Craigslist and other popular freelancing sites are wonderful resources to find freelance work from but they are also ridden with less than great opportunities and free-loaders. Some of these listed are things I had to learn on my own while others are more from feedback of others. For myself, these are the rules I live by as I do freelance work. Some of these may be open to flexibility, depending on what kind of work you do, and some others may not even apply for your line of work. That is OK! Look through these and it is ultimately up to you to consider adding these as part of your golden rules to follow.
1. This is probably my most valuable rule of them all: Have a set standard rate and NEVER accept less than. Know your work’s worth and stick to it, no matter how slow the opportunities are coming in. Accepting anything less opens up your space to what I call “bottom feeders” and these are those who try to take advantage of you – they are worse than scum. Keeping a set price will keep them at bay and will invite those who are more likely respectful of your requirements and boundaries. Why wouldn’t they? They’re paying a potentially higher rate and if you accept no less, they know not to fuck with you or your time. Don’t attract disloyal clients now. My only exception to this comes when there are perks or very valuable, verifiable opportunities; however, even then, I would not trust any promises so I would also try to get as close to my minimum as I can get paid. The truth is that many folks will come to you trying to get you to do more work for less pay and to those, you will want to refuse. Only if they insist or you’re inclined to say yes due to not having anything else to do, what I suggest at the very least is to offer only what you can offer at their rate. For example, if your normal rate is $200/hr for a fashion photo shoot and they can only give $150/hr, tell them you’ll do $150 for the hour in the condition that they provide their own make-up/clothes/etc or even just tell them $150 will give them a max of 30mins to work with you at that pay since your time is very valuable.
2. Anything involving “deferred pay” or “passion projects” that do not pay upfront for your work, day of or earlier, are to be avoided. Some of these jobs will not pay as promised and you will be spending more time chasing after your money than actually working. It doesn’t matter how good the money looks, demand your pay sooner than later. Bills and other expenses do not wait.
3. With #2, it is highly recommended to get some sort of deposit at the start of work. Usually with new clients for shoots, I require half upfront when I arrive and before I begin any work. This is especially important for those who work remotely or all online. It is at your discretion how much you ask for at the beginning.
4. Do not travel for an interview, please. There’s Skype, phone calls, facetime for that sort of stuff. Only time it is okay to travel is if they’re paying you or compensating you for your time.
5. Big names or affiliation should mean nothing to you – at least give them that impression. Lines like “if it goes well, this will lead to more work” mean nothing. This is not even a promise so don’t fall for it. People who use that line are dishonest or at least very inexperienced. It is already an assumed fact that good work leads to more work so don’t go for it if they are expressing that line or using big names to attract your loyalty.
6. Do not submit anything in order for them to consider you. Contests, try-outs, auditions (unless you’re looking for acting gigs). This is where your portfolio comes in and if you have that ready, it should speak for you already. If the client isn’t already sold by it and by their interactions with you, then you don’t want that job anyway. This is them trying to get more work from you for free.
7. With #6 said, always watermark your projects. Watermark even the projects you have ready for clients and this will protect you from having them run with your work without properly paying you.
8. It is highly suggested that you do not feed the trolls. It is very easy to get caught up with folks who are harassing you for whatever reason involving your work and the best thing to do when it comes to dealing with these type of correspondences is don’t bother. Anybody giving you a hard time or trying to negotiate NON-negotiable terms are not worth going back-and-forth with and this will keep you in the power. You don’t need to deal or invite more negativity so just let them know your terms in order for them to work with you and say “it’s this or nothing.” If they insist to fight it, just ignore/block. Best case scenario, they may come around accepting your terms.
9. With freelance work, there’s no guarantee your career will start flying same day, month, or year that you begin. No matter how long it has been though, if you love the work you do, NEVER give up because of how slow it is. Do not give up because of anything other than just because you have found something better to do. Even then, I would keep at it but it is not good enough reason to give up just because there are not enough good work opportunities out there or because there are too many negative people trying to make your work/career difficult to shoot with. Always keep posting your ads and keep responding to those you seem interested in. There’s always a good chance that a great opportunity will come about just from having posted one ad.
10. With all the above, I would like to leave you with one last suggested rule: never turn down a great opportunity just because you’re unfamiliar with it or because your work does not fall under the line. I have been offered gigs that are outside of modeling/writing, and because I knew I could do it, they have turned to great money-making and networking opportunities. One example of this: I’ve had one client reach out to me for Spanish speaking lessons and it’s been a great friendship, network option, and money-making opportunity all in one. However, it is important to always do assess the risks before meeting a client though, and if the pros outweigh the potential cons, try it out. I sure am glad I did.
With all the above said, I hope you are encouraged to post that ad, resume, or profile up for your work. Always stay safe while working and look out for my tips with staying safe as that will come in a future post. In the meantime, feel free to post more tips you may have or consider while freelancing or share this post with your friends to encourage discussion. We are all trying to make a living after all! Let’s help each other.