Isn’t the word “Freelancing” one that is ever so familiar to us all? With the term freelancing being consistently used by most people in this generation, do you really understand the rights of a creative freelancer?
Whether you’re a freelancer who chanced upon this article or a client who is looking to hire, both of you need to read this to protect yourself better and to understand the freelancing world better.
If you have ever worked for a full-time job, contract signing is needed to be processed between you and the company before you are officially considered as an employee.
Even a part-time position will require a more straightforward contract signing process which we are all guilty of just skimming through.
However, if it was a job that involved a longer bond of your time, commitment, and money, you will most definitely read through word for word.
Warning: Contracts given by the party is usually written to protect themselves. Yes, the world may be your oyster, but it is also a selfish place.
So by working as a creative freelancer, what makes you think that having a contract to protect yourself and your art is not necessary?
I cannot stress how important it is for you as a creative freelancer to have a contract that states the terms and conditions of your works to your clients. This is to protect yourself against them with written proof of what both parties agreed on verbally.
Likewise for clients to the freelancers they hire.
Having a contract agreement for work is vital to keep yourself legally protected. Besides, as casual as things may seem, anything that is business related should always be jotted down in black and white.
If you need help in drafting a contract, you may read this article written by Gracia Lee (2018) about a “Legal handbook launched to help freelancers working in creative arts.”
Alternatively, you may download a free legal handbook for freelancers on the Law Society Pro Bono Services site.
EXPECTATIONS TO SET
From a Creative Freelancer to a Client
I know what you’re thinking. “Should I still let them know about my expectations if it is a big client? Shouldn’t I be thankful enough for the opportunity?” The answer to both is yes!
Always grab hold of good opportunities and be thankful for them. However, you should never let any client take advantage of your passion no matter how big or small.
As much as clients are entitled to have expectations of you, you need to set your expectations for them as well.
Here are a few examples to help you get started:
One of the most common problems with a project is the lack of time given to produce our best.
Here’s an example of a film production process:
During the discussion stage between our clients and us, we usually start off with plenty of time which they will then decide to take unusually long to have everything confirmed.
Lo and behold, we’re left with two weeks to draft out a storyboard concept, scout for locations, shoot an entire movie, send it for post-edits, have them curated and be given the green light before they can finally be delivered.
Shocking? No, not at all.
Can it be delivered on time? I sure hope so.
If you’re a client, I’m calling you out on this one. You’re not just paying creative freelancers like us for our art. You’re paying us to do art with a miraculous race against time.
This is where we as creative freelancers have to draw the line. Let your clients know that you will need this amount of time and no less. Set timing expectations for them to get back to you punctually.
It might seem nerve-wrecking at first, but clients will understand. They are as human as we are, and sometimes they just need a little push in being reminded of the time.Creating art takes passion, skills, patience, emotions, and more. All these factors require time, which is something that we should never take away if we want to deliver our best.Click To Tweet
Now, we need to understand and realize that everything has an expiration date.
By everything, I mean things like food, household products, beauty products and our bank account balance.
The main staple of surviving financially as a creative freelancer is making sure we have a constant flow of commissioned projects and clients who pay us on time.
Just as much as you’re expected to deliver as scheduled, it is time for you to step up and be firm in telling your clients that they need to pay by a given date.
And if they don’t?
Start charging interest rates.
However, it is also important to give leeway especially if you’re working with a new client you want to build a relationship with.
So it is on your part to juggle the “science” of the advantages of building a relationship with your clients, and the disadvantages of letting them step over you.
For starters, you may read these articles:
“Net 30 and Other Invoice Payment Terms” written by Bernard (2017)
“How to charge late fees when clients don’t pay on time” written by Antonia Blair (2014)
Alternatively, here are some summarized infographics from those articles to help you better understand a commonly used interest rate payment term called Net 30.
Information gathered from “Net 30 and Other Invoice Payment Terms” written by Bernard (2017).
Number of revisions
If you’ve had experience in working as a freelancer on a project basis, you’re probably already familiar with the term revisions (especially if you’re a graphic designer or a film editor).
For those who aren’t familiar, don’t worry I’m not talking about homework revisions.
Revisions, in this case, refers to the number of changes you allow the clients to make before the final product is being delivered to them.
I cannot stress how important it is to include the number of revisions in the contract to your clients, as this will help save you a lot of time and effort.
As much as I want to believe that majority of people have the consciousness of knowing when to draw the line, I’m afraid to say that they don’t.
When it comes to companies being able to scale their business, they will make full use of all the opportunities they have.
So what I’m trying to say is that if your clients see that you are providing unlimited revisions since you did not state the limitations in the contract, they will make sure to use that opportunity to pick on every nitty-gritty detail possible.
Do you really want to waste that amount of time, effort and have your payment delayed? I don’t think so.
On average, freelancers usually provide 3 revisions. If you feel that you’re willing to offer more for a particular client, you may add it up to 5 revisions.
However, I strongly advise to never go above 7 revisions, as that is going to take more than a month with all the emailing and the waiting of approvals.
Freedom to express your own style (as a Creative Freelancer):
Let’s get this straight.
