Sunday 19 May 2019

If You're Overworked, Up Your Rates! (to Up Your Game)

One of the complaints we sometimes hear — and sometimes envy — on freelancers' social media is too much work and having to decline.

The first thing people think about in response is work-and-life balance.

Yes, being overworked is not good for balance, but there is a different point to raise:

If you decline a lot simply because you don't have free slots, it means you've sold your capacity out and the demand still exists.

Without getting into theory, that means you could probably charge more.

It's not certain you could get away with charging more, it's only probable — and worth checking if you can do so without taking on too much risk.

And it's difficult to tell how much more — there are too many variable factors to play guesses here without knowing details of your situation.

But it's probable you could get away with quoting at least a little higher fees than you quote now.

Note: This applies if running out of capacity occurs regularly to you, not just once in a blue moon.

If you simply have peak periods that throw you off balance, develop a coping strategy for that specifically, e.g. a network of colleagues not all of whom will be experiencing peaks at the same time.

But if you regularly run out of capacity at your current rates, those rates should be going up.

Remember, as a freelancer you won't get a raise from your clients. Just like a law firm, private clinic or design studio, clients won't normally spontaneously offer to pay you more than they did one or two years ago or than you quoted them. You'll only be paid more if you charge more.

Some ethical doubts may arise here, and I want to deal with them separately in the section below the line. If you don't have any such doubts, don't waste your time reading further.

Ethically, you shouldn't worry about whether or not you deserve the raise based on the circumstances, the circumstances being e.g. that you like more time off and begin to wonder if something like that should affect how much you charge or entitles you to a raise.

I suggest focusing instead on the ultimate rates you'll end up charging. Will they be fair? Sticking a knife to someone's throat to help yourself get an objectively fair fee would be unethical. But using supply & demand to stop being underpaid by taking a tougher position? Hardly!

Using legitimately obtained knowledge for the legitimate purpose of resisting demands for rebates that your clients don't deserve is hardly unethical.

Next point, if you believe you're already making enough, however low that could be, so you believe you don't need more. Fine. Great. You don't have to keep the money. Donate it to a charity of your choice. Or work less (charge more, so you'll work fewer hours) and donate your time instead. But undercharging for work that generates real money for your clients is not the answer, especially if it puts financial pressure on your colleagues, some of whom may be in a tougher situation than you are.

If you want to spend your time doing the job you love and still don't feel comfortable charging more than you honestly believe you need, then perhaps work for charities and pro bono causes rather than business clients. Undercharging business clients does no good, and it destroys the market for everybody else.

If you're a single guy who lives on bread and water, owns no property to maintain, pays very little rent and bills, doesn't like to travel, doesn't like hobbies, doesn't like to travel, doesn't need anything really, or somoene who doesn't depend on the job for income, then like I said there's still the matter of what undercharging does to your colleagues and the matter of who's the best qualified recipient of your charity.

It's your time and your money, of course, so I don't want to give the impression of accusing you of doing something wrong, but perhaps think if that's really what you want to be doing. My goal is not to denigrate that approach but to show that any moral high ground would be up to debate, as there are better uses for whatever talents you may have than semi-donating them to for-profit enterprises.

Saturday 18 May 2019

A Different Voice on How to Become a Successful Freelancer or What It Means to Be One

There has recently been a discussion, yet another discussion in the endless succession of such discussions to be sure, about what it takes to succeed as a freelancer.

I am not qualified by reason of personal achievement to speak as an authority on that, but I want to look analytically and synthetically at where we are with those discussions.

I will inevitably be drawing on the collective experience of such discussions that fit in my attention span.

I will be applying a ruthless, no-nonsense method of intuitive analysis focused on getting right to the point without wasting time on too much mumbo jumbo.

So what does it take to succeed as a freelancer?

It is a platitude to say we need to define success first. It nonetheless needs to be said. It needs to be said because we can't keep comparing apples to oranges to strawberries and melons.

There are up to as many planes and criteria upon which success can be judged as there are the 'judges' of it. Some trimming is therefore necessary. Let's cut it down to two things:

1) Being good at what you do.

This one is easy to define and take further. There exist objective criteria to assess skill. Who wants to can use those, end of analysis for us here. Let's move on to the next one:

2) Money and other benefits to you.

For 'other benefits', generally see no. 1. Let's focus on money now.

Contrary to what some suggest, being successful on this front does not include frugal lifestyles. However you choose to spend your 'salary' does not affect how much you are paid, which is the primary question.

Frugality in *business* expenditure may count, however. Still, money is not created by spending less. It is created by earning more.

The more you earn, the bigger your business success, simple as that.

And that is a matter of:

  • finding and landing clients and jobs, and secondarily keeping them
  • justifying your fees

In other words, it's basically successful sales — generating enough leads and turning them into enough conversions at good enough fee rates to cut a nice profit. The rest is footnotes.

Therefore the kind of advice people need to hear is not a reminder after reminder of how they are not the people who succeeded and how they differ (at some level we aren't all brilliant scientists because we aren't all geniuses), but practical advice on how to actually:

  • get clients/jobs
  • get good rates

Just two things. The essentials.

The whole science of the 'get'. It can be a million words, a thousand books, but it basically comes down to the how to of getting things done.

We can expand this a little as we delve into more detail, viz. how to:

  • get clients with jobs
  • keep them coming/returning, get more coming
  • avoid losing the ones you already have (which tends to be easier than winning new ones and has the same effect)
  • avoid making other stupid mistakes that are easily avoidable (to avoid small mistakes that lose you big money is generally easier than to make the same amount of money back from scratch)
  • keep keeping keeping up

The rest is a matter of degree:

  1. If the degree is low, you struggle. Your success is minimal and consists mostly in not having failed as of yet.
  2. If the degree is moderate, you get by. That is some success, if only in not failing.
  3. If the degree is comfortable, you make it. There is a modicum of success in that.
  4. If the degree gets closer to the wow point, congratulations, you're 'successful' in the typical sense of the word.
We want people to get to point four, but we can't always achieve that by skipping the previous steps. We need the 'A to B' — practical advice on making the small steps.

We don't really need to raise more awareness in people that they are not successful and that that is because they are doing something wrong — they already know that.

'Just do what I did,' is helpful advice provided you explain what you did, in a way that can be repeated, and in a way that demonstrates it was a methodical approach with justified expectations of a desirable outcome, not just a lucky turn of events.

