Dealing with Clients: My Least Favourite Three Little Words

It’s always sunshine and roses when you meet a new freelance client for this first time. They tell you what they want, you tell them what you think they want to hear and there are a few, beautiful, shining moments where you both believe that the two of you were brought together by fate to create something magical, or at least, marketable. It’s like a first date where one of you really hopes to get paid for doing what the other person wants…

Actually, when I put it like that, it’s a bit less like a first date than it is like really polite prostitution. There’s no kissing, no freebies and- this is especially true if you work alone- you may find yourself having to cut a bitch from time to time.

But, of course, hope- stupidly- springs eternal and you both promise yourself that this time, this job will be different. This time, their money and your brilliance will meet, serving each other perfectly in the single creative execution of a communication deliverable that will exceed their expectations, blow your talent-trumpet and leave all who witness it awestruck by the beauty of your synergy. Yes, I said it- synergy. Because you can write about anything if you get paid for it.

And within that sentence lies the origin of my three least favourite freelancing words: if you get paid for it. Because there should never be an if when it comes to paid freelance work, only a ‘when’, and if, like me, you’re clever enough to include your payment T’s and C’s in your quote- and insist all is signed off before starting the project- then the ‘when’ shouldn’t be a big issue at all. Unless you are actually writing for The Big Issue, in which case I think that’s more of a pro-bono project and you shouldn’t be asking them for cash. That seems wrong.

However, back to the ‘ifs’ and ‘whens’ of feasible clients. As a freelancer, I have happened upon many ‘whens’ that have remained conspicuously cash-free. Most of my regular clients are sweethearts when it comes to paying on time- even the big corporate companies that many freelancers bemoan as being burdened by bureaucracy and insensitive towards the needs of the starving ‘artists’ of advertising- pay on time. This is because most of my clients are responsible, reasonable people- which I am thankful for, because I really, really hate confrontation, particularly when it comes to money and other people not giving it to me.

I hate confrontation so much, that I would rather write an overly-long, rant-ridden blog post than phone a new, and now also potentially old, client to ask my three least favourite little words when it comes to dealing with clients:

“Where’s my money?”*

So while I work myself up into a tidy froth in preparation of yet another, tersely worded phone call, during which I will disingenuously ask about my client’s health and family before reminding him that the only reason I have his phone number is due to the single piece of contractual business we have not yet completed, why not think about any contractors that you, dear imaginary reader may have accidentally forgotten about. And then pay them FFS.

* This is technically two words and a conjunction, but ‘three little words’ made for a snappier title.