This is for situations where you were being “scouted” by your clients, because of a specific style of art you have that fits their branding and marketing theme.
What usually happens is that you’ll receive a delightfully written email or a DM on your social media account about how Company X loves your works and is keen on engaging you to help with their next campaign!
There you are, excited to be chosen out of the millions and you feel appreciated that you’re finally being called out for your art.
Everything goes according to plan until you send your first few drafts of work in for curation.
Notes from your client on what can or can’t be done start pouring in.
- Take this out
- Take that out
- Change this
- Change that
- Our head of marketing doesn’t approve of this color
- Our CEO does not want this to be mentioned
You make the changes so many times that soon you’ll realize that you’re no longer doing it according to how you envisioned it to be.
You will have many “This isn’t me” moments, but it’s too late to back out now.
So before you’re led into that situation, let the clients know of your expectations (in a humble manner) to be given the freedom to do the work according to your own style before agreeing on anything.
It is still essential that you meet their requests, but if you feel that they are taking too much control over your creative direction, you’ll have to be the one to remind them to trust you.
Don’t be afraid to give suggestions and your creative directions along the way. Clients are usually more than keen to hear from a creative professional like you on how they can improve their marketing for the company.You do best when you're doing what you love.Click To Tweet
So just always be mindful that no matter who engages you for your work, you should still be given the freedom to express your style in the works you’re required to produce.
LOWBALLING ISSUES ON CREATIVE FREELANCERS
Having done a couple of freelance graphic designing projects myself, I’ve had clients asking me why my rates are higher than other graphic designers.
That’s because I set my prices according to how much I value my art and how much time and effort is being put in to produce them.
How much should I charge as a creative freelancer?
Your rate = How much you value your art + How much effort is being put into the work + How much time is taken to complete the task (+ all the other miscellaneous things like materials, travel expenses, etc.)
Honestly, it’s not rocket science.
Even if you decide to go lower on your rates than usual for a particular project, your clients who are hiring based on “let’s take whoever is the cheapest” is going to find someone who charges less than you one day.
And the cold hard truth is that when they do find that person, they are going to drop you no matter how long you’ve worked with them.
However, after saying all that, your rates should also be of a reasonable amount. As much as you’re upset about how some clients are lowballing, you should not be charging $2000 per image just because you graduated from a photography school.
That was obviously an exaggerated example, but you get my point.
If you’ve worked on enough projects, you should be able to gauge the average price list of the other creatives living in your area. If not, here are some information to help you get started:
Average price list of Freelance Photographers in Singapore (SGD/per hr)
Amateur = $0 – $150
Semi-Pro = $150 – $250
Top-Professionals = $250 – $500
Average price list of Freelance Videographers in Singapore (SGD/per hr)
Amateur = $0 – $120
Semi-Pro = $120 – $280
Top-Professionals = $280 – $550
Average price list of Freelance Graphic Designers in Singapore (SGD/per hr)
Amateur = $0 – $60
Semi-Pro = $60 – $90
Top-Professionals = $90 – $150
Information gathered from Plexxie.
PRO-BONO PROJECTS: YES OR NO?
Being the one in charge of communicating with potential clients in Plexxie, an online Creative Marketplace with a social twist, the average amount of clients asking for pro-bono projects in exchange for exposure for our startup is 2 per month.
Doesn’t sound so bad? Multiply that by 12, and you’ll have a total of 24 clients in a year asking you to produce your work for free in exchange for “exposure”.
Let’s put aside how much you’ll be able to earn, and just calculate the amount of cost you’re going to have to come up with for each project.
It just doesn’t make sense to me that clients are taking the experience of working with them as a fair comparison with being paid.
I mean it is still entirely up to you to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the “opportunity.” I am not telling you that it is a complete no go, but you should also see if there is anything else they can offer that will be beneficial to you in your creative growth.
If it is your first few projects and you’re being offered to do a collaboration with a highly renowned company without much cost involved, then I’ll say go for it!You have to be strategic when it comes to building your portfolio, so think it through before accepting or rejecting a Client asking for free services.Click To Tweet
To summarize this whole article about understanding your rights as a Creative Freelancer, it is vital to protect yourself with a contract.
As I’ve mentioned above, no matter how big or small the project is, make sure that you have all the terms and conditions written down and signed by all parties involved. This serves as an indication of acknowledgment and agreement.
In the contract, you may state your expectations of how you’ll want the project to be handled concerning the project deliverables, time, payment deadline, interest rates, and more.
If you are still not sure about on how to go about drafting your first contract, you may download a free legal handbook for freelancers on the Law Society Pro Bono Services site.
Or you may sign up on Plexxie as a user and join our global Community of Creative Freelancers. Plexxie focuses on putting our Creatives first, working towards providing them with a constant flow of projects.
Being hired as a Creative freelancer through Plexxie, we make sure to protect your rights as a freelancer. We solve issues like late payment, insurance coverage and the copyright of your works.
Plexxie is also one of the Organisations that have adopted the Tripartite Standards for Media Freelancers, where it encourages fair and progressive employment practices by companies and to provide better support for media freelancers.
Find out more here: https://www.tafep.sg/procurement-services-media-freelancers.