Thoughts About Freelancing in 2020.

I came across a thread of tweets from Arit Okpo (@thearitokpo). She was sharing her thoughts on what would help most freelancers and self-employed people on how to handle clients and navigate the market too as they prepare for this 2020.

Having worked in the gig economy for close to three years, I found her thoughts intriguing. There are many challenges I have faced while dealing with clients as a freelancer in Nairobi. A majority of these challenges cut across the creative industry regardless of your specialty.

I have rephrased his statements, but you can check her Twitter account for the original tweets:

  1. Make sure all your communication with clients is written down. If you have a phone conversation, as soon as it ends, send an email along the lines of “as per our conversation….” End it with something that indicates their response is needed before continuing. You can draft something like, “Looking forward to your OK on this so that we can proceed.”

Such documentation enables you to avoid what we normally call “he/she said situations.” You avoid situations where the client (says they) didn’t see your email and so can’t fulfill certain terms. Make sure you have discussed all your obligations before agreeing on a fee. So if you are a photographer, you know that the fee agreed on includes (for instance) — portraits, editing, printing, and delivery.

2. Calculate the unit value of the service you’re offering. This is one of the most daunting decisions I have to make as a creative in the gig economy. Do you value your time by the hour? — Do you have a base unit for 1 hour and scale accordingly? Make sure you have a way you can measure. If you provide different services, it’s okay to have different rates per service. Just make sure it’s an accurate value of your time. And it’s okay for this value to evolve — start from somewhere and correct as you go. For instance, you can have different rates for content creation and social media marketing while handling a specific client though they sound like a single service. (For some people they do.)

3. Make sure you create a detailed description of your work that is an effective mission statement.” I am an event planner” is good. “I create intimate, spontaneous experiences that ensure a great time and lots of happy memories” is even better. Your description paints a picture of your services and also guides you so that you know what jobs are right for you. Again, it’s okay to start broad and evolve and refine as you identify where you are at your best.

4. Start creating a repository of your work. This depends on the nature of your work. Several online and offline platforms can be used. Voice artists will use platforms such as SoundCloud or YouTube, photographers, on the other hand, will prefer Instagram, a physical showroom or even having a personal website. Devote a time (once a month?) to update and edit as needed.

5. Remember the HR handbooks you get in corporate settings? What is your code of conduct? What are the things you need/will not work with? It can be something as simple as — All jobs must be booked and paid for at least 48 hours in advance or maybe you do not start a job with a certain percentage of deposit having been paid. How many revisions can you offer and at what expense? Give yourself a structure. Find out what you need to streamline your service and create a code that guides you across the board.

6. Remember that you are the one wearing your shoes. Don’t use other people as a yardstick. Challenge yourself of course, but decide what looks like growth for YOU. If you’re starting as an event host, is it progress if you do 1 event a month? Let that be your yardstick. Don’t feel bad because the clients you’ve been hoping for called John instead of you. Create your markers, so that you don’t get distracted by chasing other people’s parameters.

The last one, celebrate your wins. Freelance work is unpredictable enough and other dependent enough to give you pressure. Find a way to chronicle, celebrate and revel in your wins. There will be more than enough time to wonder why client B didn’t come back, celebrate client A first.

May 2020 be good to us, may we be fulfilled and happy as we secure the bag. May we excel in our work and expand our client list. May both our work and our cheques be premium. May there be growth.

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