We’ve had a lot of fun in these past few articles, haven’t we? - Click here for Article 1 - Click here for Article 2 We got to play make-believe and conjure up some outrageous scenarios such as clients paying a freelancer upfront the same way we all do for onions, bottles of stain remover, and our hairdressers—yeah yeah, I know…technically we pay them after the haircut, not upfront, but the same rule applies. C’mon! Cut me some slack, we’re on the same team here.
We’ve had a lot of fun in these past few articles, haven’t we?
- Click here for Article 1
- Click here for Article 2
We got to play make-believe and conjure up some outrageous scenarios such as clients paying a freelancer upfront the same way we all do for onions, bottles of stain remover, and our hairdressers—yeah yeah, I know…technically we pay them after the haircut, not upfront, but the same rule applies. C’mon! Cut me some slack, we’re on the same team here.
We’ve also imagined ourselves standing up to a stingy client who is adamant they can’t afford to pay us up front, is concerned they won’t like our work, or thinks so low of us they legitimately believe we might actually take the money and run.
We’ve definitely let our imaginations run wild. It’s been a helluva ride, but, as they say—nothing lasts forever.
It’s time to stop imagining now, folks. It’s time to take a deep breath, pinch ourselves, and come back down to earth.
I’ll admit it’s a very tall order to expect to get paid upfront as freelancers. Hell, it’s a never-ending battle just to get our clients to settle our invoices at all after the job is done—but frankly, I think it’s an even greater struggle for our tribe to get comfortable talking about money itself.
Okay, I can’t help myself. For one last time, let’s imagine something. Are you ready for this one?
Us freelancers need to be taken as seriously as an oil & gas tycoon who is the centre of attention in a Manhattan highrise executive conference room. Still with me? Hyperventilating? All good?
Look, all of us will have our own payment procedures and preferences. What’s right for one professional, isn’t for the next. I’m sure there have been readers of this series that almost fainted at the thought of requesting a client pay them up front in full. And that’s okay. But, this is the whole point. It’s all about stirring discussion on this topic and getting comfortable talking about money.
It’s never too early to talk money
Just start talking about it. There, I said it. It’s that simple. Just begin.
Too often I’ve had people—business partners, colleagues, friends— tell me all about the wrong times to bring up money and to be more mindful in waiting for a more “appropriate/professional time to do so.” You want to know something?…I know they mean well, but their overly-cautious advice has never worked. Usually, my time is just wasted, and my self-worth gets thrown into the passenger seat.
Now, I can’t help you defeat your own anxiety issues when it comes to do this, that’s up to you, I’m just saying it’s never too early to start talking about money for us freelancers - the same way my oilman analogy above starts rattling off numbers down the phone line on his first call on a Monday morning.
Perception is everything. Make your client perceive you as a serious professional who refuses to be pushed around.
Put the ball back in your client’s court when it's clear they are only fishing for your rates.
I recently posted a question on the Freelancer Club Discussion Board to get an idea of how our members respond to clients who are only interested in your rates, before taking the conversation further with you. Here are some awesome responses that illustrate different ways of handling this situation, that keep us freelancers on the front foot.
“Regardless of where they come from, I try to push everyone to my website. That way I know they've seen my rates before contacting me.” - Ivan Weiss, Photographer
“I will politely reply and supply an estimated guide price based on information they have supplied and then ask for further information on the job brief on what's required to supply a more accurate quotation, then a conversation normally starts” - Mike Hogan, Photographer
"I don't believe that this type of customer is typically one that you would really want, there are better ones out there, but if so, then you might want to go for selling a talk instead of giving away your prices. If they agree on a talk, then at least they show that they are ready to make an effort to know your prices” - Frederik Daneels, Freelancer Coach
Expect and accept emotion…
Look…money makes the world go round, folks. People get wrapped in it and make it the only thing that matters. I know we all like to pretend there are more important things in life, and I get that too, but in business - as they say…money talks.
It’s important to realise that talking about money can make people emotional, so we need to be prepared for strong reactions. Being able to acknowledge your client’s feelings and circumstances is just as important as them paying us—and our ability to stand firm but fair is what separates us from others who react emotionally in return.
Basically, emotions are only natural. What isn't natural is sinking to someone else’s level and being unprofessional. Whatever you do, don’t get personal—and I hold both my hands up high here when I say this. I’ve said things in the past that make me shudder today. I know what I’m like, and I’ve had to really grow and mature as a freelancer.
Finally, conversation & connection rules the roost
All healthy relationships are built on strong communication.
If we want to get more comfortable talking about money and handling those haggling clients with ease, we simply have to communicate with them more. We live in a world of social media, instant messaging, and emails now—the art of a good chin wag seems to have lost its value.
I’ve often found the best client relationships I’ve developed as a freelancer are the ones where I simply pick up the phone to call them. Not a scheduled call, not a video meeting invite link, but an actual phone call just like calling my own mother to say hello. Even if they don't pick up or aren’t around, leave a message requesting a time to catch up.
Stop writing to your clients all the time, talk to them. They’re human just like you. Once you become comfortable and familiar with each other, then talking about money will soon be second nature—the same way we chase up tenners from our mates (many of whom take twice as long as our clients to pay us back…but that’s a story for another time).
And I assure you, I’m no guru here imparting worldly wisdom. I’m a freelancer just like you, trying to fight the good fight out there and constantly looking to both improve myself and my client relations every day. I only hope this series of articles about getting paid upfront and all things to do with money has helped you rethink your own ways of working for the better.
Right….back to chasing up my outstanding invoices now.
Feature: Mart Production
Photo 1: Dima Valkov
Photo 2: Andrea Piacquadio
Photo 3: Yan Krukov