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Clients From Hell Podcast

The Clients From Hell podcast is equal parts humorous and helpful as it explores the modern life and times of creative professionals.
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Now displaying: Page 2
Jun 6, 2017

How you position yourself is crucial to your career. Philip Morgan joins Bryce to discuss how freelancers – particular freelance developers – can find success by specializing.

Links from today's show:

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This episode is sponsored by AND.CO, the freelancer's resource! They offer great tools for freelancers, including curated job lists, time tracking and invoicing software, contracts, free guides and more! 

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Want to support the show?

Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or recommend us to a friend. It helps immensely.

Jun 2, 2017

Bryce reflects on data from the gig economy, sharing insights into how freelancers are succeeding (and what issues they're struggling to overcome). 

Here are the links he talks about during this episode:

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Shownotes

Survey makeup:

As vast majority of freelancers AND CO interviewed—95% of them—are what are being call "Slash Workers," or independent workers whose services or skills vary by client and project. About 70% of respondents were from the States

Respondent makeup:

  • Creative/design: 33%
  • Consulting - Professional Services: 21%
  • Writing/Journalism/Content: 17%
  • Tech/Web Design: 15%
  • Other 14%
  • Median income for respondents who reported is in the $25,000 to $49,999 range, which aligns with the average income for single taxpayers in the U.S. per the IRS (2014): $34,940.

General takeaways:

  • Freelancing is a growing choice
  • Freelancers enjoy higher quality of life at the expense of financial security
  • This quality of life manifests in the form of freedom, be it personal autonomy or flexibility
  • The traditional concept of the office is on the way out. Working from home is a substitute, but more and more people are interested in a “digital nomad” lifestyle – or the ability to work from anywhere.

Interesting insights:

  • 40% of U.S. workers will be freelance by 2020 (Freelancers Union)
  • Two-thirds of freelancers have 0-3 years of freelancing experience.
  • Going independent is a conscious choice for 94% of freelancers (it’s not a fallback)
  • 41% want to freelance “forever”
  • 95% of freelancers offer two or more services
    • Only 5% offer a single skill or work function
  • Most freelancers chose freelancing for personal growth (only 7% did it for the financial upside)
  • A quarter of freelancers self-describe as nomads (and they’re 11% happier than other freelancers)
    • 60% of freelancers said they’d be interested in pursuing a nomadic lifestyle in the future.
  • Nearly half of freelancers want companies to offer more remote work opportunities
  • About 3/4 of freelancers feel less financially stable since going freelance
    • But 68% say their general quality of life has increased
  • Only 6% of respondents are freelancing until they find their next full-time gig.

Money and jobs:

  • 91% of respondents said they typically get work from word of mouth and referrals
    • Just under half said organic website or portfolio traffic
    • 37% find work through outreach or pitching
    • One-third find work via freelance-specific job boards
    • 23% find work via general job boards
  • 43% earn less than $25K a year
    • 1/6th earn between that and 50k
    • 1/6th earn between 50k and 75k
    • 7% earn between 75k and 100k
    • 10% earn 100k or more
      • Interestingly, there’s a correlation between the experience levels of respondents and their income bracket. Do keep in mind that correlation does not equal causation though

Bonsai found that for all skills and locations, the most significant jump in compensation per experience level comes between the 1-3 and 3-5 year categories. This can be most often attributed to them developing essential business skills (project management, negotiation...), developing their knowledge about their market and their clients, building a strong portfolio and leveraging their network.

Developers earn about 30% more than designers across experience levels and geographies. This happens to be true even for highest charging designers (ie Product Designers) when compared to lowest charging developers (Front-end / Android)

Design rates (in particular graphic design) hardly reach $60 per hour for all locations and experience levels. While developers can see their rates increase quickly with their gaining experience (typically after 3 years), most experienced designers grow rates at a slower pace. The most common explanation we’ve heard for this is local or international competition at lower rates, including from part time designers. The lower barrier to entry for design types, plus the smaller project sizes, leads to lower rates.

The issues for freelancers:

  • 61% say they miss the feeling of community a traditional workplace offered
  • 60% of respondents say there’s a lack of respect for freelancers
  • 44% have been stiffed by a client
  • Men are 4.5x more likely to earn $150k+/year than women
    • And 48% of women fall into the lowest tax bracket
  • 41% of respondents want more protections for freelancer rights
May 23, 2017

 

Sales are a fact of freelancing. We know, it's a bummer. The freedom you get from freelancing comes with the price of reaching out and trying to sell yourself and your services — but that doesn't have to be a bad thing! 

This week's guest, Dan Englander, makes sales his career at Sales Schema, and he knows a thing or two about how to generate leads for your business. He talks about what you need to know about how to promote your services, and how you can play to your strengths as a freelancer. 

Links from today's show:

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This episode is sponsored by AND.CO, the freelancer's resource! They offer great tools for freelancers, including curated job lists, time tracking and invoicing software, contracts, free guides and more! 

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Want to support the show?

Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or recommend us to a friend. It helps immensely.

May 16, 2017

 

Setting out on a career as an independent freelancer or entrepreneur is exciting, but also TERRIFYING. How do you know when it's the right time to take the plunge?

John Nastor runs the podcast Hack The Entrepreneur, and has hundreds of hours looking into what makes a happy, healthy, and wealthy solopreneur. He joins Bryce to talk the difference between freelancing and entrepreneurship, how to strike the right balance in life and work, and how to know when you're ready to forge your own path,  

Links from today's show:

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This episode is sponsored by AND.CO, the freelancer's resource! They offer great tools for freelancers, including curated job lists, time tracking and invoicing software, contracts, free guides and more! 

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Want to support the show?

Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or recommend us to a friend. It helps immensely.

May 9, 2017

Honing your craft is the journey of a lifetime. It's hard enough to dedicate yourself to your discipline, but when you have to make a living doing it? Then it's even harder. 

