Being a freelancer comes with many perks. From choosing your own hours and being able to specialise in a particular area that you find rewarding through to potentially being able to work from anywhere, depending on the services you offer. It’s perhaps no surprise that the number of freelancers in the US has now reached 57.3 million. It’s not all working on laptops in hip coffee shops or remote working from a beach condo though; sometimes freelancing can be a risky business. Freelancers don’t always enjoy the same support and access to help as their employed counterparts, and when an unforeseen emergency strikes, it can hit your pocket and potentially damage your business reputation too. Here’s what you do when five of the most common freelancer emergencies hit.
Your client won’t pay
You’ve done the work, the client was happy with the project, you sent over the invoice, but the bill hasn’t been settled. Chasing invoices is a significant drain on freelancer’s time, but it’s far better that a client settles late than never pays at all. Even with the best laid out contracts, sometimes clients don’t cough up. Be as prepared as possible for invoice dodgers with these tips:
- Always outline your terms and conditions for work clearly in written form. If you don’t have a formal contract you ask clients to sign, you need to make sure everything is covered off in email and agreed to as you’ll struggle to collect on agreements made over the phone. Outline the payment schedule, the work covered, deadline, preferred payment and any late payment fees you’ll charge.
- Ask for a deposit up front. Many freelancers ask for a deposit of 50% to start a project. Even then it can be risky to wait until the project has completed before asking for the bill, so consider invoicing whenever a project stage is completed or delivered.
- If despite chasing and late fees being applied your client still doesn’t pay up, explore your legal avenues. Depending on the amount owed you may be able to pursue them in the small claims court, though you may find a letter from your lawyer means it doesn’t get that far.
Your project got cancelled
You were looking forward to a good few weeks or more of work on an interesting project that’s been booked into your schedule for a while. You’ve turned down countless other jobs that could have slotted in its place, and now it’s been cancelled. So what do you do? If you don’t have enough of a financial buffer to enjoy a leisurely few weeks off, it’s best to recoup what you can from the project and try and move on quickly. If you have the deposit and late cancellation fees written into your freelance contracts, you’ll be in a far better position. If not, you could try asking for one but you may not get very far, and you could risk damaging a working relationship that you may want to use again.
First things first, get in touch with those projects you turned away and explain the situation. You may find some of them are still available and if not, the clients may have something else that’s a good fit. If that fails, you could try firing a friendly hello email to clients you’ve worked with in the past explaining you have some last minute availability if they’d like to make a booking. Finally, if all that fails work on any regular retainer work you have and complete it in advance while pitching for new work.
You’re too sick to work
You don’t get paid if you don’t work but sometimes you’re just too sick to get the job done. A survey of 6,000 freelancers by Upwork/Freelancers Union found that 70 percent prefer to earn more and sort out their own benefits package. Here are some things to consider:
- To put your own benefits package in place, you’ll need to look at healthcare insurance, income protection insurance and potentially life insurance too. Even then, you often won’t be able to claim on insurance for the first few weeks of illness, so it’s wise to always keep a nest egg in place.
- If you’re concerned about letting clients down, think about establishing a trusted network of other freelancers that you can refer work on to. Don’t forget to ensure you have a non compete contract in place with them, no matter how well you know them this is always a sensible step.
Your laptop is broken
While in theory working as something like a freelance writer, designer or developer means you can work from anywhere on any computer, often you need to access specific files and software available to you only on your own personal laptop. This means having a broken laptop can be a stressful emergency that you’ll want to get sorted right away. Don’t wait for something to happen before looking for a reliable and trusted repair firm like FloridaPro. Trying to find somewhere to fix your laptop when a deadline is looming is something you don’t want to deal with. If you think there’s going to be a delay for the client, don’t leave it until the last moment to broach the subject. And, as above, think about referring to another trusted freelancer if you have a non-compete contract in place.
You’re having a dry spell
After being fully booked for months, you’re suddenly experiencing a dry spell, and you don’t know what to do. When the work stops landing in your inbox, it can lead to a real crisis of confidence for some freelancers, and you may naturally start worrying about how you’ll pay your bills. Hopefully, you’ll have been smart and put a little of your earnings aside each month to give you a buffer. If that’s you, think about using this time productively to learn new skills, refresh your website and own marketing materials or polish up your portfolio and rate card. As above, think about completing some other work ahead of schedule while you wait for something else to come along as by doing this you’ll help to make sure earning time doesn’t go to waste. Check in with clients to update them on your availability and services and spend time creating bespoke pitches for clients you’ve always wanted to work with but never got round to approaching. Handled right, sometimes a dry spell can give you a chance to step back before propelling your business forward.
Have you ever experience a freelancer emergency? How did you handle it?