Embrace Your Badassery
A funny thing happens when you work for yourself: some clients try to take advantage of you.
Maybe not on purpose. Maybe they just don’t know any better.
Yet, it still happens.
That’s why it’s up to YOU to set them straight.
And it all starts by embracing your badassery.
Shift the narrative of who exactly is in charge of your business.
Sure, as a freelancer, you get to work:
- On what you want
- How you want
- When you want
- With whom you want
- And from where you want
That part’s great, no?
That also means you get to make the rules. For example, you can determine:
- What you’ll charge for
- Your rates
- When payment is due
- When and what additional fees might accrue
- And how clients can use your work
Yet, for some reason, some clients—and prospective clients—will try to dictate the rules.
Here’s the secret: Don’t let them.
Earn the Respect You Deserve
It all starts with you. You’ve got to be your own little badass. You’ve got to stop accepting this disrespectful behavior.
So often we let fear and anxiety take over. We accept poor treatment because we don’t know any better … or we’re desperate for money. And we get in our own way when we don’t have good policies (read: boundaries) in place.
Understand that being self-employed does NOT give others the right to walk all over you.
As a freelance business owner, you are well within your right to determine your own policies, what’s negotiable, and what’s a dealbreaker.
Start by Training Yourself
You can’t train your clients until you’re trained yourself. So, start with number one.
- Get Educated on All Things Self-Employment—Learn best business practices, industry standards, legal and tax issues, and more.
- Establish business policies (and stick to them!)—Consider setting office hours, using a contract, requiring a deposit, and setting payment terms.
- Set Boundaries—Determine what you’ll do if a client wants you to work after hours, what will happen if they don’t pay on time … or at all, and how you’ll handle them if they decide they don’t like or use the work you did.
Figure all this out ahead of time, be ready for different scenarios, and be prepared to stand your ground.
Then Train Your Clients
Be proactive by getting everything in writing and having any hard discussions upfront. Consider sharing a ‘Working with Me’ document or a ‘What to Expect’ section on your website.
- Share your policies, office hours, and onboarding process.
- Let them know when they can contact you, get ahold of you, and schedule a meeting with you.
- Advise them of what will happen if they want you to work overnight, over a weekend, or over a holiday.
- Let them know what forms of communication are preferred (i.e., email and phone vs. texts and social media messages).
- Be upfront about when payment is due, any potential fees (late, rush, cancelation, etc.), and what will happen if they don’t pay.
- Don’t forget to state how many rounds of revisions are included, too!
And get comfortable saying no. Plain and simple.
It’s hard at first, sure, yet it’s super empowering once you’re able to master it.
Act Like a Business, Get Treated Like a Business
Getting treated with respect starts with you. You’ve got to command respect.
And you can do that with the above suggestions.
Just like in life, in business, people will treat you with what you allow. They’ll walk all over you if you let them.
Don’t let them.
Get your ducks in a row, get educated, train yourself, and train your clients.
If something feels wrong, it probably is. Ask questions. Trust your gut. And have a gameplan in place.
If all else fails, walk away. There’s plenty of work out there—with people who WILL treat you fairly. You just have to find it.
- No more getting taking advantage of, being asked to work crazy hours for minimal pay.
- No more accepting late payments or non-payments.
- No more doing work for exposure, on spec, or “for credit.”
The more we band together collectively as freelancers and start accepting nothing less than fair treatment and respect, the better off we’ll all be.
Find the confidence. And embrace your badassery.
Copywriter by day, Freelance Rockstar by night, Julie Cortés has run her own business for 25 years, is the founder of The Freelance Exchange, the creator & adjunct professor of Freelancing 101 at the Kansas City Art Institute, international speaker, & business coach for creative freelancers.