I have a simple policy that is riddled with profanity, but here goes…
Either pay me well and treat me like shit, or pay me like shit and treat me well.
And this is the minimum accepted standard that I will work with. That we should all work with.
In the rare case that I do sign with someone who needs a small discount, it’s with the hope that this relationship will be one that lasts, and one that we’ll both benefit from. If you make it easy to work with you, then taking a small paycut is worth it in the long run, because it means you’ll make less work for me anyway, and we have a good time.
Then there’s the ones who throw money at the situation, almost to say “I’m an absolute nightmare, you’ll need this.” This is workable, because it means I’m being compensated for the extensive time, stress, and therapy involved in working with you. I get it, some people are just naturally difficult, but please assess your personality type before signing on with a freelancer, because if you think you’re just an absolute treat with a tight wallet (and you’re wrong) then you get the final type…
The Broke Bitch.
Colourful, sure, but if you’re going to boss us around for pennies, then you’re going to earn a colourful nickname. This is the one who fought tooth and nail for a lower fixed rate; “fixed” as in you don’t get paid when you’re working at 4am or missing your nephew’s bar mitzfah , and “fixed” as in “the fix is in” because you signed a contract without realizing you would work a full-time job for babysitter pay.
It’s not even about the pay, it’s about the self-respect that you need as a freelancer. When your next paycheque is undecided, it’s easy to fall into the trap of taking any work that comes your way, which can include the occassional client who’s looking to take advantage of your generosity. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had (and have) some amazing clients that I love working with, but these aren’t the ones that keep me up at night. When you start to feel micromanaged, pestered, even harassed, it’s time to take a step back. How good is that paycheque really, when it feels like everything you do isn’t good enough?
Here are 3 things I want you to remember as a freelancer when “that” client starts to make your question your own job. These are based on all of my experiences, but they happened to all be present in a very recent, very short stint with a very bad client.
- They Hired You To Do A Job
And not just a job, your job. Most of my clients have understood that with hiring me comes hiring my training, experience, and expertise that I have collected over the entirety of my career. But there will always be one or two who don’t understand that you aren’t there to be a puppet in their grand scheme, you are there to consult, advise, and improve their business in the way that you know is best. Otherwise they could be doing your job themselves.
- Unless You Are Paid For 24 Hours a Day, You Do Not Need To Be Available 24 Hours A Day
If you’re going to be sacrificing sleep, health, and a social life, I hope you’re being compensated every time. I became a freelancer because I got tired of working a salary and yet being expected to answer my e-mail 8 hours after closing time. I expect to be compensated for my time, and this includes my availability. Send me an e-mail or a Slack, and of course I’ll message you back as soon as possible, but I won’t interrupt my daily life to explain every little detail of my work unless it’s absolutely urgent (which I do check every time).
- You’re Better Than Them
One of the few things I still have from an ex boyfriend is a Post-It that he stuck to some flowers after my boss gave me the worst day ever that reads, “You’re better than them”; I kept it in my cubicle the entire time I worked in that office.
When someone starts belittling you, insulting you, and treating you as less than human, it’s time to just throw up your hands and leave it be. You’re better than them. You didn’t sign on for them be unprofessional and disrespectful, no matter how good or bad at your job you may be. When professional relationships go sour, professionals talk about it, the others just yell at you and expect to see results. There’s no fixing this quality, and there’s sure as hell no accepting it.