31 days of free gifts for freelancers

Freelancember is a collection of 31 gifts for freelancers, one for each day. Templates, checklists, guides how to get better clients, raise your rates, etc. By Amy Hoy, creator of Noko Time Tracking, former freelancer and consultant to startups, Pepsi, Ford.
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Here’s why I’m so passionate about this stuff: I freelanced for over a decade! from $10 an hour grunt work (data entry), to nearly $500 an hour art installation design (data viz). I’ve worked with clients who called me “family” and treated me like scum. I’ve pushed back against Fortune 50 VPs and got my way. I’ve had tons of success but on the way, made every mistake in the book - INCLUDING being conned and losing 3 months of work and all the money and maxing out my credit card and nearly getting evicted 😂 I turned it all it lessons for myself and now for you too! Freelancers and indies are UNDERPAID. Given LESS RESPECT. Work harder, longer, for less pay and still feel precarious. It doesn’t have to be that way. I’m here to help 👋🏻
Hey hey if you have questions about the business of freelancing, dealing with clients, or Freelancember itself — hit me up!!
The biggest mistakes I have made —  & have screamed silently people I care about make — in the biz of freelancing are as follows: * taking any old client because it feels SO GOOD to be wanted * talking myself into the project or client, getting high on my own supply basically, because I wanted / needed the money or tHe CoNnEcTiOnS I thought it would bring * failing to figure out and plan for the TYPE of client I REALLY wanted, who would be good to work with, pay me well and value my work * being too soft and compliant when clients asked for really dumb / destructive changes * boundaries, for vacations, work hours, types of requests: didn't set ANY. oops. Basically… I was a big weak YES to everything. I wasn't my own boss, that's for damn sure… I got myself jerked around by a bunch of dilettantes who also didn't even follow through. Every decision came from a position of weakness. Some of the ways I fixed it (as covered in Freelancember: I decided to act more confident. Fake it til you make it, baby! I stopped internally cringing "will they like me will they like me!?" and started asking myself, do I like them? Will this let me succeed in this gig so I can show successes? I worked on free side projects designed to catch the attention of a certain type of client (Twistori, Everytimezone)… since so much of my paid consulting work died on the vine as startups went under, etc.,, I had to build my own portfolio. I put kill fees in my contracts (that I could trigger). I legally retained ownership of my creative work & gave the clients a perpetual license. I put What I Expect From You sections in my contracts… to lay out the boundaries & client cooperation I really had to have for success, including turn around time on assets, questions and approvals (from them!!). I limited revisions, at my discretion, beyond which billed at such and such. In writing. I offered a CLEARLY SCOPED retainer programs (turning freelance into recurring revenue). I basically taught the client, and reinforced it every chance I got, that I was the expert and they hired me. So instead of running off on a wild hare they dreamt last night or heard from their oil change guy, they should LISTEN to me. Lastly, I started taking large up front deposits, which helped weed out the worst clients, too, and structured the jobs so there would be 1-2 milestones (for a medium-size job) where money would be paid at that time to continue the work. Naturally, this meant I raised rates so I worked less for more money. I achieved a position of strength and was able to use that!
@amyhoy A few of my own freelancing mistakes: - Saying yes to everything (same as you), even though it often was not the best use of my time or skills. - Charginging a few clients the same amount after years of working with them, even though my experience, delivered value and scope was way beyond when we started. - Agreeing with what the clients said. Not in a meritoric sense (I was confident enough in what I was doing) but more like agreeing to all the "maybe let's try this" kind of suggestions - Being too nice to the clients, when it wasn't doing them any favors. "You don't want to try this [good, thought out idea/project/wireframe]? Ok, fine, we'll try something else". Even when I knew it would be great for them. - Letting one client (even a great one) take too much time, work or income percentage. When 50%+ of your income depends on one client, it's hard to act from a position of authority and you try to play nice instead. - Not planning enough. Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. The longer period you plan for, the more valuable it is, and the more rare people do it. A few of the solutions: - Saying "No" is not hard once you start doing it. And it becomes extremely valuable to both sides, not just to you. - Being nice but firm nevertheless. Surprise surprise, people actually *like* when someone doesn't agree with them and tells them what to do. Many other stories and situations to tell. Most of them are actually covered in Freelancember, along with the solutions, templates, checklists.
> I put kill fees in my contracts (that I could trigger). Hi Amy! What do you mean by this and how did it work in practice?
@franzsauerstein Kill fees are an amount you get paid if the project ends before it's completed. This often happens esp for internal projects, the biz decides to "go a different way" or if it's not a good fit. How much depends on what type of work you're doing and whether you're getting paid as you go. I usually did 30-50% kill fee on project quotes, including any payments so far.
@amyhoy Thank you! So, here's what I did: I've updated my master services agreement with a 50% kill fee on projects quotes, including any payments so far. That way I'll no langer have to worry if a client "changes their mind" after having paid the deposit, but before starting a project. Of course, it'll be up to me to use this kill fee or not - something life happens. But that's true for both sides. Thank you very much, Amy!
Hey @amyhoy , I just revisited this and don't think I understand the economics. Let's say a project is 100k and halfway done. The client can pay 50k as a killfee, incentivicing them to finish it. If it's more than half done, the incentive is bigger, if it's less than half done they "save" money. However, if they've deposited 50k at the start of the project and the agreement is "50% kill fee on projects quotes, including any payments so far", then the client would pay nothing when they stop the project when it's halfway done, removing the incentive. They'd even get money back when stopping it sooner, causing financial stress on my side - without me being responsible for it. So... shouldn't it be "exluding any payments so far"?
> Hey hey if you have questions about the business of freelancing, dealing with clients, or Freelancember itself — hit me up!! Gladly, thank you for the opportunity, @amyhoy ! I interact with a lot of ecommerce stores on a daily basis - browsing, seeing ads, looking for stuff. Often I see things that strike me as "Oh, this could hurt conversions badly!" or I am seeing missed opportunities ("Why don't they use Google Shopping instead of Google Ads"). What's a good, valueable way to tell shop owners about that? Sometimes I wonder if I should tell them at all - they haven't asked me for my opinion.
@franzsauerstein Cold emails can really work but they can't seem like you're intentionally trying to sell them. Ideally just email them a tip after you've explained that you were looking for a product or how you got there, in a way that seems genuine. If you can link them to an article you wrote on your own site, so much the better (and it'll mention your consulting at the bottom), then wish them great success. The trick is you MUST NOT seem sales-y bc that will immediately turn people off. Just help them. The goodwill is worth it.
@amyhoy That's a great way of thinking about it, Amy. It helped me a lot. What I've did over the past couple of days is run a little experiment: Roughly half of the people just got a simple email with a tip in them, the other half got the tip + a short video where I add some thoughts behind the tip. My signature features the info about what I do. I am excited to see what the replies will be! Thank you!