Jerzy Drozd is a cartoonist who's made a career of making comics and teaching, well, how to make comics. He's also a warm, wonderful, and insightful fellow with a lot of great ideas, who's pursued his art through all sorts of ups and downs. He joins Bryce to talk about how to hone your focus and make a career out of doing what you love.

 

Links from today's show:

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This episode is sponsored by AND.CO, the freelancer's resource! They offer great tools for freelancers, including curated job lists, time tracking and invoicing software, contracts, free guides and more! 

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Want to support the show?

Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or recommend us to a friend. It helps immensely.

May 2, 2017

If you're a freelancer, like it or hate it (and most of us hate it) you're in sales. And for those of us with creative backgrounds, a lot of the time there's a real anxiety about "selling out."

Today's guest Brent Weaver makes a career of helping people with their sales strategies at uGurus. He chats with Bryce about how to get over this fear, and how to make the most money from doing your craft! 

Links from today's show:

http://bit.ly/2u6IctB

http://ugurus.com/

https://twitter.com/brentweaver

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This episode is sponsored by AND.CO, the freelancer's resource! They offer great tools for freelancers, including curated job lists, time tracking and invoicing software, contracts, free guides and more! 

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Want to support the show?

Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or recommend us to a friend. It helps immensely.

Apr 25, 2017

 

Life is short. How do you do all the things you want to do in the time you have?

Of all the people Bryce knows, Ryan Estrada probably comes closest to doing it all. Cartoonist, artist, traveler, podcast producer, and all around asskicker, Ryan uses freelancing to make sure he's doing what he loves all around the world.

Links from today's show:

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This episode is sponsored by AND.CO, the freelancer's resource! They offer great tools for freelancers, including curated job lists, time tracking and invoicing software, contracts, free guides and more! 

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Want to support the show?

Leave us a review on iTunes or recommend us to a friend. It helps immensely.

Apr 19, 2017

The best business relationships are built on the same the foundations as romantic ones: clear communication, trust, a mutual sense of value, hugs... So why are most of us afraid of working with our spouse? 

In today's show, Bryce talks to Marie Poulin and Ben Borowski, who live together, laugh together, love together and, yes, work together. Find out how they run a business that fits their lives while working remotely! 

Links from today's show:

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This episode is sponsored by AND.CO, the freelancer's resource! They offer great tools for freelancers, including curated job lists, time tracking and invoicing software, contracts, free guides and more! 

 

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Want to support the show?

Leave us a review on iTunes or recommend us to a friend. It helps immensely. 

Apr 13, 2017

One of the fringe benefits of freelancing? Living the kind of life that makes newspapers write angry op-eds about millennials. Doing what you like when you like, conducting business meetings over Steam chat, doing kick flips over badical guitar riffs. That kind of thing.

To the casual observer, Mark Junker is just that kind of freelancer. An art director and music producer, Junker's makes fun designs for The Yetee, composes soundtracks for Cloudrise Pictures, and just put out a new album, VELTAHL under his alias, R23X. Today he joins Bryce to talk about why your friends are you best resource, why art school is a scam, and how to do the work you love. 

Links from today's show:

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This episode is sponsored by our new book, Hell to Pay 2: A freelancer's guide to making good money (https://clientsfromhell.net/helltopay). 

Podcast listeners save 40% with coupon code: CFHPodcast

https://clientsfromhell.net/helltopay

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Want to support the show?

Leave us a review on iTunes or recommend us to a friend. It helps immensely. 

Apr 11, 2017

Going directly from school to freelancing can be tough, but one illustrator managed to do it. 

Jen Fryer joins Bryce to discuss how she locked a nationally syndicated newspaper as a client, the mistakes first-time freelancers need to make, and what creative professionals need to know to succeed in their craft as professionals. 

Links from today's show:

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This episode is sponsored by our new book, Hell to Pay 2: A freelancer's guide to making good money (https://clientsfromhell.net/helltopay). 

Podcast listeners save 40% with coupon code: CFHPodcast

https://clientsfromhell.net/helltopay

--

Want to support the show?

Leave us a review on iTunes or recommend us to a friend. It helps immensely. 

Apr 4, 2017

Freelancers can do more than work remotely; they can live their life on their terms while making a pretty penny. 

Long-time friend of the show Jake Jorgovan helps agencies and consultants win their dream clients. He also travels the world while doing it. 

Links from today's show:

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This episode is sponsored by our new book, Hell to Pay 2: A freelancer's guide to making good money (https://clientsfromhell.net/helltopay). 

Podcast listeners save 40% with coupon code: CFHPodcast

https://clientsfromhell.net/helltopay

--

Want to support the show?

Leave us a review on iTunes or recommend us to a friend. It helps immensely. 

Mar 28, 2017

Freelance designer Dylan Smith joins the show to discuss why his business degree helps him as a designer, why finding your community is so valuable, and why Leonardo is his favourite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

Dylan's also organizing the Solo Conference for Freelancers (solo-conf.com) in September!

Want to support the show? Leave us a review on iTunes!

Links from today's show include:

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This week's episode is sponsored by the new edition of Hell to Pay: A freelancer's guide to making good money. (clientsfromhell.net/helltopay)

Bryce's popular guide to freelance finances has a brand new edition out, featuring...

  • An expanded tax section with step-by-step instructions for filing your freelance taxes
  • More money-making advice
  • New tactics for negotiating a higher rate

As always, Hell to Pay teaches you:

  • How to determine your rate
  • How to charge your clients
  • How to earn better money with less work

Buy now and get the new edition when it launches in April!

Podcast listeners save 40% with coupon code: CFHPodcast

> Let's make good money!
clientsfromhell.net/helltopay

Already bought a copy? No problem: you get the new edition for free – expect an email regarding that soon. 

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Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

Clients From Hell is on iTunes and Soundcloud
Subscribe to us on iTunes and Android and RSS

Mar 23, 2017

Transitioning from full-time radio jobs to becoming a freelance video and audio producer: Steve Folland of the Being Freelance podcast joins Bryce to discuss his freelance journey. 

