Blog – Hire Freelancer Contracts
Feb 22

WHEN SHOULD FREELANCERS WALK AWAY FROM A PROJECT – Part 3

By N. D. Brennan

Kissimmee, Florida — There is, by far, one instance that rises above all others regarding when freelancers should absolutely walk away from a project:  When you are not being paid on time! 

 

Here’s the reality:  If you take the necessary precautions, collecting payments from clients should be as fluid and as stress-free as enjoying an ice cold glass of sweetened tea on a scorching hot southern summer day.  Anything less is immediate grounds for walking away from a project.

 

My policy is simple.  I have zero tolerance for non-payment or unscheduled deferments.  There is completely and unequivocally no excuse that is ever reasonable.  Think of it like this:  Just like the client expects services rendered in a timely fashion, a freelancer’s policy regarding the collection of payment for work performed should carry the exact same degree of expectation.  And your clients should be aware of this from the onset of your business relationship.  Honestly, if they expect anything different, you may want to reconsider the motives of that particular prospective client.

 

When it comes to the work a freelancer has committed to perform for a client or payment for the work performed by a client, I refer you to an axiom that I have lived by for most of my adult life:  Excuses ONLY satisfy those who make them. 

An excuse is essentially intended to appease or placate its target.  But the simple truth is that its foremost directive is actually to make the person requesting to be excused feel just a little better.  The hard, cold reality is actually much simpler than that:  Excuses are nice, but they don’t pay bills and they don’t close deals.  You or your company require timely compensation.  It’s just that simple.

 

SO HOW CAN I PREVENT PAYMENT ISSUES?

 

Now that’s the real question:  What are some measures that you can take so not to find yourself walking away from the project due to non-payment, deferred payments, or insufficient funds?

 

There are 3 methods that you can apply based on your assessment of the client.  It’s these 3 methods that may prevent you from having to face this fatal question.

 

  1. ASK FOR A DEPOSIT. If you are a freelancer, you are probably not feeling as if you should ask for a deposit.  New or inexperienced freelancers tend to undervalue their services for lack of experience even when their talent may far exceed their competition.  The unfortunate reality is if you do not request a deposit from a client that you are questioning whether or not he or she has the actual ability to pay for the services that you will be providing then you are setting yourself up for a tremendous disappointment and a major life learning lesson.

 

In most industries, deposits are fairly standard.  Generally, with small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), it’s almost expected.   They realize that they are building up their business credit, and it is not unusual or going against professional protocol to request a deposit.

 

Oftentimes it’s the larger corporations that take greater issue with the idea of a deposit based on the job responsibility they are offering.  And to a certain point, you could “almost” understand.  Who in their right minds should question companies as established as Coca Cola Enterprises, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, or the United States Government.  But it is also that arrogance that often fuels that company or company rep with the gall to play games when it comes to paying you on time.  On top of that, they realize that working for their company brings a certain prestige, allure, and increased credibility to your personal professional value and portfolio.  That is a position that many freelancers find themselves in as they slowly go broke waiting for this huge company to finally pay them for their services. 

 

The bottom line is that you must assess you and your company’s requirements.  Consider what you require from the very beginning.  If you are in doubt, this is easy to rectify simply by requiring a deposit and assigning a strict or designated payment schedule.  That way if a payment is late or absent, regardless of the size of the company, you are given fair warning that this company may be an issue.

 

Again, this is a professional call.  But don’t be afraid to ask for a deposit.  You are simply asking for what you are entitled as their freelancer in the first play.  Scheduled payments or net terms are more of professional courtesy but definitely NOT an anomaly.

 

Another consideration when in doubt is advance payment.  I personally don’t know if I would ever pay someone the entire amount for services that have yet to be rendered.  From a client’s perspective, that can be difficult to swallow.  But this is also based on the service that is being extended, and that company’s credit history. 

 

  1. LAYOUT PAYMENT TERMS AND EXPECTATIONS FROM THE VERY BEGINNING. Be certain to outline in your freelance or independent contractor agreement that prompt and timely payment is a contingency to sustaining your service within the agreement and the company.