Simply reminding people they aren't quite where you are, and that you are there and they are not, is not helpful. Again, they already know that anyway. Repeating the point time after time again is not helpful advice, it's more self-promotion (not that there's anything wrong with self-promotion per se, but let's just tell that one apart from helpful advice).

'You aren't doing it right,' is not helpful advice. They already know that. And if you keep focusing on how they aren't getting it right without being able to tell them how to do it right, then it gives an impression that you yourself don't quite know what it was that you did right — happens to all of us a lot of the time. The point is, it's not a recipe if it can't be followed with some assurance of achieving the intended result if nothing is done wrong along the way.

And again, people already know they are doing things wrong or at least not doing them right. Presumably they want to change that. So no point dwelling on these two. What everybody needs is some practical, followable, mumbo-jumbo-free advice on — and at least in the form of pointers toward — these two things:

  • how to get clients/jobs
  • how to justify nice rates

(This presupposes the recipient of the advice already knows how to do the actual job and doesn't need to be taught that first.)

To the vast majority of people, myself included, I would suggest leaving the personality/mindset/coaching/esoteric/whatever stuff aside and just simply reading up on:

client acquisition
client retention
communicating your value, being assertive about it, persuading the clients/prospects you deserve the fees you charge or persuading them that it pays to pay what you charge

A lot of this is sales, marketing, negotiation and communication in general, with some aspects of economy and management thrown in, of which a lot of people are unaware simply because of being self-taught (or rather not yet taught) entrepreneurs and not having gone to business school. Some are naturals at it, some aren't. The latter need to learn the basics and expand on that. It starts with reading a book or two about the subject. But people need to be told where to look for the knowledge they need.

My own view is that there is simply not enough knowledge of the basics actually reaching most freelancers, i.e. those who are not business naturals.

Once you've got the basics, you can go on to more advanced stuff, such as image management, successful PR, streamlining your processes, selecting the right prospects, the right deals, honing your deal-closing skills, etc. Discussing these before covering the basics may in fact be counterproductive — confusing and discouraging.

Consequently, I would give people pointers, as specific as possible, to the right resources where they can learn basics and then pointers in the basics of the more advanced stuff they need. From A to B without skipping the basics, unless there is a valid single-issue question that somehow needs to be addressed right then and there (provided it actually can).

Where self-learning from books doesn't seem to cut it, perhaps class would be more helpful. Everyone's learning style is different, as is everybody's learning curve (and in fact slow learners initially are not prevented from becoming big successes in the long run).

Probably some personal practical advice will be necessary on how to apply book knowledge to life in one's specific line of business, which is perhaps what we should focus on when giving people advice — once they're back from the library having covered the basics we asked them to.

If they don't want to, well, that's their problem, I guess. You can't force them. You can't save those who don't want to be saved.

One other thing to consider is that some of us are bottlenecked not so much by any lack of business aptitude as by general life issues such as depression, anxiety, lack of confidence or self-esteem, lack of motivation or agency. All of these need to addressed on the plane they exist, which is not business but life in general.  In those cases reasserting the need to get up, get down to work and get things going will generally not be successful advice (pun somewhat intended).

Tuesday 2 April 2019

Short Reflection on the Synergy Between Productivity and Comfort (and the Lost Profit)

The relationship between productivity and comfort has doubtless been the subject of much proper  research and analysis, and I'm not going there now. For that we have Google. Instead, I want to focus on some obvious things we miss in everyday freelance life:

(1) Comfort improves productivity, and (2) productivity — the sensation, the experience of being productive, the sense of achievement — also improves comfort. (3) There is thus a mutually stimulating relationship between productivity and comfort. And (4) that is something we can use, because nothing prevents us — no corporate policies, no spending limits, no standardization, no employer branding, no issues of rank, paygrade, status, etc.

We all know we're in charge of the home office. But it somehow fails to fully sink in sometimes, and so we fail to employ the fact usefully and reap the benefits.

I'm not encouraging anyone to overspend and be wasteful just because there's no accounting department to vet and veto the spend. But it's important to fully realize that the typical constraints faced by inhouse employees within an organization and structure don't apply to us.

So get yourself the right chair, the right keyboard, the right monitor(s), move the desk around a bit, adjust, optimize. Your workplace is worth spending some time tweaking before you spend months and years in it.

It's important to note that scale of all things is not an issue. Whatever you buy, you buy it just once. $1000 for a super super comfortable chair is a thousand, because the upgrade doesn't apply to 999 other people in the same paygrade. If you overspend $200 of the amount, you overspend $200 and not $ 200 thousand. The same applies to an easily adjustable desk or a mechanical or ergonomic keyboard, or better monitor, or I don't know, furniture, flowers, whatever.

By getting the right equipment and figuring out the best arrangement for your long-term comfort and productivity, removing distractions and obstacles, your physical comfort will improve, you will tire less and at a slower rate, and your satisfaction levels will improve. You will work faster and need less rest, less often, and will find it easier to maintain focus.

The resulting productivity gain will soon translate into more income, and the investment will pay off before you even realize. Let's say you manage to squeeze one or two medium-sized projects more during the year — that will more than pay back for a proper 24/7 chair or a monitor that protects your eyes, or a keyboard that goes easy on your wrists.

If you don't, chances are you're being frugal to the point of gimping yourself in the thousands just to avoid spending hundreds.

Wednesday 9 January 2019

Annoyed They're Asking for a Free Sample? You Should Be Happy! And Let Me Tell You Why.

Before we move on, let's keep in mind a sample is not the same as a test. There is a difference between being sampled and being more or less formally graded, and most translators should be more wary of the latter than they already are.

… Not so with free samples, however.

I understand the annoyance and discomfort of being asked to provide some of your work free of charge, but let me be open with you — you can get over it. Suspend your displeasure and allow me to explain.

What I'm proposing is a pragmatic look. Imagine yourself sitting at the chessboard. You're playing to win the whole, not to find pleasure or comfort, or avoid displeasure or discomfort, in the individual moves. A move is good or bad depending on how it serves your goals. If you come out on top and win the game because of that move, then it was a good move, even if you allowed the opponent to take your queen with short-term impunity.

There's a military saying that no fire hits home better than friendly fire. Doubtless you're familiar with the concept of being caught in one's own snare, poetically speaking; falling into your own trap. This is precisely what can happening to your counterparty in the negotiation if you keep your calm and consider how providing them with that sample can serve your goals in the longer run and advance your position instead of the opposite.

Generally speaking, there is no better marketing than good work and happy clients. There's a reason all those companies are peppering the market with free testers and tasters, satisfaction guarantees and generous cancellation terms. They want the product or service to touch the client!

