Dear client, this part of my job title does not refer to my rate.
It is true. A lot of freelancers do what they do out of a passion. However, that doesn’t make it a hobby. We try, struggle and battle to leverage our creativity and passion. And more than once, clients try to take advantage of this.
I love to write. I love being critical of other peoples writing. Thus, I became a copywriter and a proofreader. I have some long-running contracts with clients, and some of them tend to send me copy (long, short, love letters or product descriptions, I get it all) to ‘’quickly check’’ or ‘’quickly rewrite’’. If it is really a one-minute job and I can afford to take my time and attention elsewhere, I’ll do it. But some time not too long ago I found myself correcting texts for a few minutes here and there throughout the day, almost every single day, weekends even. So, using my time-tracking extension, I started keeping track of how much time this was and charged those clients with my hourly rate times the time I had spent. I would not be writing this article if that had gone smoothly, as you can guess.
Freelancing is not doing favors
For such small amounts of time? What are twenty minutes even? Why was I charging such seemingly small things? What did I gain from that?
Jeez, I don’t know. Money, hopefully?
Let’s turn the question around. If you truly find it such a ridiculously small amount, you could do without it, right? Why should you be entitled to keeping those 15 euros? A single one of those charges might not mean much to you, but 5 of them a month times three clients pay for the MUCH needed drinks after work I have after these discussions.
The value of a freelancers work is often diminished to the hours they put in. But there’s more to it. Being a copywriter or creator of any kind does not mean that you create your products effortlessly and they are therefore worthless. They took practice, tools, dealing with buttheads and a LOT of coffee. And if it adds value to your business, you should calculate that too.
It’s a business, not occupational therapy
Clients who assume that you will just do something for free for them because they normally deliver you actual work is a big problem in the freelancing business. Yes, you can throw something on the desk of your in-house employees, but all of their hours are accounted for anyway. Giving a freelancer something to do, is not a charity act. We’re not just trying to be busy, we’re trying to build a business. Offering us work should not be perceived as doing us a favor, especially when it is not paid or underpaid. This might come as a shock to some, but experience and exposure is not a proper form of payment. If you can’t use it to pay your groceries or rent (given a healthy renter-rentee relationship…) don’t ‘‘pay’’ a freelancer with it.
Too little, too late
There are many other scenarios in which freelancers are not getting paid, or literally paid too little, too late. There are researches showing that 58% of freelancers have experienced not getting paid. If that amount of traditional employees would go home without a paycheck every month, there would be absolute mayhem in any developed nation. What we need, is a change in perception: freelance work is work. Every minute of it.
This blog was originally posted on my Medium page.