 

Effective communication within any business relationship is always key.  Make certain that the client understands your payment expectations from the very start of your business relationship.  If they have any questions, the beginning of the relationship is a perfect time to flesh those out.  It’s the one time where if there is an issue or disagreement, you can both walk away from the opportunity as professionals whether you get the deal or not.  Any later and it could definitely impact any future deals that you and that client will do.  That goes for the client as much as it does for you.

 

  1. BECOME PERSONALLY ACQUAINTED WITH THE PERSON SIGNING YOUR CHECK. Make a practice of getting acquainted with these 3 people:  (a) the person responsible for processing payment; (b) the person or people responsible for cutting the check; and (c) the person responsible for signing the check. 

 

I mentioned this previously.  Part of doing business is networking.  In fact, successful professionals in every field make a point to network whenever a remote opportunity presents itself.  The same rule applies to familiarize yourself or networking with key people in the company that has hired you for your freelancing services.  It is not out of line for a freelancer to become acquainted with these 3 key people to ensure timely payment.  In fact, it makes good business sense.  If it is worked properly, they will often pay you even when they have deferred the payment of others.  I’m not saying that this is right or wrong, but you or your company’s interest should take priority to you.

 

By becoming intimately acquainted with these individuals, you inadvertently extend a privilege to yourself that others will not have.  You can actually call those key people directly to discuss impending issues and establishing methods for securing your payment in order to sustain your professional relationship and the terms of your agreement.  What happens in many instances is that they make a point to look out for you as a professional courtesy or moral obligation.  If not, you now have a better idea about where your relationship actually stands.

 

By transforming these key people into casual-professional acquaintances, you will be able to lessen your probability of finding yourself in need of walking away from the project unexpectedly.

 

  1. ONE LATE PAYMENT IS IMMEDIATE GROUNDS TO WALK AWAY FROM A PROJECT! There is really nothing else to add to this.  It’s fairly cut and dry.  Freelancers should treat late payments the same way that a man or woman should treat a physically abusive partner.  If they do it once, there’s a high probability that they will do it again.

 

We all know that in business things happen.  A late payment may present grounds for considering walking away from the project.  Two late payments are the cause to make an immediate departure.  But if the payment is not received at all, it’s definitely time to go.

 

Remember that the services that you are rendering and any agreement that you enter into regarding those services are contingent on the client meeting their payment obligations.  Unless it is expressed otherwise, this is immediate grounds to walk away from the project.  No one expects freelancers to work for an undetermined amount of time without payment.  That includes the courts.  So if you are not being timely paid, that creates an instant out for you within most contractual commitments.  The truth is that a client should not even expect continued service if they are not meeting their scheduled payment commitments.  It doesn’t make sense.  Your time, talent, and money is a valuable commodity.  This is possibly even more important for freelancers.

 

SO AM I SUGGESTING TO APPLY ALL OF THESE RULES?

 

In most cases, the answer is a hard yes!  The only condition that you may want to reconsider are the payment arrangements,  and whether or not you will request a deposit, advance payment, or a payment schedule.  Honestly, with a most independent contractor or freelance agreements that are long term, your payments are set on the same schedule as the company’s W-2 employees.  It tends to be easier for accounting purposes.  And in most instances, this is completely fine as long as those payments are received on time.  This decision is completely up to you.  But be certain to lay out your payment terms from the onset of the business relationship.  Be professional.  Be confident.  And be consistent within each business relationship.

 

By following these simple rules of thumb, you will be able to substantially reduce your chances of being forced into having to make the decision of whether or not you should walk away from the project.  But if there is an issue with your pay, it may be time to go.  That rule should be applied towards every type of client regardless of whether they are an SMB, a major corporation, or a government agency.  If they want the time, they will pay the dime.  But these are 4 of the easiest ways to prevent or resolve issues regarding how and when you get paid.

Feb 22

WHEN SHOULD FREELANCERS WALK AWAY FROM A PROJECT – Part 3

By N. D. Brennan

How To Prevent or Resolve Issues Regarding How And When You Are Paid

Kissimmee, Florida — There is, by far, one instance that rises above all others regarding when freelancers should absolutely walk away from a project:  When you are not being paid on time! 

