Freelancer Stress and how to avoid it

Written by Daniel Städeli

11. April 2017

Especially in the WebDesign business, you can avoid these traps that cause Freelancer Stress and your life will be a lot easier.

Do you remember your first freelancing project?

Mine was an absolute train wreck.

I charged the client a flat rate that eventually became $2/hour for a beautiful, custom, 20+ page WordPress site. I also had travel expenses, I bought her coffee three times, and went to her house to provide hours of unpaid consulting. I also hosted and paid for all five of her domains without her paying a cent.


Through horrific experiences like these, I’ve learned what makes a good contract and what doesn’t. I had set myself up for failure and freelancer stress.

Tip one: Wear armor against revisions.

Client: I know we originally agreed on a single page website, but what I really want is a 50 page membership portal…

Clients often underestimate the time that goes into building a simple feature on a website. You have a practice to run, and after a certain point, even if you’re the friendliest design practice ever, you need to treat yourself like a business to protect your own time and sanity.

Your contract can help with this. Let the client know that they can submit a maximum of two revision documents (basically, written lists of their change requests) throughout their project, and after that, you have to start charging them if they want any other changes. Clients usually back down after they realize they have to pay for their extra ideas.

Tip two: Hold them as accountable as they hold you.

Most clients are notoriously bad at two things: preparation and deadlines. You have a practice to run, and if your client doesn’t send the necessary materials, projects can drag along for weeks or months!

This simple schedule fixes that problem and avoids you stepping into the Freelancer Stress trap:

  1. Tell the client that, to start the project, they just need to send over the content they want to put on the site.
  2. Once you receive the content, you begin designing and iterating with the client’s feedback.

If you look closely, you’ll see that clients give you all the content before you even start designing. This sounds like absolute wizardry, but it actually works.

Tip three: Don’t let clients send you Snapchats at 3 AM.

Freelancer stress

This WebDesigner suffers from acute Freelancer stress syndrome for not following the tips revealed in this post.

I naively gave a young client my cell phone number. He tried to check up on my progress almost every day for the entire length of the project. His requests were contained in my voicemail, text messages, emails, and even Facebook messages. It was a nightmare – I could never “log off” of work.

Instead of this, create a single, non-intrusive point of communication for all of your projects. I use email because I can check it twice per day and then get back to designing. Using a single medium for communication clears your mental space to focus on what actually matters.

Tip four: Create money sandwiches.

Instead of taking payment in full at the end of your projects, work with a simple payment schedule. Here’s an example of one way you could structure your fees:

  • Project begins: 25% of the project cost
  • Design approved: 50% of the project cost
  • Site launch: 25% of the project cost

You’re welcome to create any kind of payment schedule or rates you’d like – this is just an example. The primary goal of this schedule is to create a steady stream of income for you and make sure the client won’t go delinquent. Payment schedules are also easier on smaller clients who don’t have sufficient funds to pay one large lump sum.

Then, put the client’s site live after they’ve finished paying you.

Tip five: Hold the high ground.

Client: My niece took a class on Dreamweaver in high school and will help you with the design. She suggests we use our corporate font, Comic Sans, as the primary font on the website.

What happens when a client makes a decision that’s going to hurt their business? Are you allowed to steer the project away from that? How much micromanaging is your client allowed to do, or do you control the look and feel of their site?

Try to accommodate the client’s requests as much as possible. However, you need to draw the line if the client is going to make a decision that hurts their business or goes against a moral or ethical code of your own.

Tip six: show your client the battle plan.

Use Divi’s power to your advantage. Once you discover your client’s needs, create a rough draft of their website with Divi and ask them if that’s what they’re expecting.

After the client gives you the go-ahead, just put their favorite design under a maintenance mode and begin filling in the content they gave you before the project started. Finish off the project by spending several days on the final visual touches.

By showing your client a draft of what their site will look like, you can both agree on the ideal layout for their site and move forward with a project that both of you will love.

Author: Mark from the Client Class

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