When to say Yes and No to a Project
How do you say no? There are two phrases that we need to learn as freelancers that are really important. The first one is "I don't know," and the second one is, "No." 'Cause we think in our heads, I have to know everything. I don't. So it's easier to go, "I don't know," 'cause maybe they'll teach me. Or maybe I'll go figure it out and I'll come back and I'll say this is actually the rate I should charge you 'cause I've learned that. And to say, "No." So when do we say no? I say no when I'm not capable of doing the job. "I don't think I can do this, but I have someone in my network who can." 'Cause the worst is, and I've done this, I'll be like, "Yes, I can do that." And they immediately find out that I can't. Or they're like, when I first, when my company started building, I was hiring freelancers and I wasn't huge but I had great marketing, so I had a great team. So people would hire me and thought I was really big and I'd be like, "Yes, we can!" And then I had no trucks rolling up to...
show up and do the job, right? So you have to think about that. If clients' requests are not possible. If you can't fit it into your schedule is another one. Or if they have a really low rate. Those are some reasons why I would say no. And then you have to set boundaries. "We didn't actually agree to this work," 'cause that's a big one. "But you said," or, "I need," or "I want," so that's another one. And then another that I usually say no to is when a client doesn't know what they want. 'Cause if I meet with someone and they say, "I need you. I want you to do this," and I say, "Great, what do you need me for, what do you want?" And they're not sure. I don't accept the job until we're sure. 'Cause what that turns into, this weird relationship of, "You're not doing what I'm paying you for!" But nobody knows what you're paying me for. So that's the best, that's such a fun conversation when they're like, "I'm not writing you a check!" And I'm like, "You have to write me a check, I've been working for you." "But you haven't done anything!" "You didn't tell me to do anything!" So you wanna make sure you have that conversation and know what they're doing, so you don't say no. Does that make sense? Excellent. Is this helpful? I like to ask if this is helpful. All right, so I always do this other exercise. This is the end of the day for me, or the end of the week for me. I like three things. Write down three things you learned about freelancing today, and then write down three things you learned about yourself today, 'cause as I was talking, a lot of you were like, "Ahh," and I saw your eyes light up like, "I do that," or, "I don't do that." So if you write three things about yourself and three things you learned about freelancing, I do this every week at the end of the week and I write down those things. Because if I learned something like, I'm not very good this, I get to put a plan of action together to get better at it. If I learn I'm really good at this, I go out and do it more and I practice it more. I'm really good at testing with people, so that's what I do. It's a great way for you to start to look at what you're building. Usually when I look at what did I learn about this thing this week, I get to add it to my hard or soft skills. So when I go back to my brand and who I am to clients, I get to add more hard and more soft skills to that. So that's something I love to do. Thank you very much. My first internet class. (applause)
Well, we've got some time for some questions here,
Great let's have some questions.
If anybody in the studio audience has any that came up.
How do you determine a payment plan? Like, obviously a client will always want to be like, "I'll pay you everything when you're done with it."
But like, you don't want that.
Right. So, upfront, when you're a new freelancer, it's really hard because you want to do the job, but you also need to earn money. So I like a plan, if I can do it, where I can do, "This is what we consider or what we agree to the payment for," and I like half up front, especially when I'm using my own equipment. 'Cause as a freelancer you don't have any cash to operate until you start to grow your business. So if you're looking to ... and this is kind of a rule of thumb, if you're looking to freelance full-time, a rule of thumb is have three months salary in the bank.
But if you're just doing side-hustle, I will ask for 50% up front, if it's a project, and then for me, in my contract I state remainder when I actually deliver. As my company grew, we became net 30, or net 15 based on companies 'cause I was working for larger organizations, but you get to decide. It's your choice, right? So part of negotiation, when you're negotiating salary, you're not just negotiating your rate, whether it's project, day, or hourly. What you're negotiating is what the net pay is and when it's paid, what the timeline is, right? You get to negotiate how you're getting paid, who's paying you. I like to negotiate who's signing off on the work and how it's being signed off on, 'cause what I learned early on was someone would be like, "You didn't do this, you didn't do this." And I was like, "But so-and-so signed off on it." "Oh, they're not the person who signs off on it." So I make sure I know everything about that and I say, "This is exactly what it is." So you can negotiate all of that. So for me, I started out 'cause I was like, "I need money to live." And then as it grew and the business grew, it became more, "How am I attracting larger corporate clients who are paying net 15 or net 30?" So it just depends on that. And the other side of it was, if I had a client who I liked, but they were ever not paying on time, then I stipulated I would like all of it upfront until we come to an agreement. And it's an uncomfortable conversation, but you have to have it. So it's worked out pretty well for me, and I've usually not had an issue with it. But it's hard, 'cause you don't get paid to collect. You can't write a bill. You can say, and I used to have like, "Here's a percentage late fee that you get," but it's really hard to collect that, and you don't get paid when you're chasing after people. That's why part of the conversation when you classify your client. How difficult are they gonna be to pay it? So you get to choose.