Here’s the reality:  If you take the necessary precautions, collecting payments from clients should be as fluid and as stress-free as enjoying an ice cold glass of sweetened tea on a scorching hot southern summer day.  Anything less is immediate grounds for walking away from a project.

My policy is simple.  I have zero tolerance for non-payment or unscheduled deferments.  There is completely and unequivocally no excuse that is ever reasonable.  Think of it like this:  Just like the client expects services rendered in a timely fashion, a freelancer’s policy regarding the collection of payment for work performed should carry the exact same degree of expectation.  And your clients should be aware of this from the onset of your business relationship.  Honestly, if they expect anything different, you may want to reconsider the motives of that particular prospective client.

When it comes to the work a freelancer has committed to perform for a client or payment for the work performed by a client, I refer you to an axiom that I have lived by for most of my adult life:  Excuses ONLY satisfy those who make them. 

An excuse is essentially intended to appease or placate its target.  But the simple truth is that its foremost directive is actually to make the person requesting to be excused feel just a little better.  The hard, cold reality is actually much simpler than that:  Excuses are nice, but they don’t pay bills and they don’t close deals.  You or your company require timely compensation.  It’s just that simple.

Contracts For Freelancers

 

SO HOW CAN I PREVENT PAYMENT ISSUES?

Now that’s the real question:  What are some measures that you can take so not to find yourself walking away from the project due to non-payment, deferred payments, or insufficient funds?

There are 3 methods that you can apply based on your assessment of the client.  It’s these 3 methods that may prevent you from having to face this fatal question.

  1. ASK FOR A DEPOSIT. If you are a freelancer, you are probably not feeling as if you should ask for a deposit.  New or inexperienced freelancers tend to undervalue their services for lack of experience even when their talent may far exceed their competition.  The unfortunate reality is if you do not request a deposit from a client that you are questioning whether or not he or she has the actual ability to pay for the services that you will be providing then you are setting yourself up for a tremendous disappointment and a major life learning lesson.

 

In most industries, deposits are fairly standard.  Generally with small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), it’s almost expected.   They realize that they are building up their business credit, and it is not unusual or going against professional protocol to request a deposit.

Oftentimes it’s the larger corporations that take greater issue with the idea of a deposit based on the job responsibility they are offering.  And to a certain point, you could “almost” understand.  Who in their right minds should question companies as established as Coca Cola Enterprises, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, or the United States Government.  But it is also that arrogance that often fuels that company or company rep with the gall to play games when it comes to paying you on time.  On top of that, they realize that working for their company brings a certain prestige, allure, and increased credibility to your personal professional value and portfolio.  That is a position that many freelancers find themselves in as they slowly go broke waiting for this huge company to finally pay them for their services. 

The bottom line is that you must assess you and your company’s requirements.  Consider what you require from the very beginning.  If you are in doubt, this is easy to rectify simply by requiring a deposit, and assigning a strict or designated payment schedule.  That way if a payment is late or absent, regardless of the size of the company, you are given fair warning that this company may be an issue.

Again, this is a professional call.  But don’t be afraid to ask for a deposit.  You are simply asking for what you are entitled as their freelancer in the first play.  Scheduled payments or net terms are more of a professional courtesy but definitely NOT an anomaly.

Another consideration when in doubt is an advance payment.  I personally don’t know if I would ever pay someone the entire amount for services that have yet to be rendered.  From a client’s perspective, that can be difficult to swallow.  But this is also based on the service that is being extended, and that company’s credit history. 

  1. LAY OUT PAYMENT TERMS AND EXPECTATIONS FROM THE VERY BEGINNING. Be certain to outline in your freelance or independent contractor agreement that prompt and timely payment is a contingency to sustaining your service within the agreement and the company.