Find Steve on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram

Do you have a question of your own? Shoot us an email

Want to support the show? Leave us a review on iTunes!

--

This week's episode is sponsored by the new edition of Hell to Pay: A freelancer's guide to making good money. 

Bryce's popular guide to freelance finances has a brand new edition out, featuring...

  • An expanded tax section with step-by-step instructions for filing your freelance taxes
  • More money-making advice
  • New tactics for negotiating a higher rate

As always, Hell to Pay teaches you:

  • How to determine your rate
  • How to charge your clients
  • How to earn better money with less work

Buy now and get the new edition when it launches in late March! 

Podcast listeners save 40% with coupon code: CFHPodcast

> Let's make good money!

clientsfromhell.net/helltopay

Already bought a copy? No problem: you get the new edition for free – expect an email regarding that soon. 

--

Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

Clients From Hell on iTunes | Soundcloud
Subscribe on iTunes | Android | RSS

Mar 21, 2017

Defining success, setting expectations, and avoiding clients from hell. Chris Hawkins of the 100K Freelancer Podcast joins Bryce to discuss all these things and more. 

S'a good one this week, guys. 

Do you have a question of your own? Shoot us an email

Want to support the show? Leave us a review on iTunes!

--

Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

Clients From Hell on iTunes | Soundcloud
Subscribe on iTunes | Android | RSS

Feb 27, 2017

Learn how to put your best foot forward when you decide to start freelancing. This is easily our most common Freelance FAQ. 

Do you have a question of your own? Shoot us an email

Want to support the show? Leave us a review on iTunes!

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Freelance FAQ: How do I start freelancing?

KAI

The basic answer is ‘find someone who wants to pay you money for a service you provide, then provide that service.

The longer answer is:

  • Identify a target market you want to work with (The Positioning Manual by Philip Morgan is a great resource for this)
  • Identify an expensive problem -- “We aren’t getting enough leads!” -- that the target market is experiencing
  • Create a service offering that helps the client resolve the problem (“We aren’t getting enough leads”) and moves them towards their dream outcome (“We’re getting too many leads!”)

I started by picking a hobby-skill I had (wordpress development) and finding people who needed WordPress websites. Over time, I identified more valuable problems to focus on and updated my positioning, my target market, my expensive problem, and my service offerings.

But to start, create those ‘rolodex moments’ -- have a strong positioning statement (“I’m a THING who helps TARGET MARKET with EXPENSIVE PROBLEM”) and see what referrals and reaction you get.

BRYCE

What you need to start freelancing

All you really need to freelance is:

  • A Good Mentality (e.g. self-confidence, a willingness to try, etc.)
  • Action (e.g. self-discipline, actually doing the work).
  • A skill that can provide value
  • A plan (e.g. self-reflection, meaningful goals, etc.)

Selling and positioning your skill so that it appeals to clients -- and building a plan around that -- is the real secret to freelancing successfully. Typically, this is referred to as finding a niche, which is something a freelancer should do as soon as possible.

A niche reduces competition and increases specialization. Niche experts can earn more and they’re more attractive to clients with problems their niche experience helps solve. It provides direction and focus.

You’ll want to find some sort of niche ASAP. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help:

  • What industry do you actually use products from or enjoy?
  • What industry hires freelancers with skills like yours?
  • What industry would you enjoy networking in and actually being a part of?

Finding those first three good clients is the first barrier to overcome.

With those first clients (and future clients), you’ll want to:

  1. Find a client’s problem and know how to solve it.
  2. Target the correct market
  3. Pitch the client by...
  • Address the problem: The client’s issue, objective, needs, goals, etc.
  • Offer a solution: Your strategy, plan, or unique positioning that makes you the answer they’ve been looking for.
  • Fees and timelines: I wouldn’t go too far into this initially, but you’ll want to lay the groundwork for fees and realistic timelines. A client shouldn’t feel blindsided by this stuff down the line.

After those first few client interactions, you should reassess your plan before moving forward. Is your skill offering value to clients? Did you enjoy working with these clients? Are there areas to improve?

If those first few client interactions went well and you want to do more work with them, pursue referrals, build case studies, and focus on refining your service as much as possible.

-- 

Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

Clients From Hell on iTunes | Soundcloud
Subscribe on iTunes | Android | RS

Feb 23, 2017

You really can work from anywhere — and even on your own terms! Just make sure all your advice doesn't come from a clickbait headline. 

Do you have a question of your own? Shoot us an email

Want to support the show? Leave us a review on iTunes!

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Freelance FAQ: How do you work remotely?

You work remotely (and effectively), by having four things:

  • A clear idea of what you should be doing, in terms of outcomes. “Get client outline of marketing project” or “Finish design for Kai”
  • Time clearly blocked off for each project
  • A working environment – be it a cafe, a coffee shop, a co-working space, or an office – where you can do focused work
  • A means of communicating with the client with firmly established boundaries in terms of when you are and are not available

When you know the work you need to do, have time blocked off for the work, have a space to do the work in, and have a means of communicating with the client that isn’t a distraction, you’re in the perfect spot to work remotely.

In terms of telling clients you work remotely, I’ve never had an issue with this. I’ve been consulting for 5+ years and every single project has been remote. No one has balked.

-- 

Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

Clients From Hell on iTunes | Soundcloud
Subscribe on iTunes | Android | RS

Feb 20, 2017

Dealing with the isolation that comes with freelancing and the magnificent, life-changing power of saying no. 

Do you have a question of your own? Shoot us an email

Want to support the show? Leave us a review on iTunes!

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Freelance FAQ: How do you deal with isolation when working from home?

It sucks. It really does. Getting over that hump takes a lot of work -- useful, doable work -- but work.

