Getting the right balance between work and life can be a tricky thing. It is especially hard if, like me you have a full time job and freelance. This is often the case with a lot of designers who want to go full time freelance but don’t have the clients or contacts to do it yet, so they like me have to keep the ol’ 9 – 5.
For me the biggest challenge is not spending all my evenings working these days as the volume of work I have freelance increases to the point where I can seriously consider going freelance full time.
I have develped a some what novel approach to balance. Simply I don’t follow clients around, I spend absolutly no time reassuring them, cajouling them or trying to get content or payment from them.
This sounds mad but has actually helped me a lot. The basic idea is that I charge a lowish amount for projects on the understanding that it is the clients responsibility to drive the project, that’s why I am giving them such a good rate. I set a time frame for the deliverables and the decisions, then I wait.
Most clients will get the information to you, make the decision or write the content in time to availe of the good offer they have gotten. This makes you life easier as you have less admin work to do and can concentrate on the design and coding.
Some however will do nothing, this of course shows that they are a dud client at a very early stage and helps you avoid working and not getting paid.
Finally you have the client that gets you some stuff, some content and makes some decisions, enough that you can produce a site albeit not a great one due to lack of content or clear goals. So you hand over this completed project only to be told, “oh that’s not what I wanted, I thought that I could still make changes… blah blah blah….”, and so you explain again about the good rate they got, why you offered it and ask them what exactly they want changed. If the changes involve more than 1/2 hours work I inform them that it will cost full rate for those hours.
This will result in one of two out comes. They will make decisive decisions and you get the project finished very quickly and can often then wave the extra fee if you want, or second they refuse to pay and threaten to pay nothing for the overall fee unless you make the changes.
Option two is by far the most popular choice. Well to avoid this scenario I have started getting an initial fee up front normally 1/3 of the total cost. This fee means that you at least get something from the project. This fee is always for the design. Once this si paid the client owns the design(s) you produce for the project. If the project collapses then you hand over the design files and keep the coded pages.
Some people would claim that I am losing out on money I have already done the work for by doing this but in reality, I’m just stopping myself spending hours arguing with a client which will result in me finishing the project but not caring about it and souring my relationship with the client. To avoid this stress and extra work I simply let go of the fee, write it off as a bad debt on my taxes ( so this saves you a little money ) and move on to the next project.
By doing this I have gained back more of my valuable time and decreased my stress and enjoy my work more as a result. Yes I make less money but as you get more skilled and confident you will deal with clients like this more effectively or spot them sooner and this becomes less of an issue. For me this works but letting go is not easy but i would suggest trying it to see if the well being it generates is better then the extra euro you might get in the end.