Effective communication within any business relationship is always key.  Make certain that the client understands your payment expectations from the very start of your business relationship.  If they have any questions, the beginning of the relationship is a perfect time to flesh those out.  It’s the one time where if there is an issue or disagreement, you can both walk away from the opportunity as professionals whether you get the deal or not.  Any later and it could definitely impact any future deals that you and that client will do.  That goes for the client as much as it does for you.

  1. BECOME PERSONALLY ACQUAINTED WITH THE PERSON SIGNING YOUR CHECK. Make a practice of getting acquainted with these 3 people:  (a) the person responsible for processing payment; (b) the person or people responsible for cutting the check; and (c) the person responsible for signing the check. 

I mentioned this previously.  Part of doing business is networking.  In fact, successful professionals in every field make a point to network whenever a remote opportunity presents itself.  The same rule applies to familiarizing yourself or networking with key people in the company that have hired you for your freelancing services.  It is not out of line for a freelancer to become acquainted with these 3 key people to ensure timely payment.  In fact, it makes good business sense.  If it is worked properly, they will often pay you even when they have deferred the payment of others.  I’m not saying that this is right or wrong, but you or your company’s interest should take priority to you.

By becoming intimately acquainted with these individuals, you inadvertently extend a privilege to yourself that others will not have.  You can actually call those key people directly to discuss impending issues and establishing methods for securing your payment in order to sustain your professional relationship and the terms of your agreement.  What happens in many instances is that they make a point to look out for you as a professional courtesy or moral obligation.  If not, you now have a better idea about where your relationship actually stands.

By transforming these key people into casual-professional acquaintances, you will be able to lessen your probably of finding yourself in need of walking away from the project unexpectedly.

Landing Pages for WordPress
  1. ONE LATE PAYMENT IS IMMEDIATE GROUNDS TO WALK AWAY FROM A PROJECT! There is really nothing else to add to this.  It’s fairly cut and dry.  Freelancers should treat late payments the same way that a man or woman should treat a physically abusive partner.  If they do it once, there’s a high probability that they will do it again.

We all know that in business things happen.  A late payment may present grounds for considering walking away from the project.  Two late payments is cause to make an immediate departure.  But if the payment is not received at all, it’s definitely time to go.

Remember that the services that you are rendering and any agreement that you enter into regarding those services are contingent on the client meeting their payment obligations.  Unless it is expressed otherwise, this is immediate grounds to walk away from the project.  No one expects freelancers to work for an undetermined amount of time without payment.  That includes the courts.  So if you are not being timely paid, that creates an instant out for you within most contractual commitments.  The truth is that a client should not even expect continued service if they are not meeting their scheduled payment commitments.  It doesn’t make sense.  Your time, talent, and money is a valuable commodity.  This is possibly even more important for freelancers.

SO AM I SUGGESTING TO APPLY ALL 4 OF THESE RULES?

In most cases, the answer is a hard yes!  The only condition that you may want to reconsider are the payment arrangements,  and whether or not  you will request a deposit, advance payment, or a payment schedule.  Honestly with most independent contractor or freelance agreements that are long term, your payments are set on the same schedule as the company’s W-2 employees.  It tends to be easier for accounting purposes.  And in most instances, this is completely fine as long as those payments are received on time.  This decision is completely up to you.  But be certain to lay out your payment terms from the onset of the business relationship.  Be professional.  Be confident.  And be consistent within each business relationship.

By following these simple rules of thumb, you will be able to substantially reduce your chances of being forced into having to make the decision of whether or not you should walk away from the project.  But if there is an issue with your pay, it may be time to go.  That rule should be applied towards every type of client regardless of whether they are an SMB, a major corporation, or a government agency.  If they want the time, they will pay the dime.  But these are 4 of the easiest ways to prevent or resolve issues regarding how and when you get paid.