And when you provide a free sample, your service, the product of your work, touches the client. And that is a very powerful message. If you're good, the client can take a look and see that with his own eyes, hear it, touch it, smell it; it's tangible, it feels more real, it connects better, it hits harder. In a way, this is similar to how having some face time with the client is usually better than mailing, chatting or even calling.

By exposing the client to your work in this way, you're getting so much closer to your goal, which is convincing your client that you're good and better than the alternatives.

This goes down to 'show, not tell'. Feel like explaining to your client, verbally, how your degrees, years of experience and whathaveyou make you (more) qualified and justify paying you (more) serious money?

Instead of have to plead your case like that, where the client turns into a powerful judge and jury and you're like that small-town lawyer dominated by an overbearing judge, you can simply throw your bait and wait to see the results.

If your your work is good, it will speak for itself and make its own case, at least if the client is serious, such as the typical semi-sophisticated buyer in B2B who may not be an expert but has been there, done that and has the scars to show.

In the last decade I've noted how certain companies delay the discussion of your rates to the last, making you jump through all their hoops first, almost asking you to sign the actual contract before filling in the rate.

Obviously, one of the effects of that strategy is escalation of commitment, making it more and more difficult for you psychologically to quit the negotiation after (i) all the declarations of readiness to co-operate that you've already made (which makes you look inconsistent or even unreliable, as in less of a man or woman of your word for turning around) and (ii) so much investment of your time, effort and hopes that you're now unwilling to accept as a total loss and move on, so you look for a compromise solution to cut your losses.

They will exploit that further by boiling the frog, gradually asking small concessions from you until the sum total of them becomes significant and you've moved, in small steps, a huge distance away from where you were and where you wanted to be (but each and every individual concession was too trivial on its own to put up much of a fight, not worth damaging the goodwill, etc., as they may have been amply, and aptly, reminding you along the way).

Depressing, ain't it?

But you can turn the table around on them.

They're asking for bait, so throw it to them. Grant their request, make them think — consistently with objective reality — that they got what they want and are moving on as planned, according to their own game plan.

… Except you've been forewarned about all the potential psychological effects, so you can shrug them off more easily as they come and even plan your time investment in that negotiation in a conscious way, keeping things under control and avoiding uncontrolled escalations (or escalations controlled by the other party).

Now, there's no obligation and no reason for you to in any way let them know that you know their game plan.

So you just give them the sample they requested, which will from now on act as your fishing bait, you put on your psychological kevlar suit, sit back and watch as the bait does its work. And they aren't expecting it!

Something to consider:

If you actually paid for a marketing/advertising campaign, it would probably largely come down to highlighting your good work to date and the promise of more. Also targeted direct marketing would most probably involve having a decision-maker take a look at your existing work, be impressed and give you some projects as a result. And this is exactly what you're going to achieve by giving someone with decisionmaking authority a sample when requested.

The difference comes down to who's asking whom to show or look. Don't allow such meaningless minutiae to distract you from your goal, which is to close the deal by establishing your value — one way or other. Getting your way in the short term and in small details shouldn't distract you from getting your way in the long term and big picture.

And you aren't even sacrificing your queen here. It's a knight or bishop, tops.

Thursday 27 December 2018

What Do I Do if the Client Always Pays Me Late? (Adapt!)

I'll give you a straight answer: adapt.

It's not worth fighting over.

Or stressing over.

Just adapt.

Shrug it off and adapt your business model.

Your business model is far more adaptable than your clients' habits.

You get more and better rewards from adapting your conduct than from trying to adapt your clients' conduct.

Payment leniency is like any other need you can identify in the market — once you identify it, respond to it and profit.

There's really no point insisting on feeling offended/cheated/breached against etc. etc. when you can simply adapt and profit. And with a smile.

Challenges bring opportunities. Outplay life by taking the disadvantages it throws at you and converting them into advantages, coming out on top and profiting.


That said, here's some analysis:

What do you stand to gain if you press the matter?

Off the top of my head, I would expect a blend of conflict, guilt, apology and risk avoidance. In effect, probably:

  • slightly faster payments but not always on time, and at a great energy/stress cost for the client that could be better spent
  • a more strained relationship, with less goodwill capital than you could amass by being 'reasonable' and lenient
  • a client less inclined to be forgiving when it's your turn to get late or otherwise slip (anything from stern to vindictive… or actually lenient and forgiving, putting you to shame)
So what if I don't? 

Off the top of my head, things don't change, which can be either good or bad but is more or less the whole point. Old facts, new approach.

Make the choice — given their payment delays, would you drop them or keep them, supposing you can't change the way they act (and possibly they can't either)?

If you choose to part ways, there's no reason to make the split any more hostile or awkward than it has to be.

If you'd rather keep them, it's counterproductive to keep complaining and putting a strain on the relationship. In fact, they could even just start to avoid hiring you and think they're doing you a favour.

So take a new approach. Stop feeling offended, cheated, ignored or whatever is the case. Shrug it off, let it go, stop allowing negative emotions to hold you hostage.

Instead, make it your own policy to extend an unspoken grace period that isn't the client's right but makes your client's life easier, and yours too.

Integrate those delays in your business model. Client payment punctuality is unreliable? Stop relying on clients to pay punctually — as long as they pay at all and don't take too long.

Just keep some floating cash. Don't spend or invest everything. Invest in liquidity and thus security. Your comfort and quality of life will increase dramatically as a result. Ridding yourself of liquidity anxiety will make it so much easier for you to project the calm confidence that wins your clients over as a professional. It will also make you friendlier, and a little relaxed and forgiving attitude (or at least reasonable, at a minimum) will not go unnoticed.

… It enhances your reputation, your goodwill. And that is a great asset and a great benefit to you. It may be intangible, but it has a great effect on your life and can make or unmake your success. Or at least have a very tangible effect on your income.


It's easier to get yourself a 'pillow' — a month's, then quarter's, then semester's, and then perhaps a year's worth of income retained as a reserve — than to challenge your client's habits. Besides, as a service provider it's generally a good idea to challenge your own habits and expectations before your client's. And that's not just a chore — like I said, it can make or unmake a successful practice.

And be positive. Don't be too hard on yourself. Perhaps you're already making more than some people you know who are less flexible than you are. Make that flexibility your strength and your policy.

… Doesn't mean it has to be your stated policy. In fact, as you've probably guessed by now, the whole point is that it shouldn't be! If you extend the deadlines, a lot of your clients will still be one or two weeks (or months, or days) late whether the deadline is two or four weeks (or months, or days). Give them a deadline, but don't expect them to keep it — and don't tell them you aren't expecting them to keep it. Just base your own internal calculations on official deadline + grace period.

