Freelancing is a notoriously tricky business: building your brand identity, attracting clients and getting paid (on time) for your time and labor each pose a unique set of challenges, but it could lead to a lucrative future down the road. As someone who's had a few years of experience as a freelance writer, I thought I would share my knowledge in a handy guide for fledgling freelancers.
Make no mistake, I'm not rolling in dough here--I had a TD Bank lollipop for dinner last night and overdrafted on a bottle of shampoo at CVS last week. But I do possess a finessed skill set when it comes to the dos and don'ts of freelancing that can only come from experience, and it's my pleasure to share them with you, below.
DO know that your time and talent are valuable.
DON'T know how the hell you're still gonna make rent though. Better do a quick Craigslist browse just in case you come up short. Maybe someone in Queens will pay you $200 to be the human target in their knife-throwing act.
DO work on building your presence--online and off. Attend events that could lead to making bountiful connections: keep an eye out for creative meet-ups, magazine launches and all kinds of networking events.
DON'T get drunk off the complimentary wine and throw up in the free tote bag you received for attending--unless, of course, that's part of your brand, then by all means, let 'er rip.
DO use a contract for every project.
DON'T write out a contract on an Applebee's napkin (learned that the hard way) and under no circumstance agree to a "verbal" contract. The subtext of a verbal contract is, "I'm willing to do anything to get out of paying you; I will literally fake my death and move to Qatar after you finish writing that blurb for my website to avoid giving you any money." Then you have to track them down and threaten to hurt them with a trident and it becomes a whole thing, ugh.
DO your research on a potential client: ask creative colleagues and friends if they've ever worked with them and if so, what their experience with them was like; Google them, find their social media and judge them based on how pixelated their profile photos are.
DON'T accept a client if their more recent Facebook profile photos include more than three Macbook Photobooth-edited photos in a row; they will pay you in Blu-ray DVD's and milk. This is just one of those guidelines that doesn't really make sense, but always turns out to be true. I'm the expert here, so just go with it, OK?
DO require a client to always make a down payment on a project. If they don't have the money for a down payment, bang pots and pans outside their bedroom window at night until they do.
DON'T abuse your privilege as being your own boss. Don't charge for the time you spent spiraling down a YouTube abyss watching videos of tear-jerking moments from America's Got Talent or for the 12 days in a row you spent at Target when you should have been working on a client's Squarespace. You can maybe get away with that masturbation sesh if it was shorter than ten minutes--think of it as a paid lunch break.
DO learn how to craft a good invoice. Unfortunately, I don't have any tips on how to do that. Seriously, my invoices come in the form of a singing telegram where a performer in a green wig shows up at my client's doorstep and performs an operatic rendition of "Bitch Better Have My Money."
DON'T buy Weaver's frozen chicken nuggets; they taste like if you put a wet stack of newspapers in a deep fryer--get Tyson or Perdue instead.What? I told you I don't have tips on how to do a good invoice.
DO send a short and sweet follow-up email if you haven't heard back regarding payment by end of week.
DON'T tape a note to a brick that says, "WHERE'S MY GODDAMN MONEY FOR THE FUCKING LOGO I DESIGNED FOR YOUR WEBSITE," and throw it through their bedroom window.
Or DO that, fuck it, you know what? Some people just don't get the point and need to be taught a lesson in not taking advantage of creatives.
DON'T do the above or anything else that involves property damage or trespassing--we don't want to get slammed with a frivolous lawsuit.
DO consider other career choices just in case, like becoming a cruise ship DJ or a tour guide for a historic house.
DON'T heed 85% of the advice given in this article.