Feb 21

WHEN SHOULD FREELANCERS WALK AWAY FROM A PROJECT – Part 2

By N. D. Brennan

Kissimmee, Florida — The second part in our series regarding “When Should Freelancers Walk Away From A Project” targets the 3 key reasons why a freelancer or independent contractor agreement goes bad.  In most cases, this is avoidable.  In some instances, avoidance requires never entering into the contract in the first place.  But the 3 primary reasons why a professional contract goes bad for freelancers, independent contractors, and small businesses alike are:

 

  1. A Bad Contract

 

  1. Bad Communication – A failure to actually understand the project

 

  1. Poor Project Management

 

These are the three fundamental reasons why freelancers, independent contractors, and small businesses often experience issues that can be extremely difficult to recover from.  But for now, let’s start from the beginning —

 

 A BAD CONTRACT

 

Freelancers, independent contractors, and small business owners typically do not have or cannot afford for an attorney to draw up formal contracts or to review contracts that they are about to enter into with a company or government agency.  They are generally unfamiliar with the language within the contracts yet desperate for the deal.  So many enter into these contracts basically by virtue of the professional equivalent to a handshake and a warm smile.  Unfortunately, this can also be a fatal misstep for the freelancer. 

 

Contract language can be very confusing.  But here’s a small bit of advice that may sound incredibly rudimentary but many individuals fail to incorporate into their presentation:  If you don’t understand something within the contract, make a point to ask for the client to verify or make clear. 

 

A trick that I have used for years during business meeting and negotiations is to regularly record our conversations.  As a professional courtesy, I generally begin my recording by asking for the consent of each individual in the meeting or the group as a whole that I may record our conversation.  The foremost reason that you want to do this is to protect the integrity of your conversation and to have a point of reference in the event you happen to have any questions regarding what may have been discussed or what may have been introduced.  But it also serves as evidence in the event the client attempts to suggest that something may have been explained a certain way when, in reality, it was not.  I have discovered that most people will take extra precautions by watching what they may say or commit to while being recorded.  It’s actually funny watching the faces of your clients when the recorder is placed onto the table.  It may make them feel slightly uncomfortable but at least you will have this recording in the event something takes a turn for the worse.

 

Additionally, it would be wise to contact a few attorneys to find out what it would cost to retain their services or to prepare your business documents.  Attorneys specialize in protecting your interest and ensuring that your contracts favor you and your business.  The client has someone working on their behalf.  You want someone working on yours.

 

If money is really tight, there are a number of low-cost, online services that will be more than happy to prepare your documents and review your contracts for a modest service fee or nominal monthly subscription.  While it may seem like a waste, a worse outcome is when you are fired or sued for doing something or failing to do something that was or wasn’t covered under the contract.

 

Most of all, take the time to understand exactly what you are signing.  To prevent the client from wasting too much time listening to his or her attorney explain the intricate details of the agreement, suggest making a separate appointment with their counsel to discuss the details of the contract.  This way they will not be required to sit there, bored out of their mind, as the attorney educates you on the latest legal jargon. 

 

In the areas of contract negotiations, there is no room for pride.  Having too much pride or being flat-out desperate for the business can both be fatal to your career or the life of your business.  So take the time to understand what you are signing.  If you agree with the terms, sign with full knowledge.  If changes need to be made, express your concerns.  If the company is willing to amend the contract and it suits your needs, go for it!  If they are unwilling, it may be time to consider meeting with other clients.  This particular client may not be one that you should take the chance working with.

 

BAD COMMUNICATION

 

It’s referred to as “bad communication” between you and the project lead or company in general.  It’s where you failed to take the time to understand the totality of the project that you have committed yourself to perform.  Believe it or not, it happens more times than you may realize.  So if you fall into this category, don’t feel bad.  Many of your very successful freelancers, independent consultants, and small to medium-sized business owners have fallen subject to the same professional neglect or deficiency.

 

Resolving this is fairly easy.  It simply requires you to listen and ask the client to clarify or explain when or if you don’t understand something.  Otherwise, if you are the person attempting to address an issue or convey a concern, the following technique can take you a long way in your hope of a lasting, successful business relationship with the client:

 

THE PATHWAY TO EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION OR PROBLEM-SOLVING

 

  • Confirm the objection – Make certain before attempting to suggest a solution that you understand what the client’s issue actually is. Inexperienced freelancers often create greater problems for themselves by unwittingly bringing light to other issues by making the wrong suggestions.  These are often issues that the client may not have even considered significant or possibly noticed at all.  A simple way to confirm the objection or concern is to repeat it back to the client.  Ask the individual to confirm that this is what they are explaining.  Once they have confirmed that what you have stated is accurate, you can move forward to the next step.

