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🚩 Hey fish, what do you think are red flags to watch out for on a freelance project? 🚩

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The project no one wants to work on. While that can be an opportunity to get foot in door, you have to ask questions to protect yourself. Look out for anything that has you being thrown to the lions. Ultimately a project for which you’ll be the scapegoat when it comes to a head with clients. Even for someone good at fixing messes and setting a course, some projects are too far gone and the agency is just running its course to the grave.

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Flat project rates are a definite no and a total ripoff. A small pitch could be one thing for a week of work, it’s a whole different story when booked on a project. Project rates are definitely meant to benefit the company vs freelancer providing services. Also if they force you to go on payroll vs invoicing, that is a whole other nightmare to deal and underpayment always happens. Either negotiate a day rate, establish for yourself what is your absolute reasonable lowest you can go in the event of being hired for a low budget job as well as your most ideal, in addition to setting an hourly rate and an hourly OT rate. Sometimes some places will let you charge a day rate for 8-10 hours and charge OT hourly after 10 hours or charge a higher day rate when working OT. Like if your day rate is $1000/10, you can change maybe $1,500/11+ as an example. It might even be helpful to make a rate sheet for yourself. Make sure to get any booking confirmations in writing, with an email confirming your booking dates and rate for the project as well as your role on the project. Another red flag, I use to be a creative resource manager. Last agency I worked with, I did a lot of negotiations with freelance creatives and have always tried to make as smooth as possible for them. I would always get mad at project leads as they would say they only needed someone at 50% capacity for x number of weeks and try to negotiate a flat rate when it quickly became a 100% commitment and we would have to renegotiate and do back pay. It was a nightmare and I hated doing that to freelancers. It wasn’t fair to them at all and it was just poor agency project management. In the event that they are asking for expecting 25-50% commitment on a project, I would ask about your budgeted/bucketed hours and deliverables and make sure you understand what’s expected of you for any receipts you might need later.

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Establish your POC. Outline your scope, deliverables in advance via email. It allows you to point to the email if they ever switch it up on you. Agree on payment terms via email. Always bring up money on first convo. Have everything in writing. If they want you in the office.. that’s a red flag. that’s the old way of working. They’re stuck in the past. Watch out for contract clauses like one-sided “kill fees”.

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Defining scope/timeline: depends on your profession. I’m able to do that will all my jobs. Charge more for in-office. I always do.

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Multiple delayed kickoffs.

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How so?

If billing a flat fee for the project, ALWAYS get a deposit before work begins. No exceptions. Get a 50% deposit if it’s a small project; 1/3 deposit if it’s a large project. Establish a payment schedule - net 30 if they are willing to accept it. Outline the scope in writing. If there’s scope creep, bring it up ASAP. Ask for more budget, or offer to replace deliverable A for new deliverable B.

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Hourly rates

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Because a lot of the time they’ll have rules around it like “ask permission from your manager before going over” or they want to nickel and dime your hours like “oh well you’re only technically needed an hour or a half day here and there”

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Not getting any background/context on the project or client. I’m totally ok with and accustomed to diving in headfirst, but it’s going to go way more smoothly if I get at least the bare minimum info, like who I’m working with and presenting to.

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Changing your agreed hourly rate down by 30% two days before you start when you could’ve taken better paying gigs. Thanks Digitas!

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Typical

Inside IR 35 for all you fish in UK waters

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IR 35 is a tax system for freelancers. It’s designed to stop those on long-term contracts billing through ltd companies (which have tax advantages). Because agencies and many clients don’t want to risk assessing every freelancer on an individual basis they often have blanket inside IR 35 rules. This means that you have to bill through an umbrella company and pay National Insurance contributions for both yourself and your employer. So, in short, you get hammered on tax. It’s annoying because most freelancers could make a good case to be outside IR 35 and enjoy the tax benefits of this. I’ve found that the best thing to do is to have a higher ‘Inside IR35’ rate to compensate. Btw, I’m a creative not an accountant so bear that in mind! Good luck !

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I will say the only exception to day rate is when you’re permalance. Generally they’re hourly but you always bill 40 hrs and rarely work overtime but when you do it’s time and a half.

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No project schedule.

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If they ask you to strip naked for some test photos. I won’t be tricked by that for a fourth time.

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CEO surprised me on the intro call then started emailing other people on the team with me cc’d, calling me the new copywriter right after, before we had ever agreed on a scope or official rate.

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This JUST happened to me. When I told them I couldn’t take the job they freaked and said, but you’ve already met the client! 😳

“Should you be interested, kindly apply on the link provided”

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Can’t stand when I get these!

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You rock

Always put them on your paper (agreement). They can ask for reasonable edits but always yours.

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