  • Have an immediate support system of friends you can spend non-work time with
  • Stop work immediately at a designated time (Kai's is 4:30pm)
  • Only start work at a certain time (Kai's is 9:30am)
  • Have 2-4 hobbies you’ve cultivated (I like road biking, hiking, weight lifting, and reading) so you can switch to something non-work if you have energy and it’s the evening
  • Track how you’re feeling. Even just in a journal or a journal app like Day1, track how you’re feeling with the isolation and working from home. Mostly negatives? Mostly positives?
  • If the isolation causes you issues -- it very well may -- then look into coworking spaces or sharing an office with an individual or a team to give you that social interaction.

Freelance FAQ: How do you say no?

  • Practice.
  • Realize that you saying no is not a rejection of the client’s idea, but you saying ‘there is a better way to do this.’
  • Be comfortable with the uncomfortableness of saying no. It gets easier over time.
  • Read ‘non-violent communication, a language of life.’
  • Realize that if you don’t say no, you’ll be doing a lot of extra work without compensation; you owe it to yourself to say no.

And if a client pushes back? Either they have a legitimate reason and information you don’t have (good!) or they’re incorrect and a bad client who you should fire.

-- 

Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

Clients From Hell on iTunes | Soundcloud
Subscribe on iTunes | Android | RS

Feb 14, 2017

How do you specialize with a niche? Why do you specialize with a niche? A third question!?

This and more on this episode of the Clients From Hell podcast. 

Do you have a question of your own? Shoot us an email

Want to support the show? Leave us a review on iTunes!

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How do I find my niche?

This question was originally submitted for the 'Feedback from the Inferno' segment. However, it's a common question, so we've elevated it to the Freelancer FAQ segment. 

 

I don’t have much experience freelancing and I’m confused how to sell my services – what makes me unique?

I’m an illustrator, I started freelancing straight out of university, and I’ve only had a handful of jobs in roughly two years – I think this is because I spent a lot of time not knowing what I wanted to do or even how to do it but I’m starting to find a bit more focus now. I’ve started pushing myself towards children’s illustration with the hopes of getting work in publishing, greetings cards, stationary – maybe even the games industry.

My issue is this – I have no idea what my niche is. I used to think narrowing my field was good enough, but I was just listening to your “how to find work as a freelancer” podcast, and you mentioned the need to tell a client why they need you, and why you can do the work in a unique way.

The thing is, I don’t know how I can complete the work in a way that another illustrator couldn’t also do. I don’t have an impressive client list under my belt, and I don’t have a particularly unique workflow or style. I simply don’t know what I could say to a client that would make me stand out.

- A no-niche freelancer

 

Everyone feels this way at a certain point – in life and in freelancing. Do not stress about being unsure about your uniqueness quite yet. You may not even have the practical experience necessary to really know yourself and what you’re about.

I think it would be worthwhile for you to try and get some practical experience at an agency. It offers on-the-job experience; it can refine your skills, and it can teach you a lot about dealing with clients. It can also tell you a lot about yourself, what you value, and what separates you from the pack.

But, if you already have a day job, or if freelancing as an illustrator is your exclusive interest, that’s fine too.

The first thing you should focus on is what Neil Gaiman identified as the three reasons someone will work with a freelancer. The best part is, you only need to deliver on two of them:

  • Quality work
  • Delivered promptly
  • Pleasant to work with

After you manage two out of three on that, then you can start to hone in on that niche.

The more work you do, the more you’ll appreciate what kind of work you enjoy – and what kind you despise. The more work you do, the more you’ll come to appreciate what makes you, as a professional, unique and compelling. It doesn’t just happen. It’s a long, slow, and heavily involved process that can sneak up on you if you’re not paying attention.

I’m almost certain that the handful of clients you’ve had has resulted in an informative experience, if not a niche-defining one.

There are a few suggestions for finding that specific niche:

  • Reach out to potential clients and ask them questions (e.g. why did you hire that freelancer, how did you find them, what problems were you having, what results did you expect, etc.)
  • Do not try to pitch these clients while you’re researching
  • Time, effort, work, and a whole lot of reflection on your experiences
  • Go to a job board or freelancer site (e.g. upwork, fiverr) and look at what the highest paid freelancers claim as their unique selling proposition (USP)
  • Reach out to successful illustrators and ask them about their journey to where they are now. (e.g. what kind of clients did you end up focusing on? What made your offering compelling? What was the most common client pain point? Etc.)
  • Figure out what you’re good at. Ask your friends; give them an anonymous google doc to fill out if you want a lot of honest answers.

I’ll be honest: my niche has changed multiple time over the course of my career. It will almost certainly change again. I learned that I’m a flexible resource that completes work quickly, and I’m excellent at providing creative content. However, I’m not a huge fan of actually “selling” my work, nor did I always feel I had the chops to provide strategic consulting.

Having worked with clients of a few shapes, sizes, and industries, I figured I’d aim at smaller agencies that had issues with their copy (I looked at their website, job postings, etc.). A client taught me that most agencies of a certain size don’t have a staff writer (this is a pain point); they make due with somewhat-unreliable freelancers (another pain point) for this work.

I reached out directly to the CEO or head of hiring, showcased I did my research, and (POLITELY) brought these issues to their attention. I closed the letter by asking if I could chat with them for five minutes to get some advice regarding their industry. Almost every one said yes. People like being approached as experts, especially if you start by offering a little value first.

After taking these meetings, I ask my questions (see that point about researching your clients?). I close the meeting by thanking them for their time, and I state that, if they ever need help creating content, I was hungry for practical experience in the industry, and I’d even charge less than my usual rate. I also addressed those aforementioned pain points (e.g. I can come in a couple of times a week for in-person briefings and on-the-fly edits; I can commit x hours a week, so you’re always guaranteed a reliable resource, etc.)

Full disclosure: I don’t actually have a usual rate. I figured out what I wanted to make an hour and said it was half my usual rate.

TL;DR:

  • Get experience with as many clients as you can.
  • Reach out to clients and ask after their industry and why they hire freelancers
  • Research successful freelancers in your field The end goal: Figure out the client’s challenges, the solutions others offer, and what defines you as an individual.
  • You don’t need to re-invent the wheel with your offering; you just need to give it your own compelling spin.