 

  • Address the objection – This is fairly straight forward. Now that the client has confirmed what his or her issue, objection, or concern may be, it is your turn to begin providing the client with ways to the issue or introducing the benefits that the client can look forward to with the solution that you are recommending. 

 

  • SHUT UP or presume the answer is acceptable – This is actually one of the most difficult for inexperienced freelancers. It’s where you have addressed the objection, and you now leave it for the client to attempt to conjure up any other objections. Again, it’s about effective communications.  You want your client to trust you and to feel confident that you are able to provide the service that you have been hired to perform.

 

The “Shut Up and wait” approach typically works like this:  The first person to speak loses.  Occasionally, you will come across clients or project leads that seem as if all they look for are problems.  But when you have effectively shut down their every objection, it leaves them with a negative posture that will be difficult to maintain.  If the client speaks, he or she will generally be conceding to your solution.  If you speak, it can be taken as a sign of insecurity in what you are recommending.  We’ve all seen it where that guy simply can’t quit talking.  So the recommendation is simple:  As much as you may be compelled to speak, shut up and wait for the go-ahead.  9 times out of 10, it will come sooner than you think if you have effectively addressed all of their objections.

 

The other method is referred to as “the presumptive close.”  This is where you presume that everything has been resolved.  This is also after you have observed the clients mannerisms, and gotten a physical, bodily “go-ahead.”  This is intended simply to get things moving along again.

 

But make certain that you take steps to effectively communicate with the client and project leads as well as any other freelancers or companies that you may find yourself working with.  By doing so, it will lessen the possibility of another professional contract going bad.

 

POOR PROJECT MANAGEMENT

 

There are two primary forms of project management:  (1) The way that you manage a project, and (2) the way that the overall project is being managed by the hiring company. 

 

Take time not only to become acquainted with the hiring managers but also the individuals who may be overseeing the execution or implementation of the project.  You want to make certain that this is a professional who you can work with.  Freelancers are often treated like substitute teachers, which occasionally results in permanent employees treating them like really bad school kids.  Meeting the project manager will help provide you with an idea as to how the overall team functions.  If he or she is a consummate professional, generally the team will act in kind.  If he or she is a jerk, quite often this disposition is reflected in the team’s conduct and the way that the project is being managed.

 

Make certain that there is an actual plan of action or statement of work.  You don’t want to find yourself working on a project that has no direction.  In these types of circumstances, you can find yourself looking for another project to work sooner than later.  Projects that are poorly managed are often projects whose funds run out quickly or whose lifespan is short lived. Beware of this. 

 

Make certain that the project manager or company can clearly define your responsibilities within the project.  The worst thing in the world is to have your project responsibilities grow like a weed simply because the project leader or supervisor does not have a clear idea as to what your specific responsibilities should be.  Be prepared to explain what your responsibilities will entail in the event that there is ambiguity in your position or there is a threat of the client expecting you to work outside of your capabilities.  You want to be certain to perform not only in those areas that you have been hired, but also to keep your efforts restricted to areas that you are competent, capable, and experienced.  If they request for you to perform in an area that you are experienced even though it may fall outside of your core responsibilities, and you are comfortable in doing it, go for it.  Doing so could effectively lead to future projects.  But if you do not have the degree of experience that you believe is required to effectively do the job, don’t do it.   Anything less can cause your performance to be questioned in the long run.

 

 FINALLY —

 

These are three of the primary reasons that freelance contracts typically go bad.  There are quite possibly a million and one other reasons why you can experience issues on the job.  But if you as a freelancer take measures to prevent these areas from being infected or affecting you, you will lessen the chances of your professional contract going bad in consequence.

