Does John Lennon’s “Imagine” really need any introduction?

I know the song, you know the song, the whole music-listening world knows the song, regardless of taste and preference. Actually, to go one step further, regardless of taste and preference—the whole music-listening world has abject respect for it.

It’s provocative, it’s controversial, it stirs discussion. The man dared to write a song about reality vs religion in the most movingly melodic of ways. 

“Imagine there’s no heaven,” he proposed. Damn. Intellectual stuff, John. People genuinely take this idea seriously - whichever side of the argument they reside. 

Right, now, just bear with me here…

Allow me to take this down a few notches to something a bit closer to home and slightly more tangible. 

I assure you, I ain’t drinking. Well, I am drinking, but it’s black and hot and a substance highly needed on a Monday. Also, it’s my fourth cup, so I’m a little wiry and worked up.

Anyway, I digress…

Imagine, if you will, you’re a creative freelancer and a client booked you for a job, and get this—they paid you in full upfront before you begin work? 

You okay? Still with me thus far? Or are you calling your therapist’s hotline right now? 

I know, I know—the sheer irony of it. John Lennon can write about one of humanity’s most complex concepts, and people can remain vertical and compos mentis when processing it. But bring up the idea of an earthly freelancer being treated in the exact same way as when we buy bread, milk, and bog roll, then all hell breaks loose (pun intended). 


It’s time to start showing you the money

I’m now on my fifth cup, the caffeine has taken me to an all time high, and I’m seeing stars at this point—so let’s keep imagining stuff. 

Imagine you’re cooking dinner, and you realise you don’t have an onion. And this meal needs a damn onion in it! This dish simply cannot be served onionless. It’s the exact same way of thinking as when you need some immediate design done for an important website update, and need to book a freelancer. It must be done, and it must be now—if you don’t update the site, you lose out on business. Anyway, you put your skates on, bolt down to your local Tesco Express, pick out an onion that you believe is to your satisfaction (shape, size, colour), and take it to the checkout. 

WARNING: If you’re not sitting down at this point in the story, please do so now…

You’re worried about cash-flow, unconvinced that this onion is going to truly make the meal (even after your stringent selection process), but all in all you’re simply a tightfisted miserable curmudgeon who hates spending money.

So, you ask the checkout clerk if you can pay 50% upfront for the onion with 30-day payment terms, see if the vegetable does indeed do as it’s supposed to do (afterall, this could be a terribly rotten onion), and if all are satisfied with your cooking at the dinner party, you can then come back and pay the remaining balance—again, not immediate but on 30-day payment terms after Tescos invoice you. But, you know damn well you’ll end up taking 40-50 days to finally pay it and the Tesco legal dept will start sending threatening emails for the remaining 5p. 

No! This is absurd. Tescos make you show the money upfront, regardless of whether your cooking is Gordon Ramsay 5-star standard or something the dog wouldn’t even touch. 

So I ask, why can’t freelancers be paid the same way? What makes us so different?

Keep fighting the good fight, folks

The next article in this series will break down and explain why paying YOU, the freelancer, upfront in full is better for both you and the client, while also highlighting some of the common concerns clients would have agreeing to this— and countering them. 

Until then, keep imagining this world. Because if we stand together, continue to fight the good fight—us freelancers might actually make this fantasy a reality. 

Okay, I need another cuppa coffee. Actually, maybe that isn’t such a good idea.