’s reputation. In the freelance world, you always want to be talked about as professional, communicative, and friendly!

Do you also have your share of bad client experiences as a freelancer? Share those with us and tell us how you dealt with them?


Author Bio

unnamedNatalie Graham is from Kingston, Ontario. She does various designs for many companies, from packaging design to illustrations. Photography and jewellery making are her side hobbies.

Check out her website! nataliegraham.carbonmade.com