In: Business 101, Freelancing, Success,
A: Always give the client an option to GIVE YOU MORE MONEY.
Every proposal you write should include ways for the client to give you more money for even more of your services, or you are literally throwing thousands of dollars out the car window like confetti—which makes you a great neighbor, but maybe less a great business person.
B: Um, two words: Bench Bookkeeping.
Your freelance business needs this. Your grandma needs this. Everyone needs this!I'm always testing new companies so I can report on the best, and THIS IS THE WINNER FOR ALL OF 2018—especially if profit, loss, and balance sheets make you feel like a total incompetent loser. These guys get the Unf*ckwithable Star of Honor—which was not a thing, but now is definitely a thing. Get on this!
C: C is for client contract, and if you don't have one, yo' ass better call somebody.
As in, me. This girl. I got you, boo! You can check out the Unf*ckwithable Contract Kit over here, and then get ready to awkward twerk with joy. People are still twerking, no? Is that over?
D: Deposit or it didn't happen. As in, your future as a freelancer.
Repeat after me: I will not start work without getting a deposit, first. I will not start work without getting a deposit, first. This is standard procedure, and your client will not think you are an overzealous used car salesman selling snake oil—promise!
E: Email is basically a freelancer's insurance policy and you shall be collecting emails at all times.
This is not a suggestion. This is a universal law of money-making. If you could get thousands of people in a room together who are all dying to work with you, would you? Or would you be like, “nah, I prefer to beg strangers on the street.” Get an email sign-up, come hell or high water. (I LOVE Active Campaign and want to have their babies.)
F: Freshbooks for invoicing.
Because you want to look like a pro who's been doing this forever and drives shiny Ferraris and can take ya money or leave it, if you know what I mean.
G: Get ghosted after you pitched your services?
Reach out and offer them more favorable payment terms—but do not lower your fee. If that doesn't work, you can offer to adjust the scope. But this ain't a charity, aiiiight?
H: Hourly rate = dismal fate. Don't you dare charge by the hour unless you really, really, really, really, really, have to.
Sign up for my (free!) 25 DAYS TO $100K Freelancer Challenge and I'll teach you ALL THE THINGS.
I: Instigate your next dollar.
“Hey, client, I noticed that your Instagram feed hasn't been updated in a while; want me to handle this for you, too?” The best selling happens by helping.
J: Justify your madness.
It might have taken you twenty hours, between brainstorming and false-starts and rejected ideas and, finally, the product you want to show to the client—but to your client it just looks like one page of copy. Or one little logo. Or one little brand name. Instead, walk them through the process of how you arrived at the concept, so they can see how much work you put into it. I use Ilos Screencasts or Google Docs with comments for this. Trust me: your clients will think you're a HERO.
K: Kill fee for the win!
The next time your client comes down with bird flu two weeks into your project and needs to cancel, you should not be providing a refund in full. You should have what's called a “kill-fee” in your contract that provides for what happens in the event that client needs to cancel the project after work has already commenced—and after you've already set aside that time to the project. (And thus turned other work down.) Iced coffees aren't free and neither is your blood, sweat and tears. (Unless you're donating plasma or something else awfully humanitarian.)
L: Lead a crusade; don't run a business.
The best way to market yourself is by standing up and leading something. Everybody knows who Martin Luther King Jr. was. (Unless you don't, and this just got really awkward.)
M: The name's mail. Earth Class Mail.
One of the biggest perks of becoming a freelancer is that you can do it from anywhere. (SEE YOU IN PARIS!) But what to do with all of those—*look of disgust*—responsibilities back home, like your mail? Earth Class Mail has been saving my rear for the past ten years. They assign you a business address and then receive all of your mail, scan it for you, and upload it to your online account so you can review digitally.
N: Never go to a florist for advice about your car.
In other words, your boyfriend's mother's cousin who made a career as a corporate lawyer has NO IDEA what's best for you, so don't ask.
O: Ohhhhh, overwhelm. It will happen to you, and you will want to scream bloody murder at small children with barrettes in their hair.
As a creative person, I'm not the most organized naturally; however, I've learned how to be, over the years, and Asana SAVES LIVES. You can create tasks with start dates and end dates, and always know what you're suppose to be working on every day according to the way you've scheduled yourself. All I do is log in and then do what's on my list!
P: Mo' money mo' payment problems.
If a client's playing coy with those dollah dollah bills, try this script out for size:
Pay the fuck up, or I'm calling Benny the Hammer.
I kid, I kid. But here is a real one that you should use:
Hi! I’m just checkin’ in on the status of invoice #, and would love to set
a date (ooh la la) for when I can expect payment. While accounting isn’t my favorite thing in the world to do, it’s a must in my multi-hat-wearing world of small business. (I also wear top hats. And fedoras. And even the occasional beret.)
As a super speedy reminder, overdue invoices get slapped with a late fee of $, and I don’t want to see you getting slapped by anything. Not even if you like it.
If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know, okay?
Want more scripts like this? Unf*ckwithable Words to the rescue!
Q: Quelch the urge to react emotionally when a client wrongs you.
Instead, use the line that will make you sound like a totally put-together pro: “I'm disappointed to hear that.”
R: Raising your rates can be awkward, until you…
Start training your clients to expect a new, updated rate card from you every year. Even better? Send out a notice in the fall that any clients wishing to book a project under the current rate can do so through Jan 1—even if their project doesn't begin until later. Get ‘er booked out, baby!
S: Scheduling appointments like a mofo?
Use Acuity to automate it all, let clients book themselves, and even cancel and reschedule their own appointments. No, really. This is not a test. I repeat: this is not a test. I'll admit I'm a little biased, since I acted as a consultant to the CEO over the last five years, but even more reason for me to be able to tell you with confidence that this company is AWESOME.
T: Teach what you know and add an extra revenue stream to your business. (I use Thinkific to give online courses.)
This artist reportedly earns over $8K/month just teaching people how to paint online.
U: Upsell, upsell, upsell.
Have I mentioned the importance of this already? Oh wait, I totally did, but I'm going to say it again: no one can take you up on an offer you don't make. Make one offer to someone every day. Existing clients, new clients, clients from three years past. Figure out who you can help, and with what—and then offer it. It really is that easy.
V: Very Big Boundaries.
Sometimes you just have to say outright: “I'm unable to commit to that, but here's what I can do _____________.”
W: When your workload is BANANAS and your client keeps piling it on…
Here's what you say: “Cool! I'm currently working on this other thing for you. Which would you like me to prioritize?”
X: You really want me to say “xylophone,” don't you?
But I'm not going to fall for your tricks. Instead, I am going to cleverly misspell the word “extreme” as “x-treme,” and encourage you to be “x-tremely enthusiastic.” Whenever you're on the phone with a client, be your enthusiastic, true, genuine self. People hire and love people who are genuinely excited about what they do—and yet, so much of that gets muted by “trying to sound professional.” Out the window!
Y: “You know anyone I should speak with?”
This is the easiest way to get new clients: simply by asking your existing clients for a recommendation. They'll be happy to help! And bonus: word-of-mouth does the selling for you.
Z: Last but not least, ZOOM.
Zoom is the best video conferencing tool on the planet for one reason, and one reason alone: they have a “touch up my appearance” filter that automatically softens the video and makes it look like you've had a year's worth of sleep and a freakin' facial. Because no matter who you are or what you do, freelancing means you will look like a bag woman for 75% of your work week, and, ya know, we need all the help we can get.