If you choose to provide an official grace period, which may well be a good move in some situations, still provide an unofficial one after that and base your calculations on it rather than on the official one.

There, you solved your liquidity problem! You removed the anxiety and lack of security resulting from late payments from your clients, without even talking to them, much less straining your relationships.


Bonus tip: Consider (and I only say consider) a 3% discount for expedited payment, for example 3 days where the deadline is 30. Perhaps also consider a 1% deadline for not exceeding the 30.

The goal of the 3% discount is not to reward your clients for not being late (for not failing to do what they are already obligated to do). And, as you can see, neither is it the effect. The goal is simply to see the money in your account as soon as possible. Once in, it can't be taken out — unlike when it's still in your client's account/reserve/provision for outgoing payments, let alone the client's general account. You have the money, you no longer have to worry, and that's it.

More elaborate theory is that early, as opposed to timely, payment is a legitimate novel benefit for you. Reciprocally, you provide a legitimate benefit, a small financial concession. However named or classified, it's simply a small financial benefit, and getting emotional about the reason or classification makes very little practical sense.

The 1% discount for not exceeding the deadline obviously does reward your client for not breaching, but the reward is smaller, and the benefit is real. And you don't care about all that, remember? What you care about is that the money is already safely in your account, so the risk of non-payment is no longer there.

The 1% discount is reverse-interest. People feel bad about being penalized, or even confronted about doing something wrong, let alone when they see themselves as not being at fault — and agencies will typically not see themselves as being at fault when they haven't been paid by their own clients yet (get used to that, as you can't change it, at least not you alone and not overnight). Applying late interest or some other form of late fees or penalties will be an antagonizing move and will damage the relationship. By contrast, nobody can complain about not receiving a benefit one, through fault or no fault, just simply didn't qualify for. There are no accusations, no implications of wrongdoing, there's just simply a missed benefit.

Don't want to give up 1% or 3% of your current earnings? Up your pre-discount rates, problem solved. Suppose you charge 100. So now it would be 97, and you don't like that, which is fair. So you need to charge 103.09.

Naturally, changing your rates and payment conditions in tandem would be a bit too obvious and defeat the point of applying incentives instead of penalties, so perhaps wait till your next increase and rather than 105 make it 108. Or make it 105 but earlier. Or only with new clients, or new projects for occasional clients. How to give yourself a smooth raise is a whole different topic.

Recap: As a freelancer, one of your biggest competitive advantages is the adaptability of your small, lean, flexible structure (or even sometimes almost total lack thereof). You can adapt more easily than your clients. And you can also adapt more easily than some of your competitors (including freelancers who don't want to adapt). Use that adaptability and profit. If your clients fail to meet their obligations, try to see beyond the breach and see the need that you can respond to — and profit. This can include the need to adapt your business model to a longer payment cycle. Instead of trying to to turn the tide, you can invest your energy and creativity in using it to your advantage — and there are various ways of doing that. At the end of the day your need is liquidity and security, and that can be achieved in more than one way, and some ways are smarter than others. Be guided by pragmatism, creativity and… empathy. Think outside the box. You're allowed to! You don't have a boss to say you can't. Sometimes you can have your way in the big picture by agreeing to not have your way in small things that are ultimately inconsequential.

Monday 24 December 2018

As a Freelancer, I Want to Step It up a Bit and Improve My Agency Base. What do I do? (Pt 2 — 11 Pointers & 3-Step Action Plan)

Without much further ado — we did a lot of that in Pt 1 — these are two quotes I'd like you to keep in mind before we cut to the meat. Both are allegedly from Bill Gates and both lack a reliable source for that attribution. ;)

If you're born poor, it's not your mistake. But if you die poor, it is your mistake.

I choose a lazy person to do a hard job, Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.

In short, we want to look at our problem from the practical perspective of finding a no-nonsense way of making your life a little easier, with (almost) no mumbo-jumbo. Jokingly we could say laziness should be your guide. Not in the sense of actually being lazy but in the sense of going for simple solutions that actually work and make a difference instead of trying to prove theoretical concepts.

Laziness in this sense means you want to avoid having to do the same thing twice (kind of like I wanted this blog to help me avoid wording the same advice for different people time after time again), you want to create some capital that will keep working for you when you're doing something else. You want to invest and profit — the investment is the money and time you spend on getting some professional basics right, at least the bare minimum, and the profit is more jobs and better rates as a result.

And you want to keep it simple. For a freelancer this largely means focusing on your passive marketing and maxing it out — not instead of doing anything else, but before you do anything else, as a matter of having your priorities in good order.


