5 Tips for Avoiding Bad Freelance Jobs

Here are some Facebook vectors/icons for you to download and use however you’d like. I created these icons for NuVision Marketers, a group that also goes by Hype Media (both are based out of Miami, FL). They failed to pay for this work and so I’m letting anyone who wants to download and use these icons do so.

Download (via MediaFire). [You will need Adobe Illustrator to open and manipulate the vectors]

This free download also comes with a short lesson in freelancing and choosing who to (and not to) work with.

I was contacted by NuVision Marketers’ “CEO”. Over the phone he told me his on-staff graphic designer was out for the summer and that there was an immediate need in his company for icons to be designed and created for a website, www.addfans.net (notice they’re offering to build you a Facebook fan page. Did you know you can do that on your own AND customize it on your own for free? I posted a tutorial on how to do just that here). He was looking for something a bit more polished than what the site had at the time and wanted the icons/banners to be on par with his competitors sites. My job? To create these icons/banners. He asked could I do that? Sure, why not? It’s a simple job and would call for a bit of illustration, something I tend to enjoy. He also inquired about a few other design needs, asking about prices and if I could handle these tasks. Sure, I said. Again, a little freelancing is a good thing. So I thought …

He needed a quick turnaround. As in, same day. That’s not usually something I do but I wanted to accommodate him and his needs since there would be other design jobs in the pipeline (so I thought or was told). Then the discussion of money came up. I seemed to have a hard time communicating that my quote, that hovered close to $100, was more than reasonable. He was hesitant and so I wavered – $50. I know, many of you seasoned professionals are slapping your foreheads at this horrible move on my part. We all know what happens from this point on. I rushed to get the job done: I did the revisions, I sent the updates, I kept asking about payment being sent and requested a check since it was such a small amount and PayPal would eat away at it with its service fee if I collected through their site. Finally, the job was done, the product had been delivered. What didn’t come through was the check. I did the work back on August 18th and now we’re closing out September. Yeah, I got screwed while he profited from my work.

I decided to post this because in today’s economy, service is important. Just because I served him with my design work doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have been served the courtesy of common business in paying a small fee. I made multiple attempts at contacting him. Once I got through – “Oh, you never got the check? …. {silence} I sent that before I went on vacation. I’ll check with my bank and will have another one sent out.” Nothing. I sent E-mails; no response. When I asked him for his contact information at the start of the job all he provided was a phone number. No mailing address, no real information, just an E-mail with an address. Funny thing is that after sending him the files – that he did indeed use – he “friended” me on Facebook and LinkedIn! So as I spend my valuable time trying to collect $50, I’m able to see him posting numerous updates to his Facebook account everyday. That’s just great business practice right there.

Designers and freelancers in general: learn from my little moment of insanity. There are a few things you should do to avoid finding yourself in a similar situation:

1. Always, I mean always, have a contract. I know that designers or freelancers and creative types in general really dislike feeling like they’re having to play lawyer or accountants when all they want to do is be creative and practice their craft but really – get over it. When there’s money involved and you’re using your skills to support yourself, you’re in business. Every job you do, even if it’s with someone you know, work with, a friend, a dog – whatever – should be put down in writing, outlined with all the terms in print and agreed upon. Put down what work you’re doing, what amount is agreed upon and when and how you’re going to get paid. This is a must.

2. Don’t fall for the “there’s a lot more work coming!” trick. It’s a worn out move that’s become very popular in today’s economy. Basically, this is said to psyche you out. A potential client says this HOPING you’ll cut them a break. Don’t fall for it. You need to be tough and shouldn’t sell yourself short. You are well aware of the amount of time and effort that’s going to go into doing the work you’re being contracted to do – charge appropriately and don’t do yourself the disservice of undercharging.

3. Ask for a down-payment before any work is even started. I’ve started to do this and whenever I’ve asked for a down payment, it’s weeded out those who are either unprofessional or not serious about the work they’re asking you to do. A lot of the times I’ll request at least $25 for small projects – half down for larger ones. This creates an understanding between you and the client that this is really a business transaction and you, as a designer/creative, are serious about the work you’re about to do and expect them to extend a similar courtesy to you.

4. Hold the final files ransom until final payment is received. I’m sorry but gone are the days when we can trust anyone to really follow through at the end and not leave you empty handed as they run away with your work and use it without a care in the world. Don’t give anything away for free! If you’re a designer and are sending out proofs and revisions, stick a big watermark “PROOF” in red over the file so that it’d be hard for them to use the file. In the end, get payment and then release all of the final files to them. If you’ve had a great relationship with the client throughout the design process or have worked with them before, then ok, release the files but be sure to mention that you need payment ASAP.

5. Had a bad experience with a company or individual? Warn others! Think about it – if someone hires you to do a job and you’re horrible at it or do something terrible, what are they going to do? They’re certainly not going to recommend you to others. They aren’t going to want to work with you ever again and aren’t going to be much help at getting you more work. The same happens with employees or freelancers. Had a bad experience? Then do others the service of warning them so that they don’t make the same mistakes that you did and are aware of what they’re getting into. Consumers can report bad service to the Better Business Bureau or post a horrible review on a website – I think freelancers or employees in general should be able to do the same to make this working climate a bit better.

What are some lessons you’ve learned through freelancing? Share your tips and advice in the comments section.

Follow me on Twitter @antoinereid
LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/antoinedreid
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About Antoine

Antoine is a graphic designer and artist currently residing in North Carolina. He has a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a concentration in Visual Communication and specializes in graphic design and illustration. He has spent the past six years as a graphic artist for several publications based in North Carolina. He invites you to visit his design and social media blog at https://antoinereid.wordpress.com.
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One Response to 5 Tips for Avoiding Bad Freelance Jobs

  1. krieges says:

    So he taught you a good lesson. You should thank him and not be so selfish or STUPID next time.

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