17 January 2020

5 Simple Rules For Working With A Creative Freelancer

Femme Luxe Blogger Style Fashion Blog

As a freelancer I have worked with entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, marketing managers, MD's of SME's, agency directors - you name it. The freelance journey is so much fun - I can honestly say no day is the same and you have no idea what each week will bring. That's just one element of freelancing which I love: I love getting creative; I love meeting new people; I love chasing new projects and pitching for briefs; I love educating companies and individuals in social media marketing; and I love making a difference in the life of a company - my clients growth and happiness is always at the forefront of my mind. And whilst my life is filled with 99% fun, creativity, and passion - there is a teeny 1% of projects which occasionally make me want to scream into a pillow. Or if I'm totally honest, it's usually in my car - out of frustration. Whether you're a business owner or a freelancer reading this - you will know that feeling.

Running a business and being your own boss is a never-ending journey - there's always learning to be done; and new challenges to overcome. This blog post was born out of a frustration I had last year with a client situation but upon reviewing what has happened instead of some negative feelings, I laughed. I sat in my car and I laughed at how ridiculous some of the demands freelancers face are.

Femme Luxe Blogger Style Fashion Blog
Femme Luxe Blogger Style Fashion Blog
Femme Luxe Blogger Style Fashion Blog
what I'm wearing: black short sleeve boxy loungewear set* by FemmeLuxe // trainers JustFab // gillet Zara // hat ASOS // jewellery* ReBorn

I turned to my favourite networking group, The Coven Girl Gang, to ask some of the ladies to share their freelancing stories focusing mainly on service based freelancers as I can relate definitely relate to the stories these lovely ladies anonymously shared with me.

The aim of this article is to provide a humorous read for both clients and freelancers, and to understand each other better - after all, we all want to produce beautiful and effective pieces of work!

1. DO make sure you set parameters of working together and you're the right fit for each other.

"I once had a client pull my services because it wasn't working out. With an agreement in place prior to commencing work apparently it was not OK that I wasn't available all day every day to jump on emails and start projects - even though they only paid for 4hrs a week!"

"To manage all my clients, I have a weekly schedule which keeps me on track and I tell clients when to expect their projects and content calendars so we're on the same page. As much as I try to reply to emails quickly, there are times when I simply cannot and my clients need to wait for their allocated day to get my full attention. Their expectations are managed, and I'm completely invested in them - it works!"

I'm really sorry to say this but the likelihood of you being the only client this freelancer has is pretty slim. In reality, most freelancers tend to squeeze in around 3 client projects a day and work all hours to make it happen. If you sign up for 4 hours a week, you pay for 4 hours a week, and you get serviced 4 hours a week (of course in emergency situations this can be worked around!). But signing up for 4 hours per week and then demanding you get responses and service all day every day is setting both of you up for failure. You need a full time employee sitting next to you, or a personal VA.

When working with a freelancers, agree on your expectations and their terms of service. For example, you'd like them to be available to jump on the phone to you within two hours of request - they will be able to advise if this is possible for them or not. A freelancer will be able to tell you when to expect your projects - for example you have agreed to 2 hours of work per week and their slot is Thursday afternoon. If that works for both of you then great - but emailing them on a Monday morning asking for a project update, or even worse for the project to be completed, is just frustrating and feels pressured creating negative vibes.

2. DO provide a good brief and provide elements needed to complete the project.

"I had a client who finished services when they questioned the quality of my work. It riled me up - with no brief, no content, no imagery, no marketing or digital elements to use as a starting point I had to create a content calendar which was kick ass but somehow missed the mark as it didn't feature team photos and behind the scenes of every day office life. Funny that, as I worked remotely and none were ever sent to me or available to download anywhere. I'm glad to say I fought my corner as I was proud of the work I delivered and in the end even they admitted this was a really difficult situation to be in with a lack of any materials to even get to know the brand."

"I have a story that will sound familiar to anyone working in design/branding. Client wants logo + visual identity designed. Freelancer (in this case, team of designer + branding expert) chats with client to understand their business, does research, writes brief with them, suggests concepts to make them stand out from competition, creates moodboard based on brief. Client doesn't like moodboard and now has a whole different idea of what their brand should look like. Team starts again, new brief, new moodboard. Client likes it - yay! Team creates first round of designs, different routes for client to choose from. Client does not like them, but now wants colours and style to look pretty much like any of their competitors'. Team advises against that, client insists, team presents new designs based on client's feedback. Client chooses one of the routes - the less original one. Team develops it and presents new design options. Client comes back with a sketch on a piece of paper, excited like they just had the most brilliant idea, saying they've 'designed the logo, can you make it?' Undoing all the work that's been done so far - which supposedly is why you've hired professionals for this. Bonus points if now the visual elements of the logo look like... something inappropriate."