  1. You're in a better negotiating position when the agency approaches you than when you approach them. Again, this is where your passive marketing shines, as it both attracts them, which will get you their initial tentative interest, and, if you play it right, does much of the job of actually persuading them, so there's little left to be done when they get in touch with you. And if you play it right, you can invert the roles, so it's them wanting to work specifically with you rather than you having to explain and prove to them how you're a good fit for whatever client job they have and you don't. To get in this sweet spot you need: visibility, presence, projecting competence, confidence, moderate approachability/availability/attainability (not too eager, but not elusive to the point of not promising a good return on their invested time, effort and hope — psychology matters here).
  2. You have to be professional — be, act and look the part. This means acting and looking more professional than the average translator and in fact 90% of our casual and self-conscious lot. Not too laid back, too personal. Calm, collected, competent, confident. Not speaking out of turn, not afraid of silence or pause in conversation. Not jovial or airheaded. You don't have to and in fact shouldn't be dull, stern, pedantic or anything of the sort. Learn to see the difference if you don't already. There's gotta be a bit of healthy distance that inspires healthy respect, and getting too personable, as is the current trade in the freelance world, will that distance and will kill that respect. You need a bit of that ivory tower while still remaining moderately approachable — i.e. within achievable but not too easy reach (your road plan en bref) — and keeping them looking forward to the opportunity. Confident and slightly aloof professional professionals inspire this. Personal and personable hey look at me, hire me! choose me! choose me! I want to serve you! I live to please you! it would be the height of my day to take an order from you freelancers don't inspire it at all. In fact, they are like one of 20 desperate folks approaching a moderately attractive stranger and tripping over their feet bending over backwards and getting swatted like flies.
  3. Again, just like in dating, no desperation, no clinginess, etc., and for the same reasons. Plaintive behaviours and overeagerness are a low-value signal (LVS), meaning that you are in effect telling them your value is comparatively lower than theirs, and their market value (MV) is higher. Instead, you want to project high value, but without overdoing it.
  4. And the reason why you don't want to overdue HVS is because you don't want to have an attainability problem — like we said before, you must be within reach, not too distant to realistically work with. You must be reasonably responsive, just not tripping on your own feet running to the phone. But neither can you inspire so much respect and so much distance that people will… keep their respectful distance from you — and be afraid to disturb you at all, negotiate with you, ask about a potential rather than confirmed job, or project your rates as probably not being within their range (when you in fact don't charge as much as they imagine). 
  5. Part of passive lure is samples. Overload your website with various samples of your best and most interesting work; almost. Make it just a little less than too much. Note that this doesn't mean your most complicated or most difficult work; this content has to be able to engage and resound with the reader, including those PMs who are relatively lay or green folks in translation. Those PMs (and their bosses, secretaries, HR people and sometimes clients) still have to be able to understand the text and see what you did there and why and what that is good — good for them. So make sure the samples are simple enough, simple but brilliant, and interesting; exciting even. This is part of your broader story; you're essentially doing storytelling marketing here, just like you do with your bio…
  6. … which, of course, (i.e. the bio) must be interesting, engaging, sending the right message, and getting the right exposure. It will probably attract like 60% of all of your website traffic, so give it some love. Have it professionally written or get some professional assistance, to the extent it wouldn't be dishonest advertising by misrepresentation of your own writing skill.
  7. Professional image relies much on… images! Get a professional executive shot done; the kind that costs quite a bit and is on par with the photos used by top management in your clients' organizations, as well as top authors and experts in the relevant field. Or even better than most of them have, but without clearly being overdone, as you don't want to cast the impression of trying just a bit too hard. The mood had better be more serious than sported by most translators, but without getting too uptight (unless you're in legal, medical or financial translation). For concept and background pictures, you want to spend some money on professional, high-resolution photos that don't look like clipart and aren't used on thousands of other websites. Even if you have to pay like five dollars, most people won't, so you're going to be unique. And that's your goal.
  8. Follow through with non-plaintive, confident presentation of your credentials as highlights — with no begging for validation! Translators constantly beg their prospects to validate them. You don't want to do that. Instead, you have to validate your prospects. You have to validate them in having chosen you or being about to choose you or having shortlisted you or simply having decided to give you five minutes of their reading time. Don't overpromise — it's better to underpromise and overdeliver than the other way round — but be confident.
  9. So credentials, samples, good story. To give you more detail, this means a good landing page that conveys the most important essence of your message — the best of your value proposal — in less than 10 seconds. But also expand on the story for those who do actually want to read, in way that is friendly to the reader, which generally means that the text should be broken up into smaller portions unfolding gradually in order to avoid the 'wall of text' effect but instead suck visitors in gradually as they click to unfold more information.
  10. Don't be told — by defeatists with self-esteem issues, a lot of whom give marketing advice to others — that prospective clients aren't interested in reading about you because you're allegedly so far beneath their attention! That's clearly low-self-esteem thinking (which screams personal issues), and it's markedly different from what the clients actually think. Except perhaps for a certain margin of entitled, toxic clients that you want to avoid if you can help it. Normal people want to read up a bit on people they work with an trust their projects to
  11.  We've already mentioned professional photos, but of course you want a professional website and professional CVs and brochures.  Professional Wordpress themes cost far under $100 apiece and are often easily configurable by a layperson with plenty of help from attached instruction materials, or you can pay a webdesigner several hundred to about a thousand to configure and customize the template for you (or several thousand for the best designers or more complicated jobs). 

The goal is to:

(1) reduce, as far as possible, the work you still have to do when approaching them or being approached by them, because there's always going to be some such work to do; and

(2) make them approach you rather than you them, which reduces the amount of work you have to do in order to:
(1º) close the transaction at all; and
(2º) on as good terms for you as possible. 

Either way, this means raising your passive attractiveness to a point where it compels them to action, and this is the opposite of you being compelled to action, which typically results in worse pay and worse other terms than the maxium you could get with your qualifications and your other circumstances.

Implementing these steps will make your life easier and better — this much I can definitely promise you. But you need to make the effort and actually get around to doing all this.

For example here's a simple implementation plan:

  1. Get a professional executive photo & bio. And by professional I mean someone who specializes in high-profile portrait pics, not just any photo service.
  2. Iron out your CV, portfolio and (less importantly) other materials such as brochures.
  3. Get your website professionally done. Don't waste your time trying to DIY it instead of doing paid work for your clients and then paying a real designer to do it better than you could. Same as with photos really.

Don't be discouraged by the hundreds you need to spend so you can profit in thousands or tens of thousands. From my experience some people just won't make the initial up-front expense it takes to cover crucial parts of your professional image professsionally, and that is exactly what holds them back, by preventing them from being able to charge professional rates — which their semi-professional image can't support. Ironically, that's also similar to how clients end up having their sales materials machine-translated or translated by semi-professionals on the cheap side, with the obvious results that we often talk about in translator groups. By insisting on using selfies, beach photos and clumsy websites, and copy that sounds like a child asking a parent for a new toy, we make just the same mistakes. So let's not.

If you take this advice to heart — and, more importantly, act on it and do some work — I once again promise you're going to see some serious results. Also you can't get the results without the work. But if you don't do the work, you'll be in the same old place without being able to move forward. Once again, we aren't talking about any ground-breaking changes here, with overly ambitious goals. We're talking about professional essentials to not even help you get closer to fully realizing your potential but actually to help you stop bottlenecking yourself with inaction, passivity and defeatism.

… So for starters just go and have a nice picture taken of yourself. The results might give you the impulse and the energy to start working on your CV, brochures and other materials. Do at least this. If you see some improvement, spend some of the new income on a new website to amplify the effect and take a bigger step forward. Your bank account will thank you.

But if what you want to tell me is something along the lines of: 'Meh. Too much work. Too uncertain. Don't want to waste my money or time. Are you sure this will work?,' then I honestly don't quite care. Those are the thinking patterns of people who are in a rut and don't want out of it because being in a rut carries some sort of psychological reward for them, e.g. wallowing in self-pity and acting like a victim of fate. Shake that off. I'm not telling you to found a new Microsoft in a garage; I'm only telling you to get a professional photo, a professional CV and a professional website preferably. I'm not asking too much.

The final question — how this applies to your work with agencies?

