Why All Freelancers Need An Exit Strategy From Bad Clients
Max Pete hated the 9-5 grind, so he decided to try his hand at freelancing. Now he’s a full-time Squarespace design freelancer. He also launched a coaching business to help other freelancers grow and was named one of the top 50 global freelance change makers by The Human Cloud organization.
In this Q&A interview, Max shared how he got into freelancing, what he loves (and hates) about it, and why all freelancers need an exit strategy to get away from bad clients.
How did you get into freelancing?
I was really feeling stuck at my 9-5 and wanted to explore what was outside of the traditional office setting. When I was 25, I lost my mum to cancer and decided that life is too short to be doing something that you dislike. I needed a change and that’s when I jumped ship to become a freelancer.
Now, I am a freelance Squarespace designer and business coach for other freelancers and solopreneurs. I work with small businesses, freelancers and consultants.
Tell us about your experiences. What’s the best client you’ve ever had? The worst?
The best client experience
One of the best client experiences I have had was waking up to a very long but awesome email from my client where they just wanted to say how thankful that they were for my help and the work that I was doing. Sometimes I lose focus on the impact of the work that I do, and it was a great reminder that this is why I love working with small businesses and doing the work that I do.
The worst client experience
Early on in my freelance career, I had a client try to do chargebacks on PayPal from a payment they sent me for their website project. Everything was done on time and delivered, but they wanted to essentially get all of their money back. Because I had a contract signed and I kept our email records, I sent everything to PayPal and they ruled in my favor.
It is a good reminder to get contracts and keep your receipts!
What tools do you use to run your business?
Project management: Basecamp.
I use these three tools on the daily and it really helps me with my workflow!
What’s your advice for freelancers having trouble closing clients? How can they get more business?
Find out where in your process that the clients are falling off. Is it in your proposal? Does it happen on your introduction calls? Finding out this will allow you to figure out a new strategy and hopefully close more clients because of it.
After that, network with other freelancers and collaborate with them! Honestly, there are tons of other freelancers out there. Connect with them, see in which ways you can support each other. Set up referrals between you and them, and collaborate if there are big projects. When I first started out, I reached out to a lot of Squarespace designers and just introduced myself. In networking this way, I was able to set up referrals, land clients that I normally wouldn’t have access to, and make friends along the way!
How can freelancers deal with red flags and avoid client pitfalls?
Notice those red flags early and don’t ignore them. If a client is acting shady, address it and see if there is a way around it. If not, have an exit plan. Unfortunately, there are clients out there that try and take advantage of you and if you are aware of that early on, you can avoid having to deal with that headache.
There are going to be times where you have difficult clients, it is impossible to avoid completely. However, setting boundaries with your clients is going to be important. Let them know how often and when they can contact you, when you need your deliverables in order to move forward, etc. If a client is just too difficult to deal with, it might be time to cut ways.
What are your best strategies for maintaining mental and physical health as a freelancer?
Setting boundaries on when you are working and unplug when you are not is crucial! You don’t have to give yourself regular office hours, but having a set time on when you are working helps create focus and allows you to rest on your off time. Also, getting outside even for a mid-day lap has huge benefits especially during a stressful day!