8 things freelancers need to start saying now

  1. “I need more info.”

Sometimes clients have the best intentions. They have the work. They have the money to pay for it. And they want a professional. The only problem? They don’t know how to brief the professional. And they run the risk that you will dive into the work without knowing all you need to – culminating in a deliverable that no-one’s proud of.

Don’t be shy to ask for more info. And to keep asking til you get what you need to produce quality work.

  1. “That’s exactly my area of expertise.”

This one has worked well for me over the years. If a client comes to me with the kind of work I a) do really well or b) really love doing, it’s always a good idea to tell him that.

Obviously doing so builds enormous credibility, but it also makes you seem enthusiastic and capable. Even grateful (but never, never, never desperate) for the work.

  1. “I don’t do that.”

I got a call today from a seriously big fish with a massively big job and a whopping budget. There was also real potential for cross-selling them on my training offering. (It even said so in the Terms of Reference.)

The only problem? The big-budget jobbie was something I don’t really do.

Yes, it’s editing. But it’s high-level, heavily technical, radically pecuniary, enormously complex financial reporting. NOT my area. So I politely declined to quote, explained why and wished them luck. And I felt good about it.

  1. “I’m sorry.”

Because freelancers are so often creatives, we tend to get passionate/precious/territorial about our masterpiece output. So when the client doesn’t dig it, we get sad/mad/rude.

Learning to say, ‘I’m sorry you don’t like this – let’s see what we can do to fix it…’ has been a hard one for me. But it works.

Please note: I only apologise when I’m actually in the wrong. Which, granted, doesn’t happen to me all that often 😉

  1. “I’d like to try.”

Client: ‘Ever done a hard-sell, direct-approach TV ad?’

Me: ‘Nope. But I’ve done other TV. And loads of radio. I’m keen to try.’

So I did. And it was not only fun but also successful. Client loved it. And now I’m doing a fair bit of hard-sell, direct-approach TV work. Which I love.

Disclaimer: You, not the client, know your capability best. So only agree to try something new if you strongly suspect that you can do it.

  1. “the office”

If you’re a freelancer, you’re a small business owner. So there’s no need – ever – to use the word ‘home’ when referring to your workplace. Whether you’re at your dining room table, at a coffee shop or in bed, it’s ‘the office’. Got it? Unless the client is coming there to meet you, in which case it’s a good idea to be honest about where they’ll find you (ideally not in bed).

  1. “The scope of this project is creeping.”

Just like #1, this one’s your responsibility. Mostly. Because only you can accurately identify the point/s at which the quote and the project are travelling along different paths. Or in completely different directions. If there’s scope-creep, you have two options: Be honest with client and try to do something about it. Or just say it to yourself, suck it up and don’t be resentful.

  1. “No.”

Whether you’re saying ‘No’ to an unrealistic deadline, a ridiculous rate offer, a dinner out when you have other stuff to do, an unfeasible project, a client who breaks your b***s and deserves to be fired, or even the gorgeous little kid who is frantic to climb into your lap while you work, you’re allowed to do it.

You’re not letting anyone down. You’re (probably) not being unreasonable. You owe it to yourself, and to your small business, to say Yes to the right things and No to the wrong things. The trick is deciding which is which.

‘A conclusion’, you say? No. I’m sorry. I don’t do that. [See what I did there?]

* A version of this article originally appeared on freelancentral.co.za.