The post honestly came out far less agency-specific than I expected, perhaps largely because my Facebook advice (from which this post eventually emerged) was more general than the question asked. But while this doesn't seem agency specific on the outside, inside it is. How?

For starters, agencies need translators. They are in a position to assess your qualifications on the basis of your credentials, the rest of your CV, and your samples, at least much more so than the typical end client. They are also repeat purchasers, and more concerned with whatever they're getting from you — which mostly means punctual deliveries and no quality issues to disrupt the flow, better still if you can impress their clients, hence keep those clients and win more by word of mouth and glowing testimonials — than with what sort of client service they're getting from you. Plus, you don't take such a big risk of losing them as a client if you aren't always available. In short, the marketing is so much easier than with direct end clients.

Getting your professional basics covered and continually improving, setting the bar higher and upping your game, gives you access to better-paying agencies and gives whatever agencies want to work with you more incentive to pay more for your work than if you had a barebones semi-professional image. The difference could be, let's say, 20% or 30% of your income, perhaps more. So what's that compared to some time or a couple hundred dollars/pounds/euros?

What you may not see so easily is that you need to keep upping your game to make any falls softer when you trip further down the road. Essentially, it's easier to win more ground than defend what you already have from shrinking. The same goes for your client base and income level. So keep growing, expanding, developing, improving etc., and that will make sure you still have plenty enough even in your worse weeks or months or years, even if you lose an important client or a couple of clients in one go, or if you stop being able to work full time, or some other misfortune happens.

… And the more agencies you have on the top end of 'nice to work with', the more leeway you have to avoid working with agencies on the bottom of the scale. For each new nice agency you land, there's a bad agency you can drop. And if you suddenly end up with a surplus of well-paying work… boy, we all wish we had such problems to worry about. (You'll just raise your rates, especially for the lowest payers, to reduce demand to a more manageable level. So nothing to be scared about.)

Pretty much the same will in fact apply to direct end clients, except getting them will be more complicated, as you'll need to go after them more proactively or at least be where they are and sometimes convince them that they need your services, which is far more work and which is less the case with agencies. Agencies, once again, are always there, usually on the lookout for translators and well aware that they need dependable, punctual, conscientious translators that are hopefully also on the higher end of the skill spectrum (and helping you show that was the goal of this post all along).

As a Freelancer, I Want to Step It up a Bit and Improve My Agency Base. What do I do? (Pt 1)

Hi, guys. If you used to follow this blog, doubtless you must have noticed I've been writing less lately, lately meaning the last couple of months if not years. Today I thought about the original reason why I set up a blog — to prevent the long, meaningful posts that I sometimes make in translators' groups and forums from disappearing into the abyss of oblivion that is anything older than two weeks on Facebook and in forums. Later on, most of the posts here, almost all in fact, were written specifically for this blog and only a few actually served the original purpose — meaning a lot of potentially useful bits of advice or voices in discussion continued to be lost, partly because I don't even always remember I have a blog (apparently, adjusting to the thought and learning some new habits takes some time).

So today I want to do what this blog was supposed to do, and preserve a potentially useful post from a Facebook group about what to do if, as a freelance translator (as was the case), you want to expand or improve a bit without making the drastic step of dropping agencies altogether and plunging into the world of exclusively direct clients.

And why would you choose that?

  • A 100% direct end client mix is not always viable to achieve.
  • Nor is it necessarily optimal.
  • Between costs and gains, keeping at least some agencies in the mix may be the best choice.
For example staying in touch with an agency that always has some work to do is a good insurance strategy for when you need a stop-gap measure to help liquidity in the short term, avoid losing the momentum when you hit the flow but there aren't enough client jobs to eat through all of your capacity, keep gaining experience in a particular field (e.g. medical, legal) in which you don't have too many direct clients, and so on and so forth; this certainly isn't an exhaustive list.

Am I suggesting you should make a point of retaining some agencies in your mix when you might as well skip them entirely and still fill your calendar? Nope. Not unless some of the above applies to you. This is all conditional, situational, wholly governed by your circumstances and your unique personal preference. Not in all, but in a lot of cases at least some of the above considerations will apply, meaning you'll either have to or want to keep some agencies in the mix.

One thought about keeping some agencies in the mix is that you may still want to 'upgrade'.

And by upgrading, I don't mean dropping old, tried and true sources of reliable, somewhat comfortable and somewhat gainful work to embark on a goose chase or stake all you currently have on a slim hope that perhaps a new agency with a new approach will be a little more profitable to work with because it seems to pay marginally better rates. Nope.

But, a lot of freelancers work with agencies they don't quite like, where there are no warm feelings of friendship and loyalty, no long history of good old times to create a lasting bond, but just business the way it is with agencies, where the translator is getting the work because he or she is currently the best option in comparison to the alternatives and switching costs (i.e. it's better working with you than spending the time and effort, and incurring the risks, that replacing you would require).

… And some of those agencies can in fact be quite toxic, taxing your reserves more than is worth it. When talking about 'toxicity', I am focusing primarily on the result rather than the cause. This means I'm concentrating on the effect the behaviour has on you, rather than allocating the blame. Toxic behaviours include, for example:

  • always nibbling away at your rates
  • always nibbling at service scope or added value, trying to squeeze something extra out of you
  • dumping secretarial/technical/client-service tasks on you because they promise full service but don't have the staff to actually pull it off, or just want to save staff time
  • trying to go back on confirmed arrangements
  • requesting bookings for potential jobs that have a statistical 30% probability of materializing
  • only coming to you with stuff nobody else can or will do
  • being rude to you when talking or mailing
  • hardball, manipulation and all sorts of dodgy tactics

Those are probably agencies you'd like to no longer have to work with, agencies you only work with because you have to. And why do you have to work with them? Because you don't have alternatives. So that's what we'll be talking about in Pt 2.

Or perhaps there isn't that much toxicity going on but neither is there anything to keep you other than that you need work from somewhere, anywhere. Those are agencies you don't have to dump but have no special reason to regret to move on from. And that will be the focus of Pt 2.

And, for the record, a lot of Part 2 will be applicable to direct end clients as well, just not framed with them in mind.

Saturday 18 August 2018

Don't Get Too Tied Up in Your Current Project. At Least Respond to Quotation Requests.

Some of us are great multitaskers, some aren't.

Have you ever been so tied up in your current project you forgot about everything else, including your next project? Or your last project, for that matter. And how many times did a lucrative project miss you because of that? Potentially way more lucrative than whatever you were doing that prevented you from picking up the phone?

