Professional or Freelancer?
Twenty reminders of the importance of behaving the way you would like to be treated.
Just because you are independent doesn’t mean you’re an amateur. In fact, being independent should inspire you to ascend to new levels of professionalism never before attained. You need to forever retire the word “freelance” from your vocabulary. Even when using other independents to work with you on projects, you should never look for freelancers; you should look for professionals or independent contractors.
The word freelance has a stigma attached to it, partially because of the root word, “free.” This is never a good association when expecting to be paid a premium fee for your services. In addition, whether you like it or not, the word freelance is often equated to being a starving artist, unemployed or a moonlighter.
To be professional, you must exude professionalism from every facet of your business and every ounce of your being. You need to think and act like a professional to become one. Start practicing what you want to become and you will start attracting like-minded clients. It’s that simple. As you are making your permanent shift from freelancer to professional, it’s easy to fall back into old habits. It’s best to spell out these habits so you have a side-by-side comparison of what you should be doing versus what you shouldn’t be doing. Commit these 20 comparisons to memory and keep the list handy for future reference.
1. A professional is at his or her best all the time. A freelancer is at his or her best only when they feel inspired.
2. A professional instills confidence in everyone they meet. A freelancer leaves clients feeling uneasy and undecided.
3. A professional works with other professionals and reputable businesses. A freelancer works with struggling businesses, shaky startups and toxic clients.
4. A professional always delivers, no matter what. A freelancer looks for ways to make excuses for not producing on time or to spec.
5. A professional looks for solutions and what can be done. A freelancer looks at problems and why something can’t be done.
6. A professional is unflappable. A freelancer gets tripped up easily.
7. A professional is direct. A freelancer is wishy-washy.
8. A professional is confident. A freelancer is timid and eager to compromise.
9. A professional consults and directs a client. A freelancer lets the client micromanage them.
10. A professional meets problems head-on, eager to find a solution. A freelancer avoids problems and tries to sweep them under the rug, hop- ing never to deal with them.
11. A professional accepts quality projects for quality fees. A freelancer knowingly accepts projects for much less than they should.
12. A professional sends invoices. A freelancer asks for money in an email or text message.
13. A professional submits proposals for projects. A freelancer sends an estimate.
14. A professional provides contracts and project agreements for clients to sign. A freelancer doesn’t provide terms in writing.
15. A professional will occasionally email or call clients just to see how they are doing and to talk about non-work related items. A freelancer will only contact a client if they are looking for work.
16. A professional is constantly improving his or her craft by reading trade magazines, books, attending workshops and seminars, and seeking mentors. A freelancer is content with what he or she knows and doesn’t feel the need to grow.
17. A professional can negotiate a down payment before beginning production. A freelancer will produce and deliver all content before receiving any fees then hope the client will pay them later.
18. A professional will charge a rush fee for last-minute emergency requests from a client. A freelancer will drop what they are doing, work day and night, and make sacrifices for no additional fee.
19. A professional is happy to receive phone calls and will happily call clients to discuss any number of items. A freelancer prefers to hide behind email and resists talking to clients on the phone or in person.
20. A professional will re-negotiate the fee of a project if the client increases the scope after the contract is signed. A freelancer is afraid to re-negotiate and will produce the additional work for no additional fee.
Take an unflinching look at the above list and see where you stand. If any of your practices fall on freelance side of the fence, spend a great deal of time working to shift that practice to a professional level. Your business, reputation, and income depend on it. Martin Grebing is an award-winning animation director and producer who provides private consulting and is the president of Funnybone Animation, a boutique studio that produces animation for a wide range of clients and industries. He can be reached via www.funnyboneanimation.com.