Work from home or work at starbucks? Take a much needed rest day, or keep working hard? Take on a new client or pass on the offer? The list goes on and on.
Out of the hundreds of decisions that we freelancers make on a regular basis, I think there are five major choices that matter the most. These are dilemmas that every freelancer faces at one time or another, and knowing what you’re up against can help you make the right decision. If you haven’t faced any of these dilemmas yet, trust me, you’ll face them soon enough.
Let’s take a look at these five dilemmas and what the best options are.
1. Work for Money vs. Work for Exposure
This is a really tough choice for a lot of people. As you already know, free marketing can really do wonders for your business in the long run, and working for good exposure can definitely provide that.
Generally freelancers should not work for free, but there are some exceptions to that rule, especially if you are just diving into the freelancing world. If you are a writer, designer or a freelancer on any other field, it’s a good idea to contact some popular bloggers and see if they will let you write guest posts. Of course, you won’t make any money now but in the long run it can be the best thing you do as far as growing your blog and getting exposure goes. Once you get that initial boost from these platforms you are ready to roll. Besides, the people you wrote guest posts for might ask you to contribute regularly as a paid writer.
Solution: Choose exposure over money if you are new to freelancing. If you have been freelancing for a while, choose money over exposure (assuming that you have built up a enough business and exposure already).
2. Get Personal vs. Keep It Professional
Some of us end up building quite a personal relationship with our clients — after working together for a while it’s easy to become friends. The client starts talking about how there eighteen year old ran away and you sit there wondering what you should say. Well, as long as the client isn’t your other half (the 18 year old in this case would be your child as well), simply tell the client you are sorry and avoid asking too many questions. Trust me, I am all for having a friendly relationship with clients, but getting too close and personal can make things worse in the long run. The worst part is, when the client starts to see you as a personal connection rather than professional connection, their expectations will increase and they’ll want more for less. You want to be friendly with your clients, but avoid getting too personal.
Solution: A client and freelancer relationship should always be professional. What if the client is family or friend? Definitely keep it professional. You get the idea.
3. Signed Contract vs. Email Record
“I don’t need a contract. Just send me a quick email outlining everything so we both have a record.” If you ever get this kind of email or get temped to send one out, stop yourself. First and foremost, you want your client to know that you are good at what you do. You want to create a good impression and let them know that you are a professional. Contracts will certainly help you do that.
A good contract tells the client that you know what you are doing, and what you’re worth. If you ever find yourself tempted to just send an email, or you find a client who says so to do that, definitely don’t go that route. Draw up a contract and email it to your client for his signature, if he has to scan it and send it back, so be it. I know it’s more work for your client and you, but professionalism and saving your butt has a cost and this is the least you can do to achieve both.
Solution: Always, always draw a contract. Better yet, have a few made and save it for different services that you provide. When a client gets hold of you, simply attach and send.
4. Full Payment vs. Partial Deposit
Another tough question. Some clients can be trusted and others really can’t — it’s your responsibility to figure out which you’re dealing with. I recommend taking full payments upfront. Most of my work comes to me as referrals, so my clients are happy to pay me upfront and I have never had a problem delivering what I promised.
However, it really depends. If you know the client very well it can be okay to take a partial payment upfront. The best strategy is to make your decision on “per client” basis depending on how they found you, the value of the project, and how trustworthy you think they are. This is unfortunately a dilemma where you are on your own.
Solution : It’s your call. Depending on what the project is and how well you or the client know each other is the key.
5. Money vs. Sanity
One of the best aspects of freelancing is choosing your own hours and being able to work from home — however, there are a few downsides. One of them is not being able to say “No” when you are approached for work. You might have a plate full of work, but you still want to take on more. This again is one of those choices that should be made based on your situation.
It’s easy to take multiple projects, and sometimes what’s on your plate will be enough to drive you crazy. You might get an offer from a potential client and feel like you need to take it because it means more money in the bank — but it’s imperative to think before you take on any more work. If your plate is already crowded, and your current work is causing you to sleep less and spend less with your friends and family, choose sanity over money.
Solution : If you have your plate full and are doing well financially, go ahead and choose sanity. Not going crazy over work and a relaxed mentality will help you land more in the future rather than going crazy for a few more dimes and nickles.
Name Your Biggest Decisions
These are some of the most common freelancing dilemmas, but there are many others out there. Let us know what your biggest or most troubling choices have been and what you recommend for other freelancers when they find themselves in that situation.
top image by Flominator