• Jenny Stallard

Freelance client red flags for rates and payments: Spot them, deal with them!


Red flags are often talked about in dating. Things we need to look out for when it comes to someone who might, for example, gaslight us or ghost us, or someone who might be the wrong person for us.


And it's the same in business - we can be gaslit, or professionally ghosted, or end up working with a client who isn't a good fit.


It's especially hard when cold hard cash is involved!


Here are my top three freelance red flags when it comes to finances and payments or rates, and how to navigate them when you do see them:


Red Flag #1: They say they love you, your work and your, well everything - but they just can't pay what you're asking.

Alarm bells here to the client who seems to be saying you are EVERYTHING they need and want, but that the price for the aforementioned genius you offer is, well, too high.

The best way to address this is to politely walk away.

You could offer to work to their budget, reducing the work you do, but this is a red flag for me because it also implies they think you should offer your work for less than you do.


Red Flag #2: They offer to pay in exposure or products

The quick way of reasoning with this one is that you can't then pay the bills with those products!

If a client, say, wants your services in return for their hat/shoes/craft business, and says you can have some hats/shoes/craft, that's a red flag. If a client offers to pay you in their product for web design, also not good. Services are paid for in money! Try not to blur the lines - it's best to politely turn down any freebies if they're your client.

If they need social media support, they should pay you in money, not earrings. Same goes for copywriting, design and so on. Skills swaps are different here - they can often be worth your while but be sure you are skill swapping on a fair level!


Red Flag #3: They ask you to do a lot of work before commissioning you to do paid work.

Like, could you write these three blog posts, and if we like them, we'll commission you to do 7 more?

Or, if you could just do an example of your work for us, with our brand, then we can decide if we want to work with you.

Your social media, website and portfolio should showcase what you do for them.

And you can always show them a freelance CV if you have one (if not, come to one of my workshops!).

Use this analogy: You don't get a tiler to tile the bathroom and then decide if you like the tiles or their work. You agree on a price beforehand based on meeting them. Creative freelancing shouldn't be any different.


Have you got client red flags, confusion and chaos in your freelance life?

Get in touch to talk about your red flags and how coaching can help you deal with tricky clients, setting rates and making business plans that work for you!




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