Entrepreneur
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By Joshua Kraus

A Short and Sweet List of the Best Freelancer Hacks

By Joshua Kraus

The amount of hats a freelancer has to wear is enough to open up a hat shop. Nay, a hat franchise.

A freelance web developer is also a receptionist and a marketer. A freelance writer is also an office manager and a salesman. These roles are not in the job description, but you'll soon find out that when it comes to freelancing, the job description is a bit vague.

Use the following hacks to accomplish some of those pesky duties you didn't see in the fine print.

Bringing Up The Budget

Like politics, religion and post-2002 Adam Sandler movies, money often makes for a very uncomfortable conversation topic. Broaching the subject can trip many freelancers up, but it’s something that must be established before anyone can move forward.

The project budget should be discussed during your first substantial conversation with the client.

First, ask about the client’s business.

Then ask about the problems they need solving.

Then tell them exactly how you are going to solve their problems and improve their business.

Then ballpark the cost.

By first explaining to the client how you’re going to solve their problem and then discussing payment, you’re making it much harder for the client to walk away or balk at the estimate. At this point in the conversation the client is already envisioning what their business will look like with your help. The budget is now secondary to the results.

How to Deal With Unresponsive Clients

If a client has gone AWOL after expressing interest in your services or initiating a project, break out your wand and cast The Magic Email. Composed by web developer Kurt Elster, The Magic Email is a supernatural collection of words that, when written in the correct order, can revive cold leads and dead deals.

I recommend reading Elster’s website for a more in-depth exploration of what this email is capable of, but if you want to save yourself some time, here is The Magic Email:

Since I have not heard from you on this, I have to assume your priorities have changed.

It’s up to you how to frame this sentence. For example, you could write:

Because I haven't heard back from you, I am assuming that your priorities have changed, and I’m not sure whether you still wish to continue with the project.

This email puts the ball in the client’s court while removing any unnecessary emotional undertones. It’s simple, effective and professional.

How to Get a Client To Pay You (before resorting to legal action)

Unresponsive clients are pesky little critters, but unresponsive clients who owe you money are at the top of the bad client food chain. When a client owes you money, The Magic Email may not cut it, but fortunately, there are other methods a shrewd freelancer can employ to collect what is rightfully theirs.

First, try the following series of communications.

Assuming you’ve already sent an invoice, send an email reminder to the client hinting at potential late charges. Keep the tone in your message friendly, despite the overwhelming urge to switch on Caps Lock and go to town.

If that doesn’t work, send a second reminder and a second invoice with the late charges.

If that doesn’t work, send a third reminder hinting at the possibility of legal ramifications.

And if that doesn’t work, locate your client on social media and publicly write that you’re trying to reach them. Public accountability can be a stern motivator.

If none of this works, give JustTellJulie a shot. For a 19 percent commission, Julie will call the client on your behalf and politely request payment. Julie thinks of herself as your accounts receivable virtual assistant, not a debt collector and her uber-politeness is surprisingly effective at guilt-tripping the client into coughing up what's owed. If she doesn’t collect the money, she doesn’t take a commission.

How to Find High-Paying Clients

As a freelancer, you’re free to work with small businesses and major corporations, young entrepreneurs and eccentric millionaires. While it’s important to be firm about your rates, targeting clients who have substantial capital – and are read to spend it on worthy investments – can net you higher pay.

So how do you find such a client?

See who is advertising and where.

Browse through the phone book, magazines, newspapers and online publications. Note which businesses are advertising, and find out how much it cost the business to place that advertisement.

Some businesses will spend $5,000 a year on ads. Some will spend $30,000. If you identify a business within your target market that maintains a meaningful advertising budget, they might be worth pursuing.

Learn to Say No

The word “no” has a singular beauty.

Can you do this for free? No.

Can you do this for half of what you normally charge? No.

Can you do this even though it was not in the agreed upon terms? No.

It might sound counterintuitive, but learning to say no will help you avoid bad clients, time-sapping projects and other professional hurdles.

Understand Client Doublespeak

This is another time-saving hack that will help you avoid unproductive situations. Rather than diving head first into any and every potentially promising job, understanding client doublespeak can help you anticipate the true nature of a client or an assignment.

(The following are generalizations. Don't sue me.)

Clients looking for "ninjas" will try to get a lot of work out of you for cheap. Similar to clients looking for "rockstars,” ninja-seekers will pay you in flattery and praise rather than dollars.

Clients who need something done “urgently” are already past deadline. And now they're pulling you into their vortex of drama.

Clients who tempt you with the "possibility of more work in the near future" probably can't pay you much for the work they need in the present.

Clients who say that "it's a simple job for the right person" don't have a clue how simple or complicated the job is.

Got hacks? Tell us in the comments below. We want to hear ‘em!

  • Interesting list!

  • Cody Coe

    These suggestions are copied from every other freelancer list. One of them in particular is about the stupidest thing I ever heard of. Email a client three times requesting payment, if they don’t reply, don’t pick up the phone yourself and call. No, you suggest instead to have someone named Julie call and she gets a 19% cut. Are you getting a cut of this commission too? otherwise idk why the hell anyone would suggest that, that is literally the worse suggestion ever.

    • OphelieLechat

      If Julie can save me the frustrating and time-intensive task of dealing with unresponsive clients who owe me a bunch of money I’ve nearly given up on collecting, hell yes, she can have her 19%.

      • Cody Coe

        Is Julie giving you a cut of that commission too or are you secretly Julie? If not and you’re still willing to give someone 19% of your invoice for collecting payment from your client who you have been in contact with throughout the entire project, then I feel sorry for whatever company you run or your freelancing efforts because you clearly don’t know how to run it properly. It’s really not that hard to pick up the phone yourself and call the client, if you think some random person can cold call the client and get money from them yet that client wouldn’t do that for the person they have been talking with the entire time, again I feel sorry for your business/freelancing efforts because you clearly don’t know what you’re doing. If you ever feel like giving up on collecting money from a client then once again you must run a shitty business because you clearly don’t know how to handle clients or make money. All of that could be avoided with the proper procedures in place. Glad I don’t know have any of these problems :)

        • Why are you so angry on this one? Nobody is forcing you to hire a VA if you don’t want. Some people like to automate the process and save their time, and that’s ok.

          • Owen Olsen

            There’s nothing wrong in asking for an initial deposit, one at 75%-90% completion and the balance at completion. If the client will not pay the balance the (uncompleted) job should be retracted. Simple. Put all this in a written contract. If all fails you have legal standing. If there is money owing send in the debt collector. Polite phone calls and emails can only go so far. Another tactic to your advantage is to tell others through social media your client is a liability. In business don’t be naive.

      • califor1010

        Yeah, I can’t do my job if I’m busy chasing people down. My time is more valuable than that, and it’s a time suck and happiness suck to waste billable hours on stuff like this.

  • José Sáez

    Quite a lot of freelance are using our product, http://www.archie.co, to find more clients. I thought it would be interesting to comment it here in case people want to level their marketing game.

  • i always get stuck with these, and find my self working for more than 15hour per day: “Clients who need something done “urgently” are already past deadline. And now they’re pulling you into their vortex of drama”

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