I must make a note to self it seems… I’m getting slack with my posts after just one week. I will blame it on the current upswing in the number of jobs I have and tell you a little bit about the freelancing life. I did make a note right at the start that I would share some of my own experiences and I guess now is that time – to share a little about some of the absolute trials of my current professional situation and some of the reasons I only work part-time.
The Sine Curve of Fortune
I’m sure you all know about the sine curve? If you don’t, it’s really just a continuous wave that rises above and falls below the horizontal axis on a graph. Rise up, fall below, rise up, fall below. It rises and falls an equal amount each time – never changes, remains constant. But how does this relate to freelancing? The sine curve of fortune as I call it, being from a math background, really just relates to the good times and the hard times.
As a freelancer, it is inevitable that there are times when you will have plenty of work and times when there really isn’t much at all. I’ve been on the low curve of the sine wave for the last month or so with exams and assignments due for university, but now that I am finished with all that (Yippee!), my sine curve has started to rise above that all-important horizontal axis once more.
It is important to make allowances for this at all times, when you are “up” it is a good idea to save your spare pennies and remain frugal in your spending because all too soon, along comes another “low” and the bills still need paying, you still need to eat and sleep and do all those other essential tasks. (Another name for this is the “feast or famine” cliché – I saw this in Freelance Writing Gigs here).
I’m sure every freelance writer has one of these stories – where they created a sample or did some work expecting to be paid and it turned out to be a scam or the client turned out to be bogus. Even I have my fair share after just seven months in the business so far. And it usually is the newbies who suffer from this one; although some more experienced freelancers can also be naïve enough to fall into the trap.
I have often been asked to submit samples in relation to submitting proposals for jobs, and I have always been careful to never give a complete sample – I did manage to read that titbit before I landed myself in the deep end. However, I often noticed that the jobs I applied for that asked for those samples were often the ones that closed without a freelancer being selected to complete the job, almost as if someone had made the mistake of submitting the whole as a sample and been naïve enough to think they would then get paid.
There was one job that I learned from very quickly – it was actually my second job on Elance although you won’t see it listed under my job history. And this is because I was never accepted for the job before I began working on it. It was a bunch of legal transcriptions and there were a group of eight or nine of us from around the world working to try and complete the work before the lawyer had to be at the courthouse in the morning. Well, we worked hard and completed most of the transcriptions but there was a sudden radio silence from the lawyer. We tried emails to him to ask for payment, asking what had happened, etc – nothing. The one or two experienced Elancers who’d been accepted for the job reported him to the site and got him banned, but none of us got paid for the work that we did.
It was about a month later when we all finally got an email from him explaining what had happened. He said his computer had been confiscated as part of the legal proceedings and that he had had no way of contacting us or arranging payment of any sort. I didn’t know whether to believe him or not, but he seemed like a decent guy under a lot of pressure – maybe he was telling the truth, maybe not. I guess I’ll never know, but I did learn never to start work on a job in future until I have been awarded the job and had the client guarantee a payment method.
The Pay Debate
Taking a rip-off of the Tui (beer) ads here in New Zealand: Freelancers get paid more? Yeah Right! This is such a big issue in my books. There are clients who think it is ok to pay $20 to have someone proofread 200 typed pages for them. There are also freelancers out there who are either so desperate for jobs they’ll do anything to get a few cents or they just don’t value themselves highly enough. I come across this far too often and I have a funny feeling I do it myself sometimes too.
To me though, it is a little more justifiable for a freelancer to undervalue their own worth than for a client to so grossly undervalue a contractor’s time. I have seen numerous job postings asking for contractors to bid as low as possible to get the job. Others say they’re willing to pay $0.50 per 500 word article and they want 20 articles within a day. How on earth do they expect people to live off that? It’s ridiculous.
No matter how ridiculous the clients’ demands get, there are still contractors willing to bend over backwards to do the job. Contractors from the Philippines, Kenya and India will gratefully do any sort of work for next to nothing because the jobs are awarded in US dollars and even just $3-$10 per day is a fortune to them. They can afford to bid low, but come on clients, what about the rest of us who can’t afford that?
Do you have any experience of these issues in your line of work? What did you do about it? Share in the comments.