-- 

Questions? Episode ideas?

Talk to Clients From Hell or Bryce Bladon on Twitter. Or shoot us an email

Clients From Hell on iTunes | Soundcloud
Subscribe on iTunes | Android | RS

Feb 9, 2017

How to get a client to pay you, how to get a testimonial from a client, and what to do when your work is stolen by another freelancer.

Do you have a question of your own? Shoot us an email

Want to support the show? Leave us a review on iTunes!

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Freelance FAQ: How do I ensure a client pays my invoice?

Always start with a deposit -- typically 50%. This guarantees your time and services. Before sending over the final project, ensure you collect the remaining 50% first.

  • (You don’t need to do this exact split, but collecting 50-100% upfront is the most straightforward way to ensure timely payment and a quality client)

Use a contract, and in it, stipulate that the intellectual property is yours and usage is illegal until payment in full is received.

  • Clarify your payment schedule and refund policy in the same contract
  • Attaching payment to milestones is an excellent practice for larger projects
  • If a client is curious why you don’t offer refunds, clarify the time investment and that you have to turn down other work to complete this project.

Make it as easy as possible for the client to pay (e.g. Paypal, Stripe, Bonsai).

Automate reminders for the client to pay.

Until the client signs the contract and pays your deposit, do NOT start work.

  • This stage is where you spend your time understanding, evaluating, and explaining things to the client.
  • Once they pay, you should take a more active role.

As always, don’t give them any legitimate reasons not to pay you. Communicate, be on time, and produce quality work.

Clients who have issues paying at the start are likely to have issues paying you at the end of a project. Trust your gut in these instances.

As you get more experience, learn what to charge for, and what to offer as a free bonus.

Friendly emails and phone calls will cover you the vast majority of the time. The more direct the communication method, the harder it is to ignore.

 

Freelance FAQ: How do you get testimonials from clients?

Ask for one after a successful client engagement.

Reach out to past clients a few weeks or months down the line; see how the project is doing. While you have their ear, ask for a testimonial.

Make it as easy as possible for clients to give you a testimonial.

  • Make your request short and to the point.
  • Offer some light direction
  • Follow up if you don’t hear back within a week.

If a client reveals they’re dissatisfied with your work and they won’t give you a testimonial, don’t treat this as a loss. Follow up; ask about the issues they experienced with you and what you can do to improve.

 

Feedback from the Inferno: What do I do about another freelancer who stole my work?

(This segment originally premiered over at The Freelancers Union.)

I know you’ve addressed clients stealing work before, but I’m in a slightly different situation. Another photographer – one who I’ve never met – has one my pieces in his portfolio and he’s claiming himself as the creator.

What should I do? Do I have any recourse, or should I just let it go?

– A picture-perfect freelancer

 

No need to take the Elsa philosophy; there are three things you can do.

Start by writing a polite request for them to take down your work.

After that, you can file a DMCA takedown. Here’s a basic breakdown from the NPPA on how to do that. All you need to do is find the ISP hosting your image and draft your takedown notice.

Finally, you can hire a lawyer to send them a cease a desist. I wouldn’t recommend this one; it’s not going to be worth your time and effort, and attorneys – in addition to being expensive – tend to take cases like this one in very specific circumstances, e.g. if you’ve registered your photo before the infringement.

One thing you should not do is go straight to shaming the perpetrator online; take the high road before you consider the low one. It’s important to stick up for yourself and take necessary steps to protect your work, but it’s unlikely that this will in any way cost you work or somehow tarnish your reputation. Starting an online mob, however, has the potential to do both these things, so tread carefully.

-- 

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Feb 6, 2017

Bryce helps you decide whether your work is good before discussing the numerous skills a freelancer needs to succeed. 

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Freelance FAQ: How do I know if I'm doing good work?

 

Freelancing can leave you feeling isolated; soliciting feedback and getting outside of your bubble is crucial.

Join online groups related to your craft.

  • Offer (solicited) criticisms.
  • Request criticism

Solicit feedback from past clients

  • Ask after more than the work itself (e.g. how communicative was I? What would the client prefer I do differently?)
  • You can do this with non-clients do, but if you do it with friends, offer them anonymity (e.g. a google document or a typeform)

Regularly produce work related to your craft.

Regularly try to improve your craft.

Stay up-to-date in your field

  • Sign up for newsletters
  • Follow influencers

 

 Freelance FAQ: How do you deal with being a jack of all trades?

 

Your focus should remain on your field or primary skill, but to succeed as a freelancer, you need to learn about business, marketing, and quite a few fields that overlap with your own.

The two best pieces of advice for needing to work outside of your specific skill set is this:

  • Keep it as simple as possible
  • Don’t invest the time and anxiety until you’re ready to address the issue

My advice for the two skillsets every freelancer needs are below:

  • Marketing: Reaching out to potential clients and building steady work should be your foremost concern
  • Business and Finances: Calculate your minimal hourly rate and never dip below it.
    • If you have a lot of work, charge your next client more. Keep doing this until you get push back.
    • One of your first investments into your business should be invoicing or contract software. Bonsai is a great place to start.

Finally, if you have some affinity for it, educate yourself on fields that overlap with yours as soon as possible. This elevates the value of your primary skill while increasing your overall value.

  • E.g. Design + Copywriting / Coding
  • E.g. Writing + Design / Coding / Marketing
  • E.g. Development + Writing / Design / Front end or back end

You don’t need fancy tools or expensive courses to succeed, but you do need to invest the time. Specifically, you need to invest it wisely. Focus on skills that promise the biggest, most immediate returns, and work the rest out from there.

-- 

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Feb 2, 2017

A freelancer wonders what to do after his best client's best friend refuses to pay his invoice; Bryce offers advice for charging clients. 

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Freelance FAQ: How should I charge my client?

The basic answer is, “if you want to earn X this year, you need to be making Y for every hour you work.”

