Common worries when working for yourself (and how to handle them)

Getting paid, finding work, firing bad clients… these are all situations you’ll face as a freelancer. How do you prepare for them?

Our job is to help keep you in business during turbulent times so it’s safe to say we see the self-employed at their most vulnerable. We know what common anxieties freelancers face and have a good understanding of the problems you experience when working for yourself.

The good news is there are things you can do to make life easier for yourself, and there’s more help available than you probably realise.

“I’m worried about getting paid on time”

There are some horrible statistics around late payments for freelancers, so we won’t sugar coat this—it’s likely you will face payment issues at some point in your freelance career.

There’s plenty you can do to put yourself in the best position possible of getting paid, and there’s help available should you need to take things to the next stage.

Tips for getting paid

Everything boils down to the terms you have in your contract and sticking to them. When starting out it’s worth investing in a lawyer to draft a contract for you, or using a more affordable service like RocketLawyer or an existing template you can tweak.

  • Outline your payment terms including your right to charge interest on late payments, details around terminating a service for non-payment, and the frequency of payment
  • Include a Pause clause
  • Get access to legal documents like late payment reminder templates

Further help

If you’re still struggling to get paid it might be time to consider more serious options. These include:

Read our blog post for more details on what to do if a client isn’t paying.

“I’m worried about finding my next client”

When polling freelancers about their biggest anxieties, finding work came out top of the list.

Tips for finding work

“I’m worried about firing bad clients”

This is another dead cert when working for yourself. At some point you will have a client that’s more hassle than they’re worth and you’ll want to cut ties. How do you manage this situation with as little damage as possible? Yet again a lot of this traces back to the terms in your contract. Your life as a freelancer will be a lot smoother if you’ve invested in a good contract.

Tips for firing bad clients

  • Refer to your contract and outline the terms they’ve breached. This means you are not obligated to perform any outstanding obligations in the contract
  • Issue a ‘notice to terminate the contract’ to make it official
  • Keep everything in writing. You’re going to need an audit trail if your client wants to make life difficult
  • Your professional indemnity insurance should give you confidence standing up to difficult clients. If they take things further with a threat of legal action your insurer can help defend you

Further help

A lot of this boils down to having the confidence to set and stick to boundaries.

“I’m worried about staying on the right side of tax law”

The admin side of working for yourself is just as important and it’s crucial you stay on the right side of tax law. What’s needed here is a combination of education and an expert to keep you on the right side of your taxes.

Tips for understanding tax

“I’m worried about raising my rates”

As illustrator Paddy Donnelly once said to me, “I’m constantly evaluating my price. With each project I complete I’m learning new skills, sharpening my existing ones and gaining new experiences, so why should my price not follow suit and match my constantly evolving skill-set?”

This is a great point from Paddy. You’re constantly evolving as a freelancer—your prices should, too!

Tips for raising your rates

It can be scary notifying existing clients about a price increase, but as with most of freelancing it bodes well to be communicative and prepared. If you need more education around pricing then do your research, and prepare clear and short snippets to inform clients of the price change.

  • This is an excellent resource on negotiating pricing including mindset and useful phrases
  • Sean Wes has a course on pricing with confidence
  • Dan Mall has a book called Pricing Design
  • You will want to provide notice to existing clients. It helps to be clear and keep things to the point. “As of X date I’ll be raising my prices to £X. I’ll be continuing to deliver the same services and results I always have and I look forward to continuing to work together”
  • You might lose some clients. This is OK. As the Association of Illustrators says, “Clients who offer less satisfactory terms can sometimes turn out to be less satisfactory clients in other ways as well”. We can vouch for this. A lot of the claims we see at With Jack stem from clients undervaluing you

“I’m worried because my client is dissatisfied with my services”

Aha, now we’ve got to the part that is our bread and butter. Ideally we’d want to keep clients happy and prevent a relationship from breaking down. Most of this comes from making sure both freelancer and client are on the same page—everybody knows what work is to be delivered and when. This is why it’s so important to have good project management processes in place, so let’s start there.

Tips for keeping clients happy

  • Provide timelines with project milestones to keep both yourself and client on track
  • Details like delivery dates and scope of work should be agreed to before work begins
  • The project scope is really important. Detail what work you’ll be doing and how many rounds of revisions are included
  • Read our blog post on keeping projects on time and managing client expectations

Further help

For a myriad of reasons it’s not always possible to keep clients happy. If a relationship does break down you might need help to navigate a difficult situation

  • Speak to a legal expert for general legal advice on how to handle it (legal advice helpline included with your legal expenses insurance)
  • If a client is unhappy with your work and threatens legal action or tries to recover compensation from you, your professional indemnity insurance can help

We asked ourselves one important question…

What do we want out of an insurance provider?

With Jack is the answer