Pro­fes­sional or Free­lancer?

Twenty re­minders of the im­por­tance of be­hav­ing the way you would like to be treated.

Animation Magazine - - Opportunities -

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.

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