"I was once appointed to design a new website for a local business. The first thing I ask for as a web designer is a set of brand guidelines so I know where I'm going visually. After mapping out the site, agreeing on the designed template, I designed the website using the strict guidelines which the client provided me with: fonts, logos, colours. The only piece of feedback she had for me that the colours I had used on the website were absolutely awful, and 'was I blind' to even put the colour palette together. It was a colour palette she had paid for when she rebranded her business, and then supplied to me. Safe to say I refunded her the deposit and ran as far away from that project as I could!"

Oh my gosh I can so relate to every single one of these scenarios. A brief is SO important - freelancers aren't magical creatures (well, debatable!) who can read your mind. Before starting any project, you as a client and as the best person who knows what your business needs, have to put together a good brief. If you want to rebrand, have an idea of what you like and what you don't like to give your creative an idea. If you want a website designed do some research and tell your freelancer what you expect: ie 5 page website (include page titles) with the capability to take bookings/sell online, to my brand guidelines. If you've appointed a remote social media manager and expect them to post about the behind the scenes of your office life then send them rough photos to edit and post about.

As a creative freelancer, it's so important that you understand the project you agree to before signing the contract. If you're not getting everything you need from you client, tell them - don't sit and wait for them to approach you. From my experience clients love working with proactive individuals who can guide them, instead of them constantly chasing YOU.

And never, ever get rude - a relationship can end from either party and if you get nasty expect your freelancer or client to say "Thanks, but no thanks."

3. DON'T question the expertise and/or integrity of your creative (unless you're seriously concerned in which case you shouldn't be working with them in the first place!)

"My fave is when you clearly map out how long the job is going to take (eg running their Instagram) and how much it will cost... and then they say "Ok great! Can you do it for {half the amount}?" How does that make any sense?? I’m all for negotiation but come on."

Once a job has been quoted to your parameters, don't question the time it will take or how much it will cost - this isn't up to you to decide as you're not the person working on the project. A good creative will tell you how much time they need to be able to deliver and manage your expectations (remember, they also have other projects on!) and it's up to them what to charge for their work.

As a freelancer, the best advice I can give you is under-promise and over-deliver. Meaning it's best for everyone in the situation to be given longer time schedules and less pizzazz than you think you can deliver so when you beat the deadline and give an even more kick ass product at the end you're going to make your clients day!

Femme Luxe Blogger Style Fashion Blog
Femme Luxe Blogger Style Fashion Blog
Femme Luxe Blogger Style Fashion Blog
Femme Luxe Blogger Style Fashion Blog
Femme Luxe Blogger Style Fashion Blog

4. DON'T steal!

Guys, I'll hold my hands up here. This happened to me TWICE because obviously I was dumb. The first time a client stole from me was when I was working for a well known local small business who contracted me to do their social media. After three months of content creation, publication, and management of accounts I sent my client an email to say she was delayed in payment and missed one - to which she came back and said actually she hated the content and will be refusing to pay. Not only has she shared the content across all the groups she was a part of, she also pushed the product photos and write ups across her other digital marketing - makes me think she didn't hate the content THAT much? Oh, did I also mention that she approved everything before it even went out? She stole my time and my IP - I basically spent three months working for her business FOR FREE. In that case, I would suggest you team up with a legal eagle who can help you recover the money - it's not even the amount at this stage, but the principle. Two years on, this woman's business has flopped from where it was before, and she is desperately trying to claw back her recommendations and referrals. I guess I wasn't the only person she was a total dick to!

I also had another situation when I was contracted by a small business owner to design her logo - just as I was about to transfer the final files to her, I sent her the invoice to pay me before I release the assets. So I learnt something from the last time! She then proceeded to ignore me, telling me she's going to take another creative direction and doesn't want this logo. As I was trying to compose an email to tell her this is not acceptable - even if she wants a different logo I still spent time creating this one for her - I saw a poorly and cheaply made variation MY logo on her social media channel! ARE YOU SERIOUS? Again, in an instance like this the best thing a freelancer can do is seek legal advice to remove the logo and assets as these are my IP.

You may not be stealing a physical product, but time and creativity is valued just as high as anything else. Moral of the story - don't steal creative work; and if any of the above happens to you, seek legal advice and teach these people a lesson.

Side note: I have not seen or heard these business owners blossom their brand. I'm not saying anything except for karma is real, and she's very very fair.

5. DO pay on time.

And I cannot even stress this enough. Every single freelancer I have spoken to has previously had clients who didn't pay them on time or even worse, didn't pay them at all.

Like every other person freelancers need to pay their bills, mortgage, childcare, food, etc - but what they also need to pay for is the software, equipment, materials they use to create work for their clients. If clients don't pay on time you're not only disrespecting your freelancers, but you're also making it impossible for them to complete your projects. So please abide by the terms of payment and do pay on time.

I hope you enjoyed this article and had a giggle, felt the pain, and hopefully learnt from other people's mistakes. If you have a freelance horror story to share with me, I'd love to know about it! Use the comment box below to tell me all about!

*This post includes gifted items in partnership with FemmeLuxe. All views are my own.


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