Ask FreelanceSwitch #11
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.
Can ya dig it?
I currently work at home as a full-time writer for an agency. I need to cut back my hours to take care of my son. My employer has offered to give me a set salary, with benefits, and then pay me hourly when I exceed our usual time parameters. Obviously the salary would be less than what I’m making now. He’s asked me to come back to him with a number for the set salary and the hourly rate. He also says he wants 100% of my writing time. So basically no freelancing for other clients.
Is this a great deal (depending on the set salary)? Or is this setting myself up to work as much or more, and make less.
Thursday: While I’ve heard of a few employment arrangements similar to this, it’s definitely not a freelance opportunity: assuming you live in the US, the IRS will be expecting your employer to cover payroll taxes and so on.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem like too bad of a deal. You have consistent work, while still being able to work from home and take care of your family. If it meets your priorities (which it sounds like it does), I would certainly go for it. But I do have some concerns. The fact that your employer is basically saying that you can’t freelance at all is disconcerting. What if it’s a slow week for your employer?
My other concern is the hourly work past your usual time. While I don’t know how your employer operates, I have heard of a similar situation in which an employee wanted to reduce the number of hours he was working and go to part-time work. The employer felt that it was fine to call on that employee for far more hours than they’d originally negotiated, since there was an hourly rate in place. The employee wound up effectively staying at full-time status. In these sorts of situations, it’s very important to lay out the rules in advance and make sure your employer sticks to them.
Travis: Amy, I want 100% exclusive rights to your TV watching time. That means that I get to say what you watch, who you watch it with and when you get to watch it. So, I want to start you off on a 21 Jumpstreet marathon and then we’ll move on to Edward Scissorshands and Benny & Joon. We’ll call it our “Johnny Depp Month,” so you better get the popcorn started.
You see how ridiculous that sounds? Not about 21 Jumpstreet, because that’s just quality 80’s television, but anyone who wants 100% access to you better be either paying you a ton of cash or be your husband.
The rest of that gig doesn’t sound bad but that exclusivity clause is just silly, especially since you’re actually taking a reduction in salary. If your employer is stuck on the thing, then I would come back with a high hourly rate and tell him that this is the price of exclusivity.
Anyway, what do you think about Lou Diamond Phillips?
Currently I work five days per week but I have had a massive increase of freelance work and I’ve been wondering how I can ask my boss for one day off per week so I can pursue my freelance career?
Thursday: Depending on your employer’s current situation, taking one day a week off can look extremely difficult. If your employer runs a business that has been struggling in the current economic climate and doesn’t have enough work to keep you busy five days a week, such a request can look like a blessing. If your employer is very busy, however, that same request can be a big problem.
It’s important to take a look at what’s going on in the office before discussing the topic with your employer. If there isn’t enough work for you, frame your suggestion with that information. Most employers will be happy to not pay you for time that you aren’t actually working. If you aren’t sure that you’re employer will be able to spare you, though, finding a way to win him over can be harder. At a minimum, you’ll probably have to find a way to keep up your current workload when you go down to four days a week.
It may also be worth considering options beyond one day off a week. Some freelancers have negotiated other alternatives with their day jobs: they can take calls for freelance projects at work, use work equipment for projects when ever they have a slow point in the day, and generally bring their freelance work into the office with them. Every situation works out differently, but the more flexibility you can offer, the happier most employers will be.
Travis: OK, I’m going to hold myself back from saying something cheesy from Star Wars like “Use the force, Luke,” but if you do know any of those Jedi mind tricks I’m pretty sure all you have to do is wave your hand and say “These are not the days I will be working.” I’m just saying.
Anyway, Thursday’s right, it could be that your employer is going to jump at the idea of you taking an extra day off. He doesn’t have to pay you and you get to do your freelance thing. It’s a win-win.
The best advice I can give you is to just go in there and ask him. Play it cool and don’t volunteer any extra information if you don’t have to. Just ask to work four days instead of five and see what happens. The worst thing he could say is no, and then you know where you stand.
Above all, resist the temptation to get all whiny if you don’t get your way, and for goodness’ sake don’t tell him you wanted the day off because you are going to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters!