Starting a Project With the End in Mind
Sometimes, a client will come to you with a fabulous project: something that you want to work on that just happens to be open-ended and will pay a nice chunk of your bills for months to come. You go in very excited about the project and the money and generally it’s a good gig. But the ending might not always be what you want. Maybe the client puts a sudden end to the project. Maybe the client has been following your every step and taking notes in the hopes of handling everything in house as soon as he’s learned all he can.
These situations are not necessarily bad, but if you plan for them from the start of the of the project, you can make the final transition for the project much easier when it does come around.
All Your Eggs in One Basket
A six-month contract where you work only for one client can wind up being a good choice, at least in terms of income. But in terms of what you’ll be doing next, it can be less ideal. No client is going to want to schedule six months out on a project with you unless you’re very good, so continuing to market can be a tough call. At the same time, though, there’s always the chance that the project won’t be completed as planned, so you want to make sure that you can line up something else fast if you have to.
So what are the alternatives? Working more than full-time on client work when you’re already bringing in enough income is hard to justify. It tends to make more sense to keep up at least some marketing activities to make sure that you’ve got regular requests for work coming in even if you can’t take on every project. It may also makes sense to explore options like building up some other income streams while you have the cushion of a big client. Something like creating some stock work that you can sell online or putting together an ebook can ensure that even when this contract ends, you still have some income coming in.
Look for Opportunity
With many clients, there are opportunities if you just look for them. These opportunities may not necessarily look like more work and can even mean ending a project early, but they’re opportunities just the same. Consider a client who is taking notes on every step of the process as you work on a project. The client probably won’t say anything, but there’s a good chance that he wants to try to figure out how to do what you do, so he can handle it in house (and cheaper) in the future. He may even be thinking about trying to get out of the contract when he has what he needs.
So offer to teach your client how you do what you do, for an hourly rate higher than what you charge for just doing the work. There’s no guarantee how long a project like that will really last, after all, so why not eliminate any hard feelings up front? With some careful negotiating, you may even be able to turn it into a longer and steadier contract — maybe you provide additional training or support as needed. And maybe your client finds that he can’t mimic your skills and comes back to you because you worked with him to accommodate what he thought he wanted.
Keep an Eye on the Contract
One of the most important aspects of a freelance contract is how it ends. One of the biggest issues with a long-term project is that you can rarely use the same payment system you use for a short-term piece of work: where you might normally not hand over final pieces of work until payment is complete, that may just not be an option. On projects where certain parts of the project will be live long before the full project is done, a monthly payment or something similar is absolutely necessary.
Furthermore, you need to be aware of how the project can be ended, at least in terms of the contract. Many clients will want to be able to end the contract immediately, just by telling you, while often expecting you to give three weeks notice or something equally ridiculous. How the contract can be ended (assuming the project is completed) needs to be a fair and equal arrangement.