Being a freelancer in Greece was always a nightmare.

Being a freelancer in austerity Greece with increased taxes and special state charges and the unemployment is a nightmare multiplied by a hundred.

Projects are hard to find and if you are lucky and get a project, getting paid for your services results to a bad adventure – and I mean a really bad one.

You are unable to make plans such as paying the electric bill because you don’t know  if you’re going to get your fees today, or tomorrow, or next month, or in the next 6 months, or in a year – no exaggeration there.

So, here are 5 tips to help you cope with your clients who take advantage of austerity in Greece [there are many of those] and get payed for your work at a reasonable period of time.

There is not such thing as a friendly price

Friendly prices, go to real friends – usually for your real friends you design pro-bono. So if a company asks you to work on a huge project with a friendly price, either use the non-friendly price as a friendly one, or say that you charge by the hour [put your non-friendly hourly price]. Keep always in mind that you and your client are neither friends, nor buddies.

Be extra careful if a big client asks you to make him a friendly offer, rejecting the hourly fees offer, so that in a period of time he will give you more projects.

This oral-client-promise usually means that he will call you in the middle of the night to make changes, SMS you while you’re having sex with your partner for some extra changes, e-mail you a dozen times to make some super-extra-to-the-infinity-and-beyond changes free of charge. You end up making a project x3 for an agreed one-project. Like I said, this is a usual phenomenon but still not absolute.

Always sign an agreement

So, you’ve been working like an ass for 6 months on a project, the project freezes and you didn’t get a single cent out of it. That’s cause you didn’t sign an agreement that includes your net fees, your fees with VAT, the deadline, an advance deposit et cetera.

If the client doesn’t ask you to sign one, then make one and urge the client to sign it.

If you don’t, you’ll end up emailing and calling your clients to get your fees for months and months.

If you don’t, the project will be compromised by the client, freezing it without any notification and without getting paid.

You’ll end up being a shucker who’s put too many hours to a project and never got the oral agreed fees.

Make the agreement a standard issue for all your clients.

Whatever is singed by the client is valid in court.

Never, ever, do a pro-bono for a client

Picture this: A client calls you, says he heard about you from a common friend or a partner and asks you to design his website, or logo, or flyer, or ID, or all the above for free. Finally he suggests that if you’ll do this for free, he’ll give you clients to work for [not for free].

It’s a trap!

There are no clients waiting, nothing. It’s just a trick to get you to do his work for free.

Never take pro-bono clients.

The only reason to take a pro-bono client is for activism’s sake, for a small job as a discount, for a close friend and for a close family member.

Always charge every service, even the small ones [like designing a JPG banner].

You’ve spend years studying at a graphics design College, you’ve spend years practicing and perfecting your abilities, you’ve spend years and years learning new developments about your work, new software, new technologies and all this knowledge is not for free.

Keep in mind there will be clients who will ask you for free consulting.

There is no such thing. Consulting goes with a price – because consulting is the same thing as “designing” and “working on a project” et cetera.

And we came to the usual case scenario that 90% of clients will ask you:

“Hi there, I want you to to design for my logo/website/app/all the above some free drafts – like 5 or 4 – so I can decide whether I want  to work with you or not”.

This undignified technique is extremely common to Greek CEOs.

Don’t accept it. Put an offer on the table for the drafts and make sure – always politely – that your client understands that you are a professional designer and not an amateur.

If everyone asks a fee for drafts, this phenomenon will finally end and the freelancers’ world will be better.

Always ask for an advance deposit

To ensure the project, your client has to pay in advance part of the agreed fees.

Problems that may occur if you don’t get an advance:

1. You’ll end up doing a project for eternity.

2. You’ll end up begging your client to pay you for the finished project.

3. Your client may steal your design, do some adjustments and finish it claiming that it was designed in-house.

4. All the above.

Keep calm and ask for an advance. There is no shame to that, nor you need to be bold. It’s a damn-freelancer’s right!

Always ask an advance for any client except for the ones you have a trustworthy collaboration and for small-time jobs such as designing a banner or two.

Be a true professional even if your client is not

If the client is the client from hell type – unfortunately we are in excess of those type of clients in Greece – don’t go writing to your blog about how douce he is, or tweet how his company treated you.

It is unprofessional.

Stay professional and stay human.

If the client calls you in the middle of the night to ask you the 4rth extra-super-urgent changes he dreamed about, stay polite, make him understand that 3:00 is not a working hour and from now on all adjustments and corrections will be charged.

Being a professional is also being able to reach the zen status staying calm without collecting the client’s stress, anger, OCD, as your own.

Always be true to the deadlines and the services you provide even if you have to work more than you though you would. You agreed to design a project, you should stick to your promise. Consider that as the ultimate oath of the freelancer and never hang to dry your clients, even the worst ones.

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