  • My rule of thumb: Take what you want to earn in a year and drop the zeroes. If you want to earn $45,000 this year, you need to be earning, at least, $45 for every hour you spend on your business.
  • The logic behind this rule of thumb: There are about 2,000 billable hours in a year (40 hours a week x 50 weeks in a year – we’re losing two weeks for holidays). You cut those billable hours in half, because at least 25% of your time will go into business upkeep, and the other 25% will go into taxes, insurance, and retirement (which adds up to 50% of your time – half). Thus, take what you want to earn in a year (e.g. $60,000) and divide it by the 1000 billable hours (e.g. $60/hour). Remember, these are ballpark estimates, not fine-tuned figures.

Besides hourly, there are numerous ways to charge a client:

  • Daily
    • Can begin charging for value (not time) and you get to focus on one thing at a time
    • You can’t be flexible with your day; this billing rate doesn’t work with every situation
  • Weekly
    • More flexibility to charge for value and not time; it is very results orientated.
    • Weekly rates are more applicable to consultants and results-based work; the time investment for some weeks can wildly exceed a typical 40-hour workweek
  • Monthly
    • A monthly rate offers regular income that bolsters a long-term relationship with clients
    • It’s similar to being a full-time employee, with the pros and cons associated with that. Typically, you’ll have to charge more than a full-timer would and it can be difficult to communicate to a client why that is.
  • Per deliverable
    • This style of billing is directly tied to a product or result; your rate and time commitment are completely irrelevant.
    • Scope changes and negotiation are commonplace
  • Per project
    • Your billing purely by value; there’s less need for oversight and micromanagement regarding your day-to-day activities
    • However, there’s an immense amount of planning involved; if you miss something, you eat the cost.

You should know your hourly rate even if you do not intend to charge by the hour. Your hourly rate informs all other forms of billing, typically as a bare minimum you need to be making.

Experience will teach you how you like to work, and how you like to work will influence the ideal way for you to bill your clients. Despite weekly billing having a higher potential income attached to it, monthly billing works better for my clients and me.

 

Feedback from the Inferno: My best client's best friend stiffed me – now what?

(This segment originally premiered over at The Freelancers Union.)

My biggest client referred his best friend to me. That friend stiffed me on my invoice. What can I do without ruining the 15+ year relationship I have with my client?

In a nutshell, my best and biggest client referred me to his close friend for some IT work. It came as an emergency. I did my best, and I got my client’s friend up and running again.

Over two visits, the friend accumulated $1600 worth of time within a few days. Both of his checks bounced. His business went bankrupt, and he claimed creditors to be relieved from, but I wasn’t one of them. I got his word he would pay me and that he appreciated the work I did for him.

Time went by. Nothing happened. I asked my client about his situation and from what I saw, my client was also one of the people his friend borrowed from. I’m unsure if he was someone he was relieved from.
When I asked my client if I should pursue it, he said I should drop it that I would probably never get the money back.

That $1600 isn’t chump change. With the economy like it is, I could sure use it. I don’t want to alienate my client, but it burns my ass that his friend got off, especially since he’s rich and lives in an exclusive neighborhood, nice cars, has another business which is flourishing, etc.

Additional context: the freelancer who wrote in has been in IT since 1994, and he started his business in 2004. There are no contracts involved in most of his work, as most of his clients have long and personal relationships with him – often spanning over a decade.

– A freelancer with a burnt butt

 

Honestly, it seems like you've already reached the conclusion on this: it's frustrating, but that money is likely gone. A lot of time has passed, and there was no contract in place. It's certainly possible there's a route you can take to regain that lost $1,600, but I don't see a way that's worth that amount of money – almost all of them will cost you in much more damaging ways.

I respect the crap out of the style of work you offer – close relationships, time-honed offerings, constant support – but it's a style where a contract-free experience should only be offered to proven and qualified clients. As you stated (this was in a separate email), it's the newer clients that take advantage of your stalwart offering.

I'd suggest taking a look at how you qualify these new clients and if there's a way to offer an expedited contract or down payment.

Here's how I deal with this: I have a simply-worded and short contract template that I use for clients I'm unsure about. I fill in the blanks with the client, and that ensures we're both on the same page regarding it (e.g. what results do they expect? what services do they need? who's my main contact? who's in charge of payment?).

My first meeting or two with the client is spent gaining an understanding of their issue, offering my solution, and engaging them for the work. My third meeting is a 5-45-minute engagement where we fill in those contract blanks and ensure we understand each other. I'm protected, my client is protected, and we’re both clear what I'll be doing with them. Plus, that contract-creating experience is my built-in client-qualification system.

I also suggest you check out the Freelance Isn’t Free act. I think you’ll be interested in supporting it.

Otherwise, I wish you the best with your future clients. I know a principled business (with such a remarkable pedigree) will do just fine in the long run, so my final piece of advice is this: don't sweat the crappy experiences. They seem to be few and far in-between.

-- 

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Jan 30, 2017

What to ask a prospective client and advice for a freelancer caught in a client's love triangle. 

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Freelance FAQ: What questions should I ask a client?

When you first meet a client, you need to:

  • Determine if the prospect is a good fit
  • Diagnose their problem
  • Decide if this will be a mutually beneficial relationship

Don’t overwhelm your prospect with 1,001 questions in the initial email, but do ask them sooner than later.

From there, you need to determine:

  • Budget: Can the client afford your services?
  • Authority: Does this person have the authority to make buying decisions?
  • Need: Does the client have a genuine need for your services?
  • Timeline: Does the timeline work for you and your client?

I always try to figure out the negative consequences of not having a solution and the positive implications of having a solution to frame all future conversations.