 

Feb 21

WHEN SHOULD FREELANCERS WALK AWAY FROM A PROJECT – Part 2

By N. D. Brennan

The 3 Key Reasons Why A Professional Contract Goes Bad

Kissimmee, Florida — The second part in our series regarding “When Should Freelancers Walk Away From A Project” targets the 3 key reasons why a freelancer or independent contractor agreement goes bad.  In most cases, this is avoidable.  In some instances, avoidance requires never entering into the contract in the first place.  But the 3 primary reasons why a professional contract goes bad for freelancers, independent contractors, and small businesses alike are:

  1. A Bad Contract
  2. Bad Communication – A failure to actually understand the project
  3. Poor Project Management

These are the three fundamental reasons why freelancers, independent contractors, and small businesses often experience issues that can be extremely difficult to recover from.  But for now, let’s start from the beginning —

  1. A BAD CONTRACT

Freelancers, independent contractors, and small business owners typically do not have or cannot afford for an attorney to draw up formal contracts or to review contracts that they are about to entering into with a company or government agency.  They are generally unfamiliar with the language within the contracts yet desperate for the deal.  So many enter into these contracts basically by virtue of the professional equivalent to a handshake and a warm smile.  Unfortunately, this can also be a fatal misstep for the freelancer. 

Contract language can be very confusing.  But here’s a small bit of advise that may sound incredibly rudimentary but many individuals fail to incorporate into their presentation:  If you don’t understand something within the contract, make a point to ask for the client to verify or make clear. 

A trick that I have used for years during business meeting and negotiations is to regularly record our conversations.  As a professional courtesy, I generally begin my recording by asking for the consent of each individual in the meeting or the group as a whole that I may record our conversation.  The foremost reason that you want to do this is to protect the integrity of your conversation and to have a point of reference in the event you happen to have any questions regarding what may have been discussed or what may have been introduced.  But it also serves as evidence in the event the client attempts to suggest that something may have been explained a certain way when, in reality, it was not.  I have discovered that most people will take extra precautions by watching what they may say or commit to while being recorded.  It’s actually funny watching the faces of your clients when the recorder is placed onto the table.  It may make them feel slightly uncomfortable but at least you will have this recording in the event something takes a turn for the worse.

Contracts For Freelancers

Additionally, it would be wise to contact a few attorneys to find out what it would cost to retain their services or to prepare your business documents.  Attorneys specialize in protecting your interest and ensuring that your contracts favor you and your business.  The client has someone working on their behalf.  You want someone working on yours.

If money is really tight, there are a number of low-cost, online services that will be more than happy to prepare your documents and review your contracts for a modest service fee or nominal monthly subscription.  While it may seem like a waste, a worse outcome is when you are fired or sued for doing something or failing to do something that was or wasn’t covered under the contract.

Most of all, take the time to understand exactly what you are signing.  To prevent the client from wasting too much time listening to his or her attorney explain the intricate details of the agreement, suggest making a separate appointment with their counsel to discuss the details of the contract.  This way they will not be required to sit there, bored out of their mind, as the attorney educates you on the latest legal jargon. 

In the areas of contract negotiations, there is no room for pride.  Having too much pride or being flat-out desperate for the business can both be fatal to your career or the life of your business.  So take the time to understand what you are signing.  If you agree with the terms, sign with full knowledge.  If changes need to be made, express your concerns.  If the company is willing to amend the contract and it suits your needs, go for it!  If they are unwilling, it may be time to consider meeting with other clients.  This particular client may not be one that you should take the chance working with.

  1. BAD COMMUNICATION

It’s referred to as “bad communication” between you and the project lead or company in general.  It’s where you failed to take the time to understand the totality of the project that you have committed yourself to perform.  Believe it or not, it happens more times than you may realize.  So if you fall into this category, don’t feel badly.  Many of your very successful freelancers, independent consultants, and small to medium-sized business owners have fallen subject to the same professional neglect or deficiency.