So let's not get sucked completely in like that. Or hire an assistant — and virtual assistants can be hired for short durations on a B2B service basis — if the practice can afford it.

Either way, those calls must be picked up, mail must be checked, invoices won't write themselves, and clients have no way of reaching us when we're isolated inside our own little worlds.

So let's not make our focus on the current task more exclusive than is necessary.

A lot of this is in the head. There's no law that says we can't. Nor a law of physics that makes us unable to. The blocks are real, but soft. Just like any other soft block that exists in one's head.

So without delving into 'mindset' nonsense, a freelance professional needs to learn to take breaks and check mail and at least return calls. Better still, make sure the phone is charged, not muted, and lying nearby and your clients know to call you the old-fashioned way when something is really urgent or a quick decision is needed — and mail you and wait an our or two or three if it's not.

Some things to consider:

  • separate number and address for returning clients (versus general inquiries)
  • separate address for specific quotation requests such as those sent through the quotation form & file upload on your website (versus general inquiries, broad RFPs etc.)
  • separate number and address for urgent cases, i.e. a hotline established for those clients who may need some ASAP post-delivery service
  • separate address for subscriptions, memberships, etc. (versus signing up with your main business address)
  • separate monitor to keep your mailbox open at all times
  • forcing yourself to learn to fish out the most important stuff and let go of the rest until its time finally comes

It's worth noting that the last item on the list — the one about having a filter in your head — is a classic management exercise in prioritizing. It's a skill everybody needs to pick up at some point on the path of professional if not personal growth. The sooner, the more practical.

While perfecting the art by trial and error may take some time, you're probably better off developing some routines before you actually have to use them. Simply put, it's easier to stick with existing just-in-case procedures, however imperfect they are due to their untested status, than invent them as you need them.

Hence, just spend some time thinking about what filters to use when you have the luxury of sitting back with a cup of tea instead of having to think on the spot. Just don't overplan it and don't become too rigid.

Think about questions to ask and ways of getting to those questions fast. Think what sort of mail needs what sort of reaction time from you, assign the priority, compare it to the priority of whatever you happen to be doing right now, and so on.

Example 1:

You have an urgent project due in 3 hours.

You can afford 10 minutes, but not 30.

A prospective client sends you a request for quotation for a specific service on short notice, and a broader inquiry about possible collaboration.

What can you do?

Surely you can't or at least shouldn't jeopardize your current project. As a professional, your word is your bond, reputation is everything and so on. Hence you won't be replying to all those questions about hypothetical collaboration right away. And you don't want to, anyway. But this doesn't mean you can't try to get that specific project your client also mentioned. So send a quotation for the specific project and promise to get back to the client within a specified time-frame about the rest. Make sure you'll really be able to write before, and not after, that self-imposed deadline. Underpromise and overdeliver, not the other way round.

Example 2:

You have an urgent project due in 3 hours.

Your other client calls, starts asking, it's all vague. You don't want to be rude, but you can't sense much potential either, and the clock is ticking, while your client keeps talking, and talking.

What can you do?

Wait for a pause (few people can entirely avoid one for longer than a minute), then go in for the kill. Make it a swift kill, you may not get one more chance. Say you're happy to hear from them. Of course you're available. Of course you can do it (if you really can). Your fee would be such and such. Please call when you have more specific information, now I need to get back to some really pressing stuff, or it's gonna cost me my head, thank you for understanding. Bye.

… And go back to work, focus on it, finish it, send it back and make sure you did (e.g. attachments really attached, you really hit the send button, etc.), then call back that other client. Start from thanking them for their patience and understanding. You may even have some time to chat at leisure, ask about their kids, whatever, show you care, show they're imporant to you.

Example 3:

You have an urgent project due in 3 hours.

You get a call or message, there's some large and somewhat complicated request. And they want a specific time-line and fee estimate on it.
And it's the same client.

What can you do?

Obviously, you can't just be late on your first project and probably don't want to ignore the other inquiry, either. So? Defer to your client. 'Do you prefer me to finish X first or should I put X on hold and get you a quote on Y first? What's more important to you?'

Example 4:

You have an urgent project due in 3 hours.

You get a call or message, there's some large and somewhat complicated request. And they want a specific time-line and fee estimate on it.
And it's not the same client.

What can you do?

Obviously, you can't just be late on your first client's project, and you probably don't want to ignore your second client, either. But it is equally evident you just have no space to prepare a comprehensive quotation right now.

So what can you do?

Excuse yourself, saying there's a project you must be finishing very soon, in fact there are only 3 hours left on it. Your client will feel appreciated you still took the call or checked the mail and actually replied. Inform the client about the general rules you'd be applying to the quotation, without calculating the application to the specific case — that's something the client more or less can do. If not, the client can get a general feel of whether your rates are fair and reasonable and within the client's budget, or just what they are, give or take some, so there's something to tell the boss (or the client's client).

Or give a ballpark figure. Or an upper limit. Discount it a little if you think that's what it takes to avoid overcharging.


As you can clearly see all these examples typically result in some degree of panic if you aren't prepared. On the other hand, they are far from hard to think about in advance based on your own experience to date and your imagination.

So sit down, think for a while and come up with some such approximate procedures on a less busy day, like this Saturday was for me.

Bonus: Clients tend to appreciate preparation, confidence and calm. All of these project experience, professionalism, security and control. And these, in turn, put your client's minds at ease by demonstrating they've come to the right place.

The above remains true even if they also appreciate someone whose main asset or advance is flexibility and improvisation, as tends to be the case with freelancers, solos and small business operators.

You can in fact combine the best of the two worlds, and the way to do so is by pencilling in some basic scenarios in advance and developing on them as you go, on a case-by-case basis.

Those practical ad-hoc case-by-case decision-making skills which you need will still improve from considering theoretical scenarios. The more situations you consider in advance, the less time it will take to assess new situations as they pop up.

Of course, you can always analyse what you could have done better in this or that case, from an ex-post perspective — but obviously for the sake of learning only and not beating yourself up over it.


And one thing I almost forgot: Don't come up with ridiculously short deadlines. Don't make them shorter and shorter. Probe your client. Find out how urgent the job really is — which is also important in terms of, say, unnecessary rush fees that you may have a professional duty to help your client avoid (as tends to be the case in regulated professions). Make sure you have the time to do the job properly and without dropping dead at the end, and without becoming absolutely unable to pick up the phone before you finish.

