/New to freelancing? Watch out for these red flags

New to freelancing? Watch out for these red flags

If you are one of the millions of workers who quit a job during the Great Resignation, you have an exciting road ahead of you.

Like many roads, you are likely to have a few potholes and bumps along the way.

If you’re new to freelancing, you may not know what to look for when recruiting new clients, and that could expose you to abuse—of your trust, your wallet, and even your emotions. Success in the freelance community is far from guaranteed, and those who survive are those who can bargain hard and are unwilling to sell themselves or their skills.

With that in mind, here are some common red flags every new freelancer should be aware of.

Clients may try to negotiate their rates down

When you’re new to freelancing, it’s easy to short-sell yourself. You may think that you have to compete solely on price and that charging the lowest possible rate for your work is the only way to attract new customers.

The problem with this strategy is that it can backfire, hurting not only your future earnings prospects, but also causing you to cut your fees even more than you expected. Some clients may try to take advantage of your lack of experience to negotiate even lower rates, forcing you to accept those bargain payments for all future work.

Always remember that it will be much more difficult to increase your rates with existing customers than it is to set a fair price up front. Even if you’re having a hard time finding clients, selling short is a terrible idea, so ask how much it’s worth and the right people will be with you.

It may also help to calculate your rates based on what you earn per hour. This apples-to-apples comparison is particularly useful for those coming from the corporate world, since those employees knew what they were earning before they made the leap into contract work.

Once you get a few clients on board, you’ll have an idea of ​​how long each project takes, and that will make setting your rates for similar work much easier. If you’re freelance writing, a piece that’s easy and quick to write might fetch a lower price, for example, while a more complex one might fetch a much higher rate.

Some potential customers will ask for free samples

If you walk into a restaurant, you wouldn’t expect to walk out with a free steak, nor would you expect a free shirt or pair of pants at your favorite clothing store. So why would a potential customer expect free samples of your products and services?

Unfortunately, some freelancers are led to believe that providing free samples to prospective clients is the key to future success, but in most cases, it will just be a waste of time. If you want to impress a potential new client, you can always direct them to your website, where existing samples of your work can be easily found. You can also post links to previously posted jobs, giving those potential clients a look at your skills and style.

How to avoid bad freelance jobs

Beware of customers who resist signing a contract

As a freelancer, you will most likely work with other business owners, and those professionals understand the importance of a clear contract. From the vendor that provides them with their morning coffee to the technicians that repair the photocopiers, these business owners have contracts in place with all of their various partners, so why should freelancing be any different?

Some clients may try to take advantage of new freelancers, refuse to sign a contract, or act as if a written agreement is not necessary. Refusing to sign a contract should always be a red flag, and could be a sign that this new client isn’t worth your time.

Beware the endless cycle of revisions

There are bound to be some misunderstandings when working with a new client – it’s almost built into the business model. You may not have a deep understanding of what the new client is looking for and your first effort may not be up to their expected standards. The client may need you to write in a different voice or to approach a project from a different angle.

Those adjustments are part of the freelance lifestyle, and that’s why professional writers offer revisions to your content. What they do not offer, nor do they expect, is an endless cycle of revisions, one that ensures that the part is never quite right, and that undeniably means that the final payment will never be made.

Some customers seem to use this endless cycle of reviews as an excuse not to pay. Worse yet, some unscrupulous customers may even try to steal your hard work and pass it off as their own, posting your allegedly poor words on their blogs or websites and forcing you to chase down the lost money.

Hopefully, you already have a standard contract for your freelance work, one that can be adjusted and revised to meet the specifications of each new client. If so, that contract should clearly specify how many free revisions are included in the agreed price and what kind of costs the client will incur if additional changes are required.

If you don’t already have a contract drafted, make sure the one you create sets firm limits on free revisions and explains the terms of additional changes. Once the contract is in place, always insist that all new clients sign it before you start doing any work.

As more and more people make the leap to freelancing, the number of new freelancers will continue to increase. That means some customers may try to take advantage, offering artificially low rates, refusing to sign legitimate contracts, and requesting an endless number of reviews. If you want to be a successful freelancer, you can learn these lessons by trial and error, or you can take these red flags to heart before you start looking for your first client.