Resolving this is fairly easy.  It simply requires you to listen and ask the client to clarify or explain when or if you don’t understand something.  Otherwise if you are the person attempting to address an issue or convey a concern, the following technique can take you a long ways in your hope of a lasting, successful business relationship with the client:

THE PATHWAY TO EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION OR PROBLEM-SOLVING

  1. Confirm the objection – Make certain before attempting to suggest a solution that you understand what the client’s issue actually is. Inexperienced freelancers often create greater problems for themselves by unwittingly bringing light to other issues by making the wrong suggestions.  These are often issues that the client may not have even considered significant or possibly noticed at all.  A simple way to confirm the objection or concern is to repeat it back to the client.  Ask the individual to confirm that this is what they are explaining.  Once they have confirmed that what you have stated is accurate, you can move forward to the next step.

B.  Address the objection – This is fairly straight forward.  Now that the client has confirmed what his or her issue, objection, or concern may be, it is your turn to begin providing the client with ways to the issue or introducing the benefits that the client can look forward to with the solution that you are recommending. 

  1. SHUT UP or presume the answer is acceptable – This is actually one of the most difficult for inexperienced freelancers. It’s where you have addressed the objection, and you now leave it for the client to attempt to conjure up any other objections. Again, it’s about effective communications.  You want your client to trust you and to feel confident that you are able to provide the service that you have been hired to perform.

The “Shut Up and wait” approach typically works like this:  The first person to speak loses.  Occasionally, you will come across clients or project leads that seem as if all they look for are problems.  But when you have effectively shut down their every objection, it leaves them with a negative posture that will be difficult to maintain.  If the client speaks, he or she will generally be conceding to your solution.  If you speak, it can be taken as a sign of insecurity in what you are recommending.  We’ve all seen it where that guy simply can’t quit talking.  So the recommendation is simple:  As much as you may be compelled to speak, shut up and wait for the go-ahead.  9 times out of 10, it will come sooner than you think if you have effectively addressed all of their objections.

The other method is referred to as “the presumptive close.”  This is where you presume that everything has been resolved.  This is also after you have observed the clients mannerisms, and gotten a physical, bodily “go-ahead.”  This is intended simply to get things moving along again.

But make certain that you take steps to effectively communicate with the client and project leads as well as any other freelancers or companies that you may find yourself working with.  By doing so, it will lessen the possibility of another professional contract going bad.

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  1. POOR PROJECT MANAGEMENT

There are two primary forms of project management:  (1) The way that you management a project, and (2) the way that the overall project is being managed by the hiring company. 

Take time not only to become acquainted with the hiring managers, but also the individuals who may be overseeing the execution or implementation of the project.  You want to make certain that this is a professional who you can work with.  Freelancers are often treated like substitute teachers, which occasionally results in the permanent employees treating them like really bad school kids.  Meeting the project manager will help provide you with an idea as to how the overall team functions.  If he or she is a consummate professional, generally the team will act in kind.  If he or she is a jerk, quite often this disposition is reflected in the team’s conduct and the way that the project is being managed.

Make certain that there is an actual plan of action or statement of work.  You don’t want to find yourself working a project that has no direction.  In these types of circumstances, you can find yourself looking for another project to work sooner than later.  Projects that are poorly managed are often projects whose funds run out quickly or whose lifespan is short lived. Beware of this. 

Make certain that the project manager or company can clearly define your responsibilities within the project.  The worst thing in the world is to have your project responsibilities grow like a weed simply because the project leader or supervisor does not have a clear idea as to what your specific responsibilities should be.  Be prepared to explain what your responsibilities will entail in the event that there is ambiguity in your position or there is a threat of the client expecting you to work outside of your capabilities.  You want to be certain to perform not only in those areas that you have been hired, but also to keep your efforts restricted to areas that you are competent, capable, and experienced.  If they request for you to perform in an area that you are experienced even though it may fall outside of your core responsibilities, and you are comfortable in doing it, go for it.  Doing so could effectively lead to future projects.  But if you do not have the degree of experience that you believe is required to effectively do the job, don’t do it.   Anything less can cause your performance to be questioned in the long run.

FINALLY —

These are three of the primary reasons that freelance contracts typically go bad.  There are quite possibly a million and one other reasons why you can experience issues on the job.  But if you as a freelancer take measures to prevent these areas from being infected or effecting you, you will lessen the chances of your professional contract going bad in consequence.

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