When I first started out freelancing, I had no idea how a contract worked, or if I’d even need one. I was so excited about getting my pitches accepted and—gasp—being contacted for work that I didn’t even consider the possibility that I might get hoodwinked, hornswoggled, swindled, bamboozled, or duped.

Which, I did.

Lo and behold, before my magical freelance license had even arrived, the day arrived that a site that I’d written a great piece for for free (first warning sign!) shut down abruptly without any assets for me to link to in my clips. And I got mad. And I sent a bunch of emails. And I pitched a fight. And I learned that contracts are really, really, really, really useful. And now I always read the fine print.


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We’ve all made mistakes in our youthful days of freelancing that we wish we could have avoided. They might have been professional, or personal, or both (staying up 2 days in a row to hammer out a draft is totally responsible, right?). There are a lot of things that are great about freelancing. But there are also things that we give up, and things that we struggle with, and things that are happy surprises.

Freelancers, what do you wish you’d known when you started your path to independence? What would you tell your younger self? Let's help each other avoid each other's mistakes!

Leave a comment here, or join the conversation in Hives, at What’s your going freelance story?

Larissa Pham is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn, New York. She will go over your contract with a fine-tooth comb.