How to Stop Freelancing for Free

Are you guilty of handing over your work for free without blinking an eye? Or are you sick of clients expecting you to complete work at a lower paying rate than you’re used to? The curse of freelancing for free is one that plagues us all, and forces us to question if leaving the nine to five secure job was really the right decision after all…

Don’t look back just yet. While your patience might be tested with unfair prices, there’s plenty of ways for you to get paid the amount you deserve, without throwing a tantrum and threatening to head back to the office.

Have a clear pricing system

Leaving a vague or indefinite pricing system on your website gives clients’ room to haggle and undervalue your skills. And while there’s no problem with a bit of bartering, you need to work for the amount you can afford.

You don’t need to include specific prices for projects on your site, but as long as you comment on how the pricing system works (price per hour or price per project), clients will know that they’re dealing with a set structure, and will be less likely to test your patience.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean people won’t try their luck. Implement a strict set of numbers so you know exactly what you’re comfortable working for.

Have a contract drawn up in advance

Before you begin trading, it’s a good idea to have a generic contract drawn up. This is ideal for those times when those last minute deals come through with a quick turnaround period.

This will give you more time to concentrate on completing the work, and means that any essentials that you want to remain a constant in all of your contracts, will.

Without a contract you’re at risk if a client refuses to pay. If they do, there won’t be a lot you can do without proof of a written contract stating the terms of the work, so keep it at the top of your list before you start trading.

Take a deposit

For those particularly big pieces of work, the security of a deposit from a client can give you a lot of peace of mind. If you’ve been scammed before by a seemingly good client, you’ll want even more of a safety net before you agree to begin work.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a deposit for work. Some clients will straight out reject the offer, and if you don’t think you can move forward without one, then don’t feel obliged to continue working for them.

This is a good idea for larger pieces where you feel your time is more valuable, and you’d lose more money if the client refused to pay.

Don’t undercharge

While you might have a clear pricing system in place, that doesn’t mean it’s the best one for you. There are plenty of freelancers overpricing their services and losing out on money because of it, but if you’re undervaluing your prices, you’re also damaging your reputation.

Clients are less likely to expect a good piece of work if you give them a lower value, and you’ll lose out on their trust as well as their money.

If you’re undervaluing yourself, everyone else will too. Get some solid industry insights on your work and its value if you’re unsure – you could end up better off for it!

Don’t complete any work for free

This might sound a little too simple, but it definitely works. Want to stop freelancing for free? Then don’t. To be taken seriously as a freelancer from the get-go, don’t go handing out free samples willy-nilly.

It can be tempting to offer free pieces of work as bait when you’re getting off the ground, but the end result is never a good one.

First you’re offering a free piece of work to your Mum, next thing it’s your Uncle and before you know if you’re writing a six page website for your second cousin’s nephew’s pet shop in Germany. The best policy is to stick to charging your regular fees. That way, no one will be shocked at the sudden price hike!

Are you being hassled by clients who want to pay you less? Leave us a comment below with your experiences!

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