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How to Keep Your Sanity as a Freelancer (Part 2) by Kristin Price

Edge Studio

Part 2: Once you’re busy, stay in control

Depending on where you are in your career, you might be amused by the concept of being “too busy.” Maybe your response is, “Bring it on!”

Good for you. But in taking on clients, don’t fall into a trap similar to the one I’ve described above. Beware of several stress-causing, time-wasting scenarios that are very common.

Scenario 1: Overly-Demanding Low-Budget Jobs. Sometimes lower-budget clients are less organized, which can lead to unanticipated re-records due to script changes or indecision about the delivery style. These lower-budget jobs can still be a great way to get experience and build your confidence. And to be fair: there are also lower-budget clients who are quite lovely to work with. But make sure they aren’t crowding out the market-rate ones! Having five $50 jobs in a day is much more stressful than one $300 job … and makes you less money. If those $50 jobs hurt your ability to land the $300+ jobs, it’s time to re-focus your marketing. You may need to (ahem) “break up with” (some would say “fire”) a client or two. There’s no need to trot out the “it’s not you, it’s me” spiel. Simply thank them profusely for the work and explain that you need to raise your rates. Perhaps you’ll share a digital handshake and part ways … or maybe they’ll offer to pay you more!

Scenario 2: Time-Zone Confusion. Suppose you’ve promised to deliver audio by 5 p.m. on Tuesday. At 2:05, the client sends a furious email wondering why you missed the deadline. Oops! You forgot to specify that you meant 5 p.m. in your time zone! To prevent this embarrassment, be sure that your location and time zone are easy to see on your website, and don’t depend on your client having seen or remembered it. Always double-confirm deadlines, specifically.

Scenario 3: Last-Minute Panics. Let’s say you receive a call or e-mail from a panicked client who must have a finished presentation by tomorrow morning. It is currently 7 p.m., and you were about to shut down your computer and go out to dinner with your significant other. Do you accommodate the client? That’s up to you. But my recommendation is … don’t do it. Sure, there are people who would, and you may lose the job to one of them — but sometimes it’s more important to have date night. Trust me.

There will always be emergency exceptions. A last-minute fix before a program’s launch may require some off-hours work; an evening e-mail from your agent may require immediate confirmation of availability for the next day. That’s OK. Just try not to make a habit of it. Because if you do, so will your client.

Scenario 4: “Sure, I can fit that in.” We never want to say “no” to a job. It hurts. It’s tough. But sometimes it’s the smartest thing to do. And remember that editing will always take longer than you think. When estimating the time a job will take, give yourself a generous cushion; if you finish more quickly, the client will be thrilled to receive the audio earlier than promised.

It is amazingly easy to get into a mindset where it seems you need to be available at all times, doing anything possible to please people. After all, great customer service is the name of the game, right? Sure, I’m all for that … within reason.

Find a time to shut it off and “come home” from that home office. Otherwise, your brain will never relax. You’ll always be in “work mode.” Your stress level will climb, and it will prevent you from enjoying time with family and friends. Ironically, it can even confuse you and your workday enough that client service suffers. Exactly what you intended to avoid.

So, go ahead and put an out-of-office response on your e-mail at “closing time.” Try looking at that smart phone once an hour instead of every 5 minutes. Go to a movie. Go to your daughter’s soccer game.

Go have a life. One way or another, attention to time management and a sane work schedule will propel you to a brighter, longer career.

For more information about coaching with Kristin Price or any other Edge Studio instructor, please call our office at 888-321-3343.