Let me start off by saying that I’ve never been a self-proclaimed feminist, and I rarely use gender to rationalize anything happening in my life...
Admittedly though, as a young female entrepreneur, I find myself in a lot of annoying, frustrating, time-wasting scenarios more often than I’d like to even discuss.
Having finally gotten fed up for, decidedly, the last time, I’m putting together a list of ways to make sure I — and anyone else who can relate — am henceforth taken seriously as a freelancer.
I’m a writer by trade. I have a lot of people, almost always men, contact me about projects they want help with. I’m also admittedly a conflict-averse person with a very adaptable personality. I’d typically much rather have peace and harmony than abrasive interactions due to blunt, unpleasant conversations.
I’m learning though, that these qualities aren’t great in business.
To top things off, I tend to miss a lot of red flags because I assume the best, most positive qualities in others. Unfortunately, that’s a weakness in the business world, as well.
I’ve had “potential clients” ask me to meet with them to discuss these ideas they have for short films, feature films, businesses they supposedly will hire me to write blogs/articles for, etc.
One of three things usually happen:
- They sell me a dream in a roundabout effort to sell it to themselves as well. It never goes anywhere and I wasted my time.
- They try to get something non-business related out of it (yes — that) and they waste my time.
- And more recently, they take advantage of my weakness and yes, stupidity of assuming they will pay me for articles written after I’ve already written and sent them, and they completely ghost me once payment is past due. And they waste a LOT of my time. (This has only happened once now, mind you. I’m not that naive).
I’m the first to admit most of this is my fault. They’ve served as lessons I clearly needed to learn.
But what about the less obvious situations? The ones where a potential client’s intentions are a lot less black and white? It can get tricky.
Well, these are five tips you (and I) can use to try and separate the genuine from the bullshit. :)
- Consider requiring a consultation fee. It might be a little harder to find people willing to pay this if you haven’t established yourself strongly enough as an artist, business, or whatever good or service you provide, but it’s worth trying…especially if you find yourself driving to Starbucks multiple times a month and haven’t seen any money resulting from the meetings. Time is MONEY, and so is gas.
- As I learned recently as well, mention your pricing system early on. Let them know you’re not doing any favors. You need to be paid for your time, and you’re not getting roped into any dreams they’re trying to sell you.
- Require payment before you do a second of work. It’s become apparent that this is not optional, at least in my case. If this seems too rigid for you and your business, then at least get a deposit before starting work.
- Vet them thoroughly. Start looking into potential clients more deeply to make sure they actually have a business that makes sense for you to work with them on. Find out if what you can find in your research matches up with their inquiry.
- Start your negotiation high, because they will try to talk you down way below your worth. This is one of the hardest ones for me, because I’m definitely too nice. It’s easy to be made to feel like you should take whatever is offered, especially as a female, but don’t.
“According to the American Association of University Women, we ladies make only 85 percent of what men with equal qualifications earn. And that’s across all professions, freelance or not,” journalist Jennifer Billock says in a Matador article.
It may seem like you’re having to claw your way out of an endless pit of obstacles and fake opportunities that only leave you disappointed, but if you stand strong for yourself and your value as a freelancer, you will inherently solidify your self-worth and demand your value be seen by those around you as well.
Save your valuable ideas and skills for those who will truly appreciate them. Cut out the time-wasters once and for all.