Regardless, here are some general questions to ask a prospect or client:

  • For what reasons are you looking to hire a new freelancer now?
  • What triggered your decision to hire a freelancer?
  • What’s made this so urgent or important?
  • What experiences, good and bad, have you had with other freelancers? What do you want to be different this time around?
  • What results do you expect to see from the work we do together?
  • What are your company’s goals?
  • What’s your most important priority? What’s your most urgent priority? If they’re not the same, ask: What will it take to focus on the most important priority? How can the urgent priority get downgraded? What’s your company’s biggest marketing challenge?
  • What’s keeping you from overcoming or meeting that challenge?
  • What internal resources do you have to apply to this challenge?
  • How well are your competitors doing?
  • What are your competitors doing that you’re not and wish you were?
  • What do you want to be the best at? What do you want your company or department to be renowned for?
  • What are you willing to stake your reputation on?
  • What’s the average lifetime value of a customer?
  • What’s your customer acquisition cost?
  • What’s your current marketing return on investment?
  • What’s your process for choosing a consultant or agency? Have you used this process before? What worked or didn’t work? What will you do to get a different result?
  • Who’s involved in making the decision? Who signs the contract?
  • If you don’t hire a freelancer or consultant, how will you meet this challenge? What will you do?
  • How will you know we’ve been successful?
  • If we don’t address this issue, what will it cost your company?
  • If we deliver on agreed upon goals, what’s that worth to your company?
  • What problems do you see down the road that could obstruct or constrain our working together?
  • What makes you lose sleep at night? Or what do you need so you can sleep at night?

You may have field-specific questions that you find your regularly asking clients. Based on those repeat findings, you should create an onboarding questionnaire that you go through with clients when they first engage you.

 

Feedback from the Inferno: How do I deal with my client’s controlling boyfriend?

(This segment originally premiered over at The Freelancers Union.)

My client’s boyfriend insists on attending all of our meetings, business or otherwise.

For context, I’m a male, and my client is a female. We know each other from school, but we recently reconnected when she found out I started freelancing, and she wanted me to build her budding businesses’ website.

My client has insisted that this isn’t a big deal – the boyfriend should be treated as another source of feedback – but the dynamic makes me uncomfortable. I told her that she doesn’t have to worry about me trying anything, but she says that’s not really the issue. She insists that the boyfriend has “her best interests” in mind and just not to worry about it because she “really wants to work with me on this.”
What should I do?

– A third-wheel freelancer

 

I had to email this submitter back to glean a bit of additional context.

To summarize: the client and her boyfriend have both cheated on one another, and the boyfriend is not there for his business expertise; the client and the submitter hooked up once “while drunk at school”; by school, the submitter means he and his client attended university together.

One thing that immediately set off warning signs for me is that you’re having meetings with this client that fall under the umbrella of “otherwise.”

Working with friends is something that I probably wouldn’t recommend. Working with a former hookup is something I would almost always discourage. Working with a serial cheater (that you have a history with!) while she’s in a troubled relationship (with a controlling boyfriend!) sounds like the motive the detective will give when he finds your dead body.

Point being: none of this sounds like a good idea.

Even if you weren’t involved with this client on the pretense of this being a client-freelancer relationship – and I’m not convinced you wouldn’t be, as you failed to mention you had sex with this client in the past in your initial email – I would still encourage you to get as far away as possible.

It sounds like this client needs to separate their personal and professional life. And I think the same could be said about you.

-- 

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Jan 26, 2017

A boss from hell claims ownership of a would-be freelancer's free time; Bryce offers advice for transitioning from a traditional full-time job to self-employment. 

This episode...

  • How do I go from the nine-to-five to freelancing?
  • What should I do about a boss who won't let me have a side gig?

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Freelance FAQ: How do I transition from the 9 to 5 to freelancing?

Before you make the full-time freelancing plunge...

Know your finances

  • Have 3-6 months of savings before you commit

Start moonlighting

  • Freedom to learn and experiment.

When you do start freelancing…

  1. Communicate with clients (but don’t create unnecessary work for them)
  2. Meet deadlines
  3. Always give your best work (if you can)

Research how freelance taxes work in your state

Look into insurance options

Create a schedule, system or process for work.

  • Occasionally re-evaluate what is and isn’t working. In particular, look for time investments that aren’t showing any returns

Always evaluate your work/life balance

Evaluate your income to expenses

 

Feedback from the Inferno: My boss won't let me have a sidegig -- what should I do?

(This segment originally premiered over at The Freelancers Union.)

I moonlight as a freelancer and I know my boss will have a problem with it if he ever finds out. What should I do?

I have done freelance writing here and there for almost 10 years. I enjoy doing it, and I want to really get serious about it.

Here's my problem: I work full-time as an administrative assistant at a law firm, and my boss is not at all supportive of me doing anything that he thinks might take me away from my job. And let's be honest, he has a point - I do intend to leave when I've got my freelancing off the ground. For now, I need the money, and it's not a terrible gig, but it isn't where my heart is.

I already have one client that I got by word of mouth, and I know I need to advertise my services to gain more clients – which is scary enough, as I am an introvert – but I'm scared to put myself out there lest my boss discovers what I'm up to and uses it against me.

I would love just to be honest with him, as I have with my office manager, but past experiences have already taught me that's not an option; as examples, he fired another assistant partly because that assistant divulged that he was going to night school to become an EMT; he also was wary of me getting my CAP-OM certification until I described how it would benefit HIM.

I already dropped hints a long time ago that I really wanted to pursue writing, but that was dismissed and never referenced again.

Many others within the firm have ventures outside of the office, including my boss and all of the partners. But for them, the firm is an anchor. For me, it is a stepping stone.

My question is twofold: is there a way for me to advertise myself stealthily so that I can get clients without my current boss finding out? Or, in the event I just say screw it and put myself out there, how can I prepare to deal with the fallout?

I appreciate any help you can give - I am reaching out to you because I have heard you say to start freelancing part-time before jumping in with both feet, and I figured maybe you'd have some insight into a situation like mine.

I'm tired of holding back and missing out on clients and money because I'm afraid a simple Google search will cost me my job before I'm ready to leave.

– A moonlighter on a mission

 

First of all, this is easily one of the best-written emails I've ever received. You clearly have the chops to make it on your own as a freelance writer.

Second, your boss is an absolute douche.

