Freelancing is an exciting business where you get unlimited flexibility and you can work from anywhere. You also get to choose your bosses and choose the amount of work that you take on. All of this good sometimes can come with a bit of bad if you don’t stand up for yourself when freelancing.
As a freelancer, you need to be your own biggest advocate. You may be working for large companies and brands who seem to have all of the leverage in negotiations. It can be hard to stand up for yourself and to not get taken advantage of when you need to maintain relationships to pay the bills. Here’s how to stand up for yourself when freelancing with class:
Know Your Values
What’s most important to you? Do you value work-life balance over taking on more work to increase your income? This may be a tough question to answer, especially when it’s common to feel that more (money and work) is always better. Having an understanding of your values and your mission can help you stand firm in your decisions when you’re asked to take on more work or to do tasks that are not part of your agreement.
Don’t Play Nice
Okay, you should always try to be a nice person. I’m a firm believer that kindness could solve many of our world’s problems. But there’s a time to be pleasant and a time to put your foot down. There were several occasions early on in my freelance career where clients simply were not very kind.
I had a client tell me once before that my writing was essentially “amateur hour.” Another client would send me passive aggressive emails, but would change their attitude as soon as I mentioned the desire to end the relationship. In none of these earlier situations did I stand up for myself. I was too scared to tarnish a relationship and just let clients talk to me however they wanted.
I’ve learned that people don’t respect those who don’t stand up to disrespectful behavior. Letting it go may seem like you’re being the bigger person, but it will likely continue if gone unchecked. You don’t have to be rude in response, but you do need to confront the behavior if you want to have a peaceful relationship.
Make the Rules
Contracts, contracts, contracts. Explain what services you’re offering to clients in detail. Make sure that you’re outlining the boundaries of your working hours and what’s included in the service. This way you can point directly to the terms if they’re requesting something that’s not included. This isn’t a free for all. You have working conditions and hours. You’re not supposed to be available to work at someone’s beck and call.
Business is business. You shouldn’t take it personal when clients do what’s in their best business interests. But you shouldn’t accept disrespect, bad treatment, poor pay, and late payments. These aren’t signs of an ethical company. As freelancers, we need to take back our power and demand better treatment. Otherwise, it’s making the landscape challenging for all of us.