Australian freelance myths are damaging to us freelancers as a community. Having spent the last 5 years as a freelancer myself while also running the Freelance Jungle meetups, I’ve had plenty of time to hear the freelance myths that suck the joy and life out of freelancing.
Don’t listen to them.
Here are the 6 Australian freelance myths that make solo life suck and what you should replace them with.
1) If you build it, they will come
Step away from the misquoted Kevin Costner quotes! Building a website, social media presence or business does not mean you will be automatically flooded with customers. Even if you are the most magical SEO wizard in all the land, you cannot and should not rely on people to find you.
Freelancing is about hustle. It’s about working on your business as though you are a paying client. It’s about picking up the phone and/or making cold email approaches. The Australian freelance scene is driven by people who make their own luck. They work on their content marketing and their social media presence. They put themselves out there.
Don’t be a wallflower. Get out there! Be proud of who you are and what you offer so others follow suit.
2) You have to shake a lot of hands to get a lot of work
You do need to establish yourself and undertake a process of building rapport with clients. However, it probably won’t happen at networking drinks. Australian freelance work opportunities are few and far between at the big events. Sorry.
How can I say that? Well, when people go to networking drinks, they are usually in ‘sell mode’. They are looking to sell their business or product. What you want little freelancer is people in ‘buy mode’. So they want to buy from you.
Where do you find people in ‘buy mode’? Usually asking questions on forums, wringing their hands on their Facebook page, looking for someone to point them in the right direction on Twitter, or at interest-driven events where a certain topic is being discussed.
Or they are not aware they have a problem and could probably do with a cold email or call from you offering to help them out.
Being helpful online and building a position of authority in a community (online or off) is far more beneficial because you can demonstrate your knowledge and meet the people with the pain points.
3) The client will pay… eventually
Are you letting a digital agency or government body dictate the terms of payment? Do you also tell the owner of your favourite coffee shop what he should charge you for lunch?
Repeat after me: My client’s cash-flow issues are not my problem. They need to ensure they have budget before they hire me.
Your payment terms are your payment terms. You have to manage your cash flow, and this means asking people to abide by your invoicing terms. You can’t go around fixing everyone else’s budgeting problems.
Here’s the real insight- you may be thinking constantly about your invoice, but to the client, you are one of many things they need to deal with. If you don’t remind them, they can and will forget to make you a priority.
The Australian freelance scene has this weird relationship with money that is incredibly apologetic for wanting to eat. And it has to stop.
Set your terms and stick to them. Follow up and don’t apologise. Be brave little freelancer!
4) You have to be subservient to survive
Occasionally you’ll meet a client who thinks that because they have cash to spend on you, you’ve got to dance for the puppet master.
This is incorrect.
You have a duty of care to your client. This means that if they come up with the world’s most stupid idea for a campaign, you should say something.
You also have a duty of care to yourself. So if a potential client is trying to knock down your prices, rushing you to unworkable deadlines, and generally making your life hell, you don’t have to put up with that. We may not have an Australian freelance union. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have rights.
Instead of thinking about the work you miss out on by knocking back a job you know in your gut will be awful, think of it for leaving room for work that is better suited to you.
Don’t take on someone else’s abuse for money. It isn’t worth it.
5) eBidding sites are ruining it for everyone
The Australian freelance scene hasn’t been as impacted by overseas competition as some would like you to believe. Yes, things are a little more competitive and yes, you do get more people saying “but some starving kid in India can build me a website for 10% of your price” via email. But you know what? You don’t want that client anyway.
Genuine customers don’t chase bargains. They chase quality. Quality is never cheap.
So stand your ground and politely send the bargain hunters off to the $2 sweatshops they deserve.
6) Other freelancers will steal your work if you befriend them
The stealing of a client by a competitor is a lie. It’s arrogant to think your client doesn’t get to choose who they work with. And there are a myriad of different reasons why someone may choose one person over another.
If you make friends with other freelancers, it gets you more work, not less. As trusted colleagues and friends, you can share your overflow. You can join forces and make project pitches on larger jobs. And you have someone better than your dog (sorry Gibson) to share your woes with.
But the whole “he’s stealin’ my jerbs!” business is for the insecure and the narcissist.
The bottom line on Australian freelance myths
You have enough to worry about as a freelancer without allowing myths and conjecture to cloud your vision. And while some of the freelance myths above may have a kernel of truth within them, taking them to heart is a bad idea.