With that out of the way…

Finding Work

There are tons of ways to market yourself without actually exposing yourself. In nearly a decade of freelancing, roughly 80% of my work came from clients I never actually met.

Word of mouth, job boards, local meetups – they’re all great ways to find work when you’re first starting out. For your first few jobs, simply letting the world know (via twitter, facebook, etc.) you’re available for work is a great way to secure some warm leads.

However, that last bit of advice tickles your main issue…

On being googled

I almost always suggest a freelancer use their name as their business, and I think this should still be the case for you. I understand the fear of Googling – and it's a valid concern – but the idea of this boss owning your name online is utterly ridiculous. Plus, your freelance site doesn't need to be salesy or revealing. Giselle's illustration website is a great example of this.

To address this potential name issue, maybe you can focus on your first or last name to start. Remember, most of your potential clients will be directed to your website through you; very few clients will find you by googling "freelance writer" or whatever.

Preparing to go full-time (AKA dealing with the fallout)
Simply put, I recommend 3-6 months of savings for ALL your living expenses is set aside before you make the full-time freelancing leap.

I also recommend at least three positive client experiences before you make the plunge. Ideally, some of these clients will offer recurring work.

Other resources

Here are two articles I always recommend for this stuff:

-- 

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Jan 23, 2017

This week, Bryce answers common (and not so common) questions about freelancing. 

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Freelance FAQ: Where do I find my first clients?

Start with people you know.

  • Announce via social, email, etc. that you’re starting to freelance
  • Reach out to individuals you know that may have need of your services
    • Feel free to reach out for work, but also ask to pick their brain
      • e.g. does your business hire freelancers? What do they look for? Etc.

Reach out to nearby businesses, especially if you have a positive relationship or a connection to someone higher up

  • Local or nearby businesses have the benefit of face-to-face connection. You can succeed with an entirely remote client list, but when you’re just starting out, the flexibility of a local connection should not be underestimated.
  • Attend networking events
  • Reach out to hiring managers, creative directors, etc.
    • Feel free to reach out for work, but also ask to pick their brain
      • e.g. does your business hire freelancers? What do they look for? Etc.

Sign up for job boards and apply for jobs that you feel capable of tackling.

  • Job boards require a lot of experience and thoughtful positioning to be regular and profitable sources of work. However, when you’re just starting out, they’re an excellent source of low-commitment experience.
  • Try to find a unique position point. For example, there are very few freelancers boasting about their webinar experience -- there were all of six on a job board with over 100,000 freelancers on it.
  • The more specific the job board is to your skillset (as a designer or developer), the better.

Pitch publications

 

  • An excellent source of portfolio pieces and income

 

Join online groups related to your craft or services.

Market yourself in directories.

Reach out to job listings for full or part-time work related to your service and see if there’s a way you can help until they hire their permanent fix.

  • I’ve actually had clients close job listings after working with me and then putting me on retainer.

Work for free

  • Set boundaries and expectations
  • Work for a testimonial, referral, and quality portfolio piece
  • Ensure you want to do more work of this type
  • Ensure you’re getting something of value out of this engagement; otherwise, you’re wasting your time.

 

Feedback from the Inferno: Where do I find my first clients?

(This segment originally premiered over at The Freelancers Union.)

I have a client that insists I do all my work at his office. He insists on this arrangement because he doesn’t really “trust web people.” He admits part of this is just not “getting it” – if I’m there, I can explain things, and he knows I’m honestly billing him for the time.

I really don’t like working at his office: it’s inconvenient to travel to and from there, I have to bring some of my equipment, and my client likes to breathe over my shoulder while I work.

The worst part about this over-my-shoulder work is that he’ll sometimes start to give me a massage. I’m not the only one he does this to, but it’s both literally and metaphorically uncomfortable.

How do I tell him to stop doing this without ruining the relationship?

– A real hands-on freelancer

 

The subject line of this email was “my clint likes to touch me - I do not.”

At first, I thought that was a lot of unsolicited information about a submitter’s uncomfortable relationship with a man named Clint, but boy did that stop being funny once I realized that was a spelling error.

I was unbelievably relieved to discover you’re both male and that this touching is seemingly non-sexual. It’s still 100% not okay that the client is doing this, but this dynamic could be far, far worse.

From what you wrote to me, it sounds like you have an out-of-touch-with-the-times client – both technologically and socially. And it sounds like you could do a better job of pushing back and making sure the working arrangement works for you.

Schedule a one-on-one meeting with your client to discuss how you work together. Decide beforehand where you draw the line. I suggest not working in that office altogether, but you can compromise on him simply respecting your personal space.

Do your research and prepare for this meeting. You should try and anticipate your client’s potential concerns, and you should have your reasons on standby.

For example, address why this client doesn’t trust “web people.” By now, you should have established a working relationship, so some trust should be there. If it’s simply a matter of hours, offer to use time-tracking software. If it’s due to a lack of understanding, ask if there’s a contact at the company who would better understand your deliverables – work that is mutually understood is much more likely to meet the client's goals effectively.

Whatever happens, don’t back down from where ever you drew the line. If all you’re going to push back on is the touching – and I encourage you to have more ambition than that – speak to how it makes you feel and try not to accuse or embarrass the client. Do this one on one, and be straightforward; it’s not okay that he was in your personal space, but it sounds like no one ever tried to course correct him, and he’s ignorant about how inappropriate it is.

If you still don’t want to rock the boat, invest in Mad Max-style shoulder pads.

Jokes aside, if you feel genuinely uncomfortable or physically threatened, cut things off with this client. A big part of freelancing is doing your work, your way – and it seems like this arrangement doesn’t empower you on a personal or professional level.

And try to work on sticking up for yourself! It sounds like a lot of your complaints about this situation came from you rolling over whenever your client requests something.

-- 

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Jan 16, 2017

From qualifying clients to education as a lead conversion technique, Bryce Bladon and Kai Davis discuss how they turn prospects into high-paying clients.

-- 

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