Being freelance is good. You get to have interesting conversations with people at the top of their game, often accompanied by coffee and nice biscuits. You walk away from the meeting feeling fresh, galvanised and optimistic. And so you should: you pitched for and landed another deal, and can look forward to another week or month of work with a nice pay cheque at the end of it.
But being freelance is also bad. Most of the difficulty arises from not being around. So people forget you because no matter how many emails or phone calls you make, it’s not the same as being in the building or in their face. If they have a choice of completing work for the guy next door or you on the other side of the country, they’ll sort him out first.
And this is the real problem: freelancers aren’t paid for twiddling their thumbs. We make time and space for work coming in, so if you then give priority to the guy next door – who is paid for twiddling his thumbs, actually – then we’re left high and dry.
So here’s a call to all you lovely people out there who pay our freelance wages. If you want to help us make a living, do this:
- Remember us. Don’t have a brilliant, positive, energising call with us about wonderful things, then just forget us. In particular, don’t forget us twice. Moreover, don’t forget us three times. If we’re organised – and most of us are – we’ll just keep coming back, which will irritate you, and give us less and less confidence in your ability to provide us with work. Apart from anything, it’s rude.
- If we’re working for you, be around for us. If you’ve said you need the work ‘now’, we will believe you, move heaven and earth to get the work to you, then wait for baited breath for your feedback only… to be told you’ve gone on holiday. Or you’re on a training course for the week. This is not good. It’s all about relationships and they need to be two-way. Our patience runs thin eventually but we’ll obviously carry on being nice to you because we’ve struck a deal. We just won’t necessarily mean it any more.
- OK, so our invoices say ‘payment within 30 days’. This is a formality and while everyone needs to make their money work for them in these straitened times, there’s a world of difference between a corporation with thousands of pounds swilling around and a freelancer trying to make his monthly mortgage payments. You can wait for the full thirty days but we will not necessarily love you for it. When we say ‘prompt payment appreciated’ it means ideally before the very, very last possible day you can pay it.
So there you have it. Am I whinging? No. As I said, freelance is good too. I mean, look at me: today I get to take my cat to the vet with his knackered paw, which will probably involve a cursory examination and very expensive jab. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I worked full-time. Joy.
What I’m saying is that most of the freelancers’ annoyances come from wasting our time, and it’s so easy to fix. Just don’t waste our time, because at the end of the day you’re wasting your time too. It’s not until you go freelance that you realise how much time most companies haemorrhage. And time is money – really. The reason it’s a cliché is because it’s true.
If you’re a member of permanent staff it’s ok to put off that draft review till next Monday, or put that invoice at the bottom of your pile, or go on holiday. If you’re a freelancer, the consequences of your doing so can range from mild annoyance to serious money problems.
Never forget: freelancers can be really useful people to have around. The problem is, we’re not around. So please don’t forget us.