5 Things I’ve Learned Freelancing in 2010 It’s been just over a year since I quit my high-paying but miserable desk job and decided to “do my own thing” and now that 2010 is coming to a close I decided to recap some of the lessons I’ve learned. Looking back now I feel like I’ve made some progress towards sustainable self-employment, but to be honest it wasn’t pretty. Call me negative, but here are 5 lessons I’ve learned: 1. People will try to take advantage of you. I think I’m a pretty nice guy. I like making people happy, and I enjoy what I do, and I regularly go out of my way to please people. Unfortunately, it appears that this trait is very obvious, and I’ve been burned a few times this year because of it. You need to understand what your time and experience is worth if you want to make a living doing this. 2. Sign an agreement. Don’t start any work until you’ve completed this step. It doesn’t matter who your client might be or how well you think you know them, it’s always a good idea to set out and agree upon the details of your deal. It doesn’t have to be complicated or full of legal jargon, but it should define things like payment schedule, deadlines, ownership and some sort of contingency plan. I found this excellent resource and based my own contract on its example. 3. Don’t put up with a double standard. It’s not ok for a client to consistently put pressure on you to meet an unreasonable deadline and then act offended when you ask for your money – 3 weeks after you’ve delivered the finished product and invoiced them. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just me, but I feel like I constantly need to remind people of the basic premise behind our business transaction: I build you a website, you pay me. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for sticking to your guns when they haven’t fulfilled their end of the bargain. 4. Be honest. The truth can hurt, and your pride is always hard to swallow, but you’ll be better off if you’re upfront about what’s going on. If you’ve made a mistake don’t try to cover it up or make excuses. Explain the situation and if appropriate suggest a solution and you’ll more than likely be surprised with your client’s reaction. They might not be happy but now that everything is on the table you should be able to focus on fixing the problem. 5. Don’t sell yourself short. This is a tough one, and something that I’ll be struggling with for a while longer. Attaching a monetary value to my work is extremely difficult, but every estimate I put together gets me closer to understanding it. Set financial goals for a given period (month, quarter, etc) and when you put together your next estimate see how it fits into your timeline and price accordingly. Every project under your belt will give you experience, allowing you to make more accurate projections. Eventually you’ll gain a sense for how much people are willing to pay for your work and how much you can handle at once. You’re bound to screw up along the way, and it’ll be much better for you if it’s because your quote was too high – the worst that can happen is that your potential client turns down your estimate or counter-offers. On the other hand, if you quoted too low you’ll more than likely end up feeling like you’re working for free and losing motivation fast, which isn’t good for anyone involved.