Entrepreneurs

Council Post: Freelancers: 10 Steps To Set Boundaries And Ensure You Get Paid

In the growing gig economy, there’s fierce competition in many freelance markets. Far too often, contractors will try to earn repeat work from a client by going the extra mile and taking on extra work only to not get properly compensated for it.

As business professionals, it’s important for freelancers to stand up for themselves and their work and get the compensation they deserve. To help, a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council members shared their advice. Below, they discussed what freelancers can do before or after taking a job to ensure that they don’t get taken advantage of by their clients.

1. Get The Contract Signed Before Starting The Job

Make sure to have the written contract or statement of work signed by both parties before starting the job. In this contract, make sure to clearly list out the scope of work and how the out-of-scope work would be handled. For instance, out-of-scope work would be done at an hourly rate of X, etc. This will protect the freelancer from scope creep as well as provide a written document to go to in case of any potential legal involvement. Also, have a conversation at the beginning of the job with the client about what is in the scope of work so both parties are on the same page. Frequent communication throughout the job would also minimize potential scope creep. – Meeky Hwang, Ndevr, Inc

2. Consider Productizing Your Services

Freelancers should consider productizing their services. Productizing a service means packaging a skill into different packages. For instance, a website designer can offer three different pricing tiers with different scopes of work for prospective clients to choose from. This ensures the freelancer gets paid for all the work they do, and if a client needs extra work, the freelancer would be able to bill for it. – Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC

3. Track Your Time

Track your time—especially if you’re getting paid on a per-project basis. Clients are often unaware of how “small” tasks pile up. They may also be unintentionally ignorant of how long specific requests take you to complete. If you accurately document where and how you’re spending your time, you’ve got solid evidence when it comes time to have “that talk” with a client. A reasonable customer who seeks a mutually beneficial working relationship will usually be open to discussing solutions, whether that’s paying you more money or delegating you fewer tasks. As any freelancer knows, not all clients are reasonable. In that case, it’s crucial to be firm about what work you’re willing to do under the terms of your agreement. If that harms your relationship, you might be better off without them. – Mark Stallings, Casely, Inc.

4. Create A Professional Brand Image

For some businesses and people, the term “freelancer” doesn’t convey the same degree of professionalism as an established company might. This is a bias that a freelancer can try to overcome with the right branding. I think that it’s critical to build a professional website, a pricing page with a clear list of services and a payment gateway right on the website. It’s also important to use business emails rather than generic ones and build a brand palette and logo. When you create a professional brand image, companies that approach will take your terms and conditions more seriously. This is not a foolproof plan, but it is something that helps you set a standard and uphold your conditions too. – Blair Williams, MemberPress

5. Build A Body Of Work

Freelancers need to create a body of work or a portfolio consisting of different types of work. For example, if you’re a writer, create an online portfolio that includes copywriting, technical writing and social media content as examples. Having a fleshed out portfolio lets potential clients know exactly what you can do and what they can expect from you. This should help freelancers avoid having to submit “samples” to interested clients who may use them without agreeing to pay. And having a body of work also prevents clients from asking for excessive rework since they will have seen your prior work. Finally, creating a strong portfolio establishes you as a reputable freelancer, giving you more power to state your terms and stick by them too. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

6. Include Your Policy And Terms On Your Website

To avoid being taken advantage of by clients, freelance workers should outline their policy and terms on their website. It’s likely that potential clients have already scoured your website looking for the information they need, so having it already there for potential prospects is a great way to set the right expectations. Always refer new clients to this webpage or part of your site so they can’t say they weren’t aware of the rules. If it’s on your site, there’s no reason why there should be an issue. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

7. Only Do Work You’ll Get Paid For

One excellent way to ensure you don’t get taken advantage of is to refuse to do work that no one’s paying you for. You’re going to have to learn to say “no” to people who are only looking to take advantage of your talent. The hardest part of this process is learning to be straightforward with clients in this regard. It’s not easy, especially if you’ve worked with this person multiple times, but it’s something that you must do to maintain a healthy client-freelancer balance. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC

8. Avoid ‘Small Favors’

In my experience, the most common way clients try to get more work out of freelancers is to ask for “one more quick thing” or “a small favor” that turns out to be much larger than they let on. If you find yourself in a situation where a client is asking you to do a favor that has nothing to do with the assigned job, politely decline unless they plan on adjusting the terms. A trustworthy and respectful client will understand that you want to be paid for your services. – Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

9. Get Paid Upfront Using A Retainer Model

The key to becoming a super successful consultant or freelancer is to get paid upfront using a retainer model. For instance, sell your time in buckets of five- to 10-hour increments. Don’t discount. Make it clear what your rate is for the hour blocks and how you handle overages. From experience, I recommend that you require approval from the client before going over, but also require payment before work is complete. Your success as a freelancer will largely depend on getting paid on a consistent basis, which is why you should always require upfront payment. – Kristopher Brian Jones, LSEO.com

10. Get Everything In Writing

For freelancers to ensure they don’t get taken advantage of, they need to get everything in writing. Otherwise, it’s a case of “he said, she said” and you have nothing concrete to go off. It’s important to document an agreement with your client to make sure you’re able to deliver according to their expectations. This leaves both parties happy. – Jared Atchison, WPForms

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