Many years ago I went from being a long time government and corporate employee to being a freelance consultant. It was a choice made by me so I could have more flexibility for my children. As they got older my availability increased which allowed me to take on more work. Sounds all good and dandy until you start to realize everyone wants your services but no one wants to pay you.

I have consistently kept two on-time paying clients over the last few years but my work load suggests a lot more than that. Why? Either I get someone who “hires” me and never pays /pays sporadically or I get the “will you help me out as a friend” line. I find that I am typically working for about 4-5 clients every month. Keep in mind only two are paying me.

I do, on my own, choose to work with at least one charity voluntarily at all times. This is my choice and it’s usually a non-profit with a low budget that truly benefits from free services. I LOVE volunteering. I truly do. It’s why I always have one that I’m helping. They are charities, they do not “profit” from my work. Someone in need does.

When a “friend” asks for the same thing it becomes tiresome. I used to say yes every time. I used to work for free to build up my resume. I was okay with that. It truly benefited me to learn and grow. However, I am far past the internship phase of my career and I’ve certainly earned my stripes. I deserve to make money the same way the person asking me to help intends for their businesNow don’t get me wrong, I’m all about trade. If you have a service or product and want to trade my services for yours, let’s do it. I think that’s a great way to save money for your business but if you have nothing to offer me other than, it will be great on your resume, I’m sorry my resume is great on its own. There is a reason you’re coming to me to begin with right?

Here’s my next gripe as a freelancer, salary. I often read articles telling me not to take less than I’m worth. If you’re struggling every month to make ends meet you kind of have to take less. Unless you’re as established as Amazon people don’t like to pay the big dollars. Everyone wants to say, “support small business” until it’s time for them to support small business. I’ve learned I was guilty of that myself. Now I hire those that have helped me in the past.

I know everything I’ve mentioned here is a struggle most freelance workers experience. Believe me, we talk. I see it mostly in the arts and in marketing. I have found people are willing to pay for technology. I’ve even learned to use that to fill gaps in short months. I can build a website or do video/audio editing. People pay for that. Why they don’t think marketing and public relations are worth paying for (but clearly they know they need it since they’re coming to me all the time) I’ll never understand. I also see the same for photographers all the time. Again, I was guilty at one time.

The entire point of this post is to share the struggles of being a small business owner. To show that my time is as valuable as yours and shares in your company doesn’t help pay my bills. If you approach me for free services please ask yourself these questions first:

  1. Can you afford to start your own business?
  2. Why do you need my services?
  3. Do you have something to offer me in exchange for my time?
  4. Do you think your time is more valuable than mine?
  5. Are you willing to pay a bigger company? If so, why? and why not me?
  6. Why are you coming to me specifically?
  7. What makes my service of value to you?
  8. Is this something you can do on your own? Why or why not?
  9. Do you have the money to pay me if you do hire me?
  10. Will you benefit more from my work/time than I will?