Do you have any suggestions on tracking those billable hours? Do you use software or are you just keeping track in a spreadsheet, on paper?
Yeah, there's a lot of things you can use. There's websites out there and apps that you can use to actually calculate your rate. Like YourRate or Motive or things like that, you can do that. But for me, whenever I start with a new client, I actually track. I like Google Sheets, 'cause I'm old-school, so I will just track hours and what I did, but there are actually, there's online software and there are calculators. What you're talking about really is project management.
When you freelance, you gotta learn how to project manage, so like FreshLook, or Freshbooks, Quickbooks, there are other types of software out there that are great for you to project manage, because the goal is multiple projects. So you gotta look at how many hours I'm spending, and it's not necessarily 'cause you're charging an hourly rate, you might charge a project rate. But what we're looking at is this idea of, "I want to make sure my estimates are correct." If I look at the projects for me, did it take close to the hours I estimated, or was I way off? It's great if I'm way off where it took me a lot less time, but if it took me a lot more time, then you're a little sad at the end of the project. So yeah. Project management software. Get used to that. When I first started, 'cause I'm a lot older than everyone here, I used a notebook, and I was like, "Here's what I'm working on now, and here's what I'm doing here." But I made sure I could get back to it.
You mentioned earlier on how you were kinda doing many different jobs. You freelanced in many areas. This question was originally posted by Sonia, and she says, "How do you get that confidence to move so easily from one thing to the next and to take courage on a new freelance endeavor?" How do you do that?
How do you build up that skill?
Well I think part of it is recognizing that we all have skills that we're good at. And this idea of growth mindset, that I can get better at it, and so take everything you've learned through your life and utilize it in some way or another. For me, at times it was freelancing for survival, 'cause I was trying to do something new, and other times it was, "I'm gonna build this business, 'cause now I want a little bit of comfort level." So it comes with practice. This idea of the first time I try it has to be perfect doesn't exist. So, if for Sonia, or anybody, what you really want to do is look at it and test it. Like I said, no one is out there judging you going, "Listen, the first time you tried to freelance didn't go so well, so you probably shouldn't do it again." What actually will happen is your network will say, "Great job, how can I help you?" And usually what happens is you become successful so that everyone around you goes, "How about you add this service, and I work with you, and I become your partner and I do this." So you have to just practice. You have to be willing to go out there and say to people, "I want to do this for you, and let's figure out how it can work." I have no idea sometimes when I meet with people, and they're like, "I want this done." I don't know, but I'm willing to sit down and figure out and say, "This is what I charge for this thing, let's figure it out." So you can play around with it, because everybody has a skill. There is something for every one of us to do, right? And it doesn't have to be something we've seen that other people do, but you can practice it and attempt it and try it. If it doesn't work out, there's been things I've offered, services I've offered where I was like, "Hmmm, not a big seller." I like to call those the new Coke version of some of the things that I do. I'm like, "Hey, I've repackaged." Not so great. So what I do now is I look at it and I go, "Great, I tested it." Corporations do that. They try something, it doesn't work. And then you move on. And then you go, "Ooh, that was not such a great thing." It's hard sometimes 'cause we think if I'm doing that, money is so critical. I have to earn, I have to earn, I have to earn. You also have to realize, your reputation builds. If you show up and you do quality work, and people enjoy working with you, that builds. And then you can say, "I kinda wanna move it in this direction," 'cause it took me a while to go, "What do I like doing? What am I really good at?" I just know, for me, I was like, "I don't think I want to work a full-time job for a while." And so I sort of evolved into, "I do this really well." And for me, my strengths are in communication and in managing people. So I took those skills and I built out on them, and I used what I know, you know? I learned skills ... Like I can tell you right now, when I was a kid, every time I left the house to go do something with my friends, my dad would be like, "Wait a second. I'm changing the oil in the car. Wait a second. We're gonna rewire the bedroom." And I'd be like, "Ugh!" But those skills saved my life when I was acting, because I did that to pay the bills, so take advantage of them.