How To Avoid Freelancing For Free

What is the one thing that a freelancer,  a blogger and a recent graduate have in common? They all hate being told to work for free, or for exposure or for a discount on whatever product a company wants them to review. It’s annoying when people underestimate the time and effort that goes into curating content. There’s coming up with a concept and a plan, stuff creating the actual work, and then the extras like finding images to go with it, editing and marketing the content. Now would you want to go through all of that, to receive nothing in the end? Working in a creative field is hard enough, especially when you don’t have experience, so you have two options before going after the big jobs, freelancing or doing an internship!

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Internships are defined as an opportunity offered by an employer to potential employees, called interns, to work at a firm for a fixed, limited period of time. Internships are great because not only do you get to work in the field you want, you also get to learn from the people who are succeeding in it. Usually shorter internships are unpaid, which is annoying but understandable as they’ll usually pay expenses, but longer ones (usually longer than 3 months) are usually paid. So imagine my excitement when I had found a 3 month internship where the company insisted on paying me for my work!

It started off well but problems came more than halfway through the internship when I asked about when I would be paid. I had missed other red flags but finally caught on when I kept hearing wishy washy answers by the manager. The worst thing about the situation wasn’t even not getting paid. The worst thing was not being respected enough to be told or to even try to figure out a plan of how this would be resolved. I had spent my time and my money travelling to a place owned by a person who even to this day doesn’t seem to value my time or my skills.

When someone takes advantage of you, it’s not something you forget in a hurry. It can make you feel like an idiot, you may even start blaming yourself. What companies know and don’t what to admit themselves is that they need freelancers. Freelancers cost less than hiring a full time employee, they don’t necessarily receive the same benefits and can help small businesses grow before they’re ready to scale up.

There are ways to protect yourself and make sure that you get recognised and paid for all your hard work:

  • Always keep a record of what work you’re doing. This means keeping record of exactly what job they want to pay you for, any contact you have with them, any contracts and details of the hours you spent. That way if an employer or a client tries to go back on the agreement, you have the proof. No one can dispute anything in writing!
  • Have the client pay some of the money up front. You are not a debt collector and you shouldn’t have to chase ‘professionals’ for your hard-earned money. Make sure that you have a clear deposit rate and that when you send the final invoice, you follow up with the client. That way, they will only have a portion to pay once the work is finished and you won’t be waiting for a huge lump amount.
  • Stay in contact. This way they can’t forget to pay you for your work. This also ensures that you have evidence that shows you did all you could to get your payment, should things go south.
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If all else fails, get in contact with Citizens Advice Bureau or the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), they will speak with you and the client and help to bring a resolution. As cliché as this sounds, keep believing that your talent is worth paying for and demand more for your work, the person asking for that commission needs your work just as much as you do!


Written by Ife Adedoyin 

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