Freelancer vs Free Work

As a freelancer, you may have faced a time (or two) when a client didn’t want to pay. A recent situation prompted me to talk about a common problem freelancers face.

Just like the days of Napster (remember that?), people tend to think it’s still OK to use photos, files, wording, etc. even if they don’t own it. Newsflash, Facebook sharers, you can’t just snag someone’s photo and use it for yourself. Someone took the time to create that wonderful piece of art and taking it without paying for it is uncool. Just like stealing isn’t cool, neither is using someone’s services and not paying.

Recently, someone called me to ask for some advice. They were frustrated because some software wasn’t working on their operating system. I felt her pain so I stayed on the phone for two hours with her trying to sort out the issue. We went over different things she could try and what to do. It turns out, she was trying to use old software (from 2008) on a newer system (from 2017). Well, that just wasn’t going to work no matter how hard I worked my magic.

I had a feeling she wouldn’t be on board with paying me after hearing that, so I sent her an email a few days later. It started out by asking how things were going and then I nonchalantly brought up her total. Her reply was surprising. She told me her issue wasn’t fixed and she feared she would have to reach out to Apple Support through the 800 number.

Hold on, backup… what? I had to check myself there. I am way more knowledgeable than someone at the other end of the 800 line. I have had years of training, extensive training in fact with Apple to offer concierge support services. Needless to say, I wasn’t paid for my time and I learned a valuable lesson.

Here are my key takeaways as a freelancer:

  • Time is money.

  • Build relationships and accountability with clients.

  • You can choose who you want to work with. Avoid toxic working situations.

  • Set up your pay structure so you get paid as soon as possible.

  • Realize it’s not your fault.

Working as a freelancer is super rewarding but you need to have systems and policies in place so you don’t get burned out and begin to resent your job. Take the time to search out your perfect clients and then take some more time to build a relationship with them. Understanding their pain points and how they work is fundamental in providing the best work you can. Respect their time but also respect yours. Don’t agree to let someone “pick your brain” or keep you on the phone for hours with a support issue. Chances are, they don’t respect your time and won’t pay you and nobody has time for that.


Sara GeppComment