WORKPLACE / AUG. 23, 2014
version 2, draft 2

Tips for Dealing With a Client who Piles on Extra Work

Freelancers are the sort of people who can easily get taken advantage of. It’s the nature of being self-employed. You work with an agency and they don’t tell you that your project also involves sourcing images or extra formatting. Many freelancers just grin and bear it. After all, they don’t want to get fired.

But is there a right way of dealing with a client who piles on extra work?

What about my Contract?

For a start, you need to review your contract. Most freelancers have a nasty habit of only skimming through a contract when they sign it. Is there anything that could potentially put you in a position where you have to do this extra work?

It won’t necessarily say you have a duty to source images, but terms like ‘additional services’ can be interpreted as applying to tasks like this.

I Must Do This

Let’s say there’s something in your contract that basically says you’re responsible for more than the writing. Compare the work with the amount of compensation you’re getting and think about whether it’s fair.

It should be fair. If you’re getting a fair deal, the chances are you’ve wrongly assumed you’re doing the writing and nothing more. You haven’t taken into account the fact you do have other duties.

In the event you don’t feel you’re getting compensated fairly, ask for further compensation. They may relent or they may not. In the event you find yourself in a situation where you aren’t getting a fair wage for a fair day’s work, you should consider looking elsewhere for work. Remember, you can leave the arrangement whenever you like.

It’s an Added Extra

Okay, you’ve looked at your contract and discovered there’s nothing that says you’re responsible for anything more than the writing. Anything else you do is going the extra mile. For novice freelancers, this is where things get tricky.

Newer freelancers don’t have a lot of connections. They don’t want to inadvertently lose their jobs because they may not have anywhere else to turn. This isn’t as much of a problem for veteran freelancers. They have places to go should they lose a gig. You have to decide what sort of freelancer you want to be known as.

The Reputation of the Freelancer

By doing the added extras for no compensation, you will be known as the freelancer who goes the extra mile for their clients. It sounds good on the face of it, but it effectively translates to freelancer with no backbone who everyone takes advantage of.

Make your contract mean something by sticking to it. This doesn’t mean you have to stick to it rigidly, steadfastly refusing to do a favour for anyone. Favours for your clients can get you in their good books, but don’t make a habit of it or they’ll come to expect it.

You want to be the freelancer that’s kind yet refuses to be taken advantage of.

Walk Away

If you’re noticing your client is piling work on you and refuses to talk about compensation, you’re in a dangerous situation. You either have to accept it and continue to do the extra work unpaid or walk away.

Make the decision to walk away only after every other avenue has been exhausted. Get another gig set up before you go and leave in a professional manner. It’s easy to strike at these clients with a  foul-mouthed rant, but don’t.

Send them a resignation email outlining your reasons as to why you feel you can’t work with them any longer. Tell them you appreciate the time spent working with them but it’s time to move on.

By speaking to them in this way, you preserve your reputation as a business professional. There are thousands of freelancers who have given their old clients the one-fingered salute only to have their reputations sullied through various Internet forums later on.

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