Ask FreelanceSwitch: Workloads and Portfolio Pieces
In this issue of Ask FreelanceSwitch, we look at workloads and portfolio pieces. Ask FreelanceSwitch is a regular column here that allows us to help beginners get a grip on freelancing. If you have a question about freelancing that you want answered, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In my current post, where I’ve been for a year and a half, the workload seems to be unfairly high. It’s a small company that specializes in print design, with only three of us working there, including the owner. The owner is known for working crazy hours, sometimes starting at 4am (no joke) and working right through to 11pm.
Trouble is, I and the other employee seem to be expected to put in extra hours all the time as well. Our contracted hours are 8am-5pm + unpaid overtime ‘as and when required’. I don’t think I’ve ever left at 5pm; it’s usually 5.30 at the earliest that I get out, but the real problem is that the unpaid overtime amounts to quite a lot. I was in the office til 11pm a couple of nights ago – and I haven’t been out before 6.30 this week. More often than not he ‘has to go home at 5pm because of x, y or z’.
When I speak to him about the hours, the boss insists that this is just ‘the nature of the business’. I understand that some jobs will require extra or late hours in order to meet deadlines and I have no problem with that, but I think he’s using the ‘as and when required’ clause as an excuse to take on more work than he should, effectively selling his employees’ free time.
He’s quite an aggressive person and isn’t really all that approachable. I’m far from lazy either, but I need to have a life outside of work (we’re often expected to cancel plans if there’s work needing done).
So I’m looking for your advice on whether every graphic design agency really requires this much overtime or if he’s clearly taking the piss, and what you think I could do about it. As I’ve said, talking to him about it doesn’t seem to work, as you’re seen as not pulling your weight, and short of quitting, I don’t see any other solution!
I’ve seen a lot of graphic design agencies where the various contractors wind up working more than 40 hours per week — but they’re paid for their time. You absolutely have the right to get extra payment for that time, if you’re routinely putting in more time than you’re contracted for.
As far as being expected to work the extra hours, that generally does come down to who you’re working with. Based on your brief description, it sounds like you’re going to have a hard time actually sticking to a set number of hours a week at this particular agency — it’s going to be a lot easier to negotiate a raise. Quitting may be the most practical option for changing your work schedule (although I’m sure there are other considerations).
But if you want something to change, you’re going to have to draw your line in the sand with your boss. It’s hard, especially with someone who is aggressive, but the only alternative is to carry on with exactly the same circumstances.
Be prepared for that conversation to not go the way you’re hoping, by the way: it’s not out of the question that you won’t be working with that particular agency afterwards. Have a Plan B in place first, if at all possible.
I am a freelance web developer. I’ve built a website for personal branding, but I don’t have a portfolio. I’ve completed a few pieces for a client, but he’s asked that I don’t post them on my website.
What should I post at my website? Should I write about web development?
It’s incredibly difficult to get work without a portfolio that shows what you can do. Most people don’t want to take a chance on a freelancer who can’t show their work. Your priority needs to be to create some portfolio pieces, even if you’re just doing projects for yourself. Even if you have to make up a project entirely, go ahead and do it. You can always replace it with a project done for an actual client later on.
Only after you have some examples of your work should you consider adding a blog or other writing to your website. And if you’re not confident in your own writing, consider creating content in a different format (like videos or a podcast).
You want to create content that will be of interest to your ideal clients. Most clients aren’t all that interested in the nuts and bolts of web development — they’re hiring you to avoid thinking too much about it. Instead you want to show them what a good web developer can do for them. Show case studies of how a client’s business picked up after you redesigned their website, for instance.