Thursday 9 August 2018

The Power of the Next Time

In what could be one of my last posts on this blog, I'd like to talk about something that's very simple and very underappreciated — the positive aspect of the

next time

We tend to associate the 'next time' with empty promises that are cheap currency to exchange for tangible financial concessions on our part. But, the 'next time' can be used as a positive tool just as well.

Few of us freelancers, solos and small entrepreneurs aren't wary about flat out denying our clients. We know the implications. Denying does not necessarily result in client loss, but it's hardly good for the relationship. And at some point we do flat out deny anyway.

So here's suggestion: When you receive an offer you feel you have to accept but you're also conflicted because you should reject it on principle, instead of flat out rejecting or flat out accepting or allowing the situation to degenerate into a haggling or whining session — use the 'next time' way out.

Specifying some conditions for the 'next time' allows you to avoid refusing your client but also allows you to avoid sacrificing your own position or principles. It also shows your client you're someone who is reasonable but at the same time to be taken seriously.

Incidentally, just throw some old-fashioned hard work with good results in the mix, and it probably won't be exaggerating to say the image of the quintessential professional pretty much paints itself. On a basic level, one doesn't need much more.

When the next time comes, however, do be consistent. There is no more next time, because the next time is now. You can still show yourself as a reasonable person capable of compromise, but some things need to change, and that change needs to take things closer to where they should be.

So don't worry, meeting your client halfway is not a defeat. It just shows you're civilized, considerate and patient and have a hard time completely prioritizing your own interests over someone else's. That's the stuff of which good relationships are made. But, continue to expect and demand things to continue to move forward in the right direction.

Don't worry if you meet with resistance. Some people will test you to avoid being the sucker who pays the first quoted price that nobody else's is paying. They'll need some assurance that's not what is happening. And that may take some arguing about your initial quotes, first proposals, etc.

If the client says there's no room to move — 'as much as we'd like to, we just can't' — try to look for a compromise solution, a give-and-take. Better conditions for the client, better conditions for you. Reciprocity. Equivalence. Balance. You may want to read my post about non-financial terms.

If the client gives you a flat no, take it or leave it, you may want to be more proactive in considering that perhaps you should in fact leave it. Which may in fact be another test.

Wednesday 14 March 2018

We May All Need Fancy Marketing Soon, a.k.a. Distinguish or Perish (in the Battle of Quotes)

They say 'diversify or die'. Today I want to say 'distinguish or perish'.

Clients, even consumers, already mail 20 providers in BCC, asking for a quote, then pick the cheapest or the best blend, according to them. Which is usually very different from what a choice based on professionally relevant criteria would be.

The cheapest is something you can't help, unless you want that to be you. And you don't, because someone's always going to work for exposure or experience if it comes to it. Or for fun. You can't possibly be the cheapest unless you pay them.

But you can help the best blend. The blend is a sweet spot. The sweet spot where supply best meets demand, or so the client thinks. The best fit.

By saying more about yourself, accurately and in an encouraging way if you can help it, you can't convince mass askers. Not often at least. But you can persuade people away from masking. Or you can convince them before they mass ask.

You can make them think that you're the only option, or the best, or just good enough so there's no need to look further.

My personal take is that the less ambitious, more modest target of 'just good enough so there's no need to look further' is a good, solid base to cover before you fiddle with the fancy stuff. First the basics, then the extras — if at all.

We may all need this if the trend for getting multiple quotes, even on small jobs and even by consumers, continues to rise.

That, and, of course, we need to stop gambling our precious time with the 20 other people in the BCC field. Doesn't mean we should give them exactly zero time, though. Nope. There is a war to wage, so there are battles to fight.

It is good to have a canned response in which you state just what your rates would be for the same job in normal circumstances, while refusing to enter the battle of quotes. This is the least you can do to help unteach them the bad thinking habits, such as that they can get a special (i.e. reduced) offer for just asking and for just being them. Y'know, everybody is special, but so is everybody else. And his dog.

Still, show them you considered their inquiry/requirement/need individually, but the size of your fee is based on standard applicable rates.

Else, if they keep only getting responses from people who are prepared to play their game, they'll end up with a distorted view of the market, thinking everybody else is unavailable or uninterested and those who do respond represent the industry opinion as a whole. Which is not the case (or so I hope).

Dear Client,

Thank you for your interest. It is my policy not to participate in competitive quotes. This e-mail is emphatically not a bid.

For reference, my standard applicable fee for your particular request (as specified in your mail) would be XXX.

Always feel free to contact me for a specific quotation or booking. Please, however, keep in mind my policy not to participate in competitive bidding.



Just an example.

If you feel like it, you can consider adding something to the tune of:

Please be aware that due to the low statistical probability of having the project assigned to me out of all of the providers asked for this quotation I am prevented from being able to spend as much time preparing a more tailored quote as is normally the standard of care I give to my clients.

And yes, not a single comma. Be confident. Transmission, not dialogue. And certainly no arguing or pleading. Just remember to turn it into generally acceptable passive-aggressive corpobabble without showing a genuine human side.

Monday 12 March 2018

Reading Copious Briefs and Reference Materials Shouldn't Be Free of Charge!

Everybody outsources things these days. Even quite internal things. Outsourcing is good because it frees you of all the hassle of the special treatment employees get. And allows you to pay people when you actually need them, not for the entire time of just being there.

On the other hand, more and more clients yearn for the special treatment an employer traditionally gets. They want someone to get to know them, in fact quite intimately (in business terms), to become dedicated to them, to give them one's all, and so and so forth. And sometimes they want all those benefits right off the box, where they take months or years to achieve with employees or some other variety of in-house staff. And they certainly want customized, tailored services.

… But they also want to keep paying only for what's billable or tangible, or just the standard price of a standard service.

Clients sometimes need to be reminded — gently if possible — that outsourcing is for not paying people when you are not in fact using them. It's not some magic of the invisible hand of the market for getting a month's worth of attention for a week's worth of pay and save a ton on costs while reaping all the benefits.

Here's an analogy that also works for services that have rarely been done in-house and thus needed to be outsources but have traditionally been purchased from the market:

If you're buying a single loaf of bread at the standard two or three bucks per, you don't get to mail the bakery a 20-page PDF detailing your absolutely essential, holy inviolable specs. You could get more luck with a custom order, especially  But even a custom order than normally takes them a day will get them to spend a week studying your PDFs. No chance. Nobody's going to eat that cost for you.

High time our clients appreciated this basic fact of life. High time we did.

If You're Overworked, Up Your Rates! (to Up Your Game)

One of the complaints we sometimes hear — and sometimes envy — on freelancers' social media is too much work and having to decline. Th...