So that email has plopped into your inbox telling you that you’ve been selected to complete a project. Congratulations! You’ve clicked “accept” and received your buyer’s contact details. Great. But now what?
Hopefully, if you’ve accepted the project, it means that you’re happy to work for this person. You’ve discussed, via the private and/or public message board, what you are expected to do, in what timeframe and for how much. You’ve been sensible and checked out your buyer’s feedback and Googled their company website just to make sure they’re legit. You haven’t bid on a project that is likely to get your account suspended and, of course, you’re going to play by the rules. In short, this is a genuine project and you are a genuine freelancer, working with a genuine buyer.
The absolute KEY to successful working relationships, especially via a platform like Freelancer.com, in which you might never meet your boss or even speak to him or her in person, is good communication. The internet is brilliant for making good communication possible – email, Skype, instant messenger etc. – but all too often it can fall by the wayside. Impatience gets the better of us, or perhaps we think we know what we’re meant to do without having had it confirmed. The old saying, “to assume makes an ass out of “u” and “me”” rings particularly true for remote working.
As soon as you’ve received that email from Freelancer.com that lets you know your buyer’s email address, use it. Drop the buyer a quick line to let them know that you’ve accepted the project, and send them your contract (and I HIGHLY recommend that you have one. If you haven’t got one yet, try amending this one for your own needs). Tell them that you’re looking forward to starting the project, but you won’t start until you have heard back from them just in case they want to negotiate some points of your contract or give you additional information to help you complete it.
Once the buyer has given you the go-ahead to start the project, and you’re absolutely sure that you know what you’re supposed to do, then go for it, but stay in regular communication with the buyer. Depending on the project size and your specified turnaround time, you might want to send updates every day, every couple of days, or for larger projects every week. Not only does this reassure the buyer that you’re working on the project and making progress, but it gives the buyer an opportunity to review your work, to advise, make suggestions and give feedback as you go along.
Your Freelancer account won’t be suspended if you don’t stick to the turnaround time you specified, but do try to stick to it as closely as possible – if anything it’s good PR for your career and it also makes it easier to organise your own time. If there’s a genuine reason why you will not be able to make the deadline, don’t rush the job or simply abandon it – talk to the buyer and mutually agree an alternative. You can’t help it if you are ill, if your broadband company is planning line repairs or if there is an emergency that you need to attend to, and as long as you’re open and honest, there’s no real shame in simply being a bit behind schedule, but most disputes and conflicts can be avoided or resolved through good communication. As a last resort, if you have agreed to be paid via Freelancer, you can always fall back on the Freelancer dispute system, recently clarified and improved, but I stress again that this should be used as a last resort.
The final stage of any project is of course the payment part. If you’ve been sensible, you will have agreed how, how much and when you will be paid before you start the project; it’s important to be crystal clear when talking money so that you get what you were expecting to be paid, and the buyer is under no illusions about how much they will be forking out. I mostly work on writing and editing projects, so I will always state in my contract the price that was agreed for the project AND my price per word and/or per hour. That way, if the client decides that they want more copy than they originally asked for, or the project takes significantly longer than we both thought, the client knows exactly how much extra they will be asked to pay. of course, I never write more copy than is asked for without mutually agreeing this with the buyer first!
At the end of the project, I always send my clients an invoice that breaks down the final fee so that they can see exactly where their money has been spent. I ask for payment within 14 days, but am amenable to negotiate this if, for example, the client has a policy of paying invoices at the end of the month, or needs time for clearance from their company’s financial department. Lastly, when payment has been made, I always thank the buyer and send a receipt.
Good communication and a professional approach are two of the most important rules of business. Many users of Freelancer have a lot to learn, and I’m on a learning curve myself, but I hope this will help some of you to make good choices and be successful in your venture as a freelancer.