Don’t hire a freelancer expecting not to pay

hire a freelancer and pay them
Dont ask for credit as refusal often offends

Small business owners, entrepreneurs and startups, listen up! When you look to hire a freelancer, the emphasis should be on paying us.

I, and my fellow freelancers, can’t afford to work for you in the hope of payment sometime in the future.

As cool as you think your idea is, as amazing as you think your revenue projections may be, the fact of the matter is when someone freelances, it means they make a living out of doing project work for clients. That money is then used to pay things like rent, bills and buy food.


I challenge you to find a good freelancer who is sitting on enough money to do your project without payment

Remember those signs in the milk bar that read “PLEASE DON’T ASK FOR CREDIT AS REFUSAL OFTEN OFFENDS”- I shouldn’t have to hang that on my website. In the last 6 months, I have been offered profit share in a travel idea that still hasn’t launched, an erectile dysfunction medication, a line of protein powders, several online shops and a cinema based in a different state.

If I took these jobs, I wouldn’t be able to make money to keep myself alive. I can’t give my real estate agent penis stiffener instead of rent! I can’t swap protein powder for food at the shops! Can I pay Energy Australia in movie tickets? NO!

In the immortal words of Tyler Durden, “you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake”.

You and your idea are not exempt from payment based on the strength of what could come in the future.You are not the first person to try and convince a freelancer to work for free. You are meant to hire a freelancer, not act like an self entitled child who doesn’t understand what being in business actually means.

Every time a business approaches a freelancer with deferred payment, another reason to be pissed off gets its wings.

It doesn’t matter if you approach it from the perspective of profit share, sales bonuses, offering them to become a founder, exchanging it for experience- someone somewhere has already tried that. I have been doing this for years. With an average of an approach every 3 months now turning into an approach each month, you can bet your bottom dollar that I have heard every single special little one liner you can muster. I have heard all the promises about golden futures and the money just waiting to come through from secret investors.

When you come to hire a freelancer, your sob story won’t get you over the line

I have heard all I can stand about how there is money to be made for the person who is “right for the opportunity”. Or how tough you are doing it as opposed to me, who is (apparently) sitting here dripping with diamonds just waiting to help a special guy like you.

Every freelancer has.

So please…

Look at it from a freelancer’s perspective:

A freelancer has fixed costs. They pay their bills through being paid for their freelance skills. If you want to remove the payment, exactly how do they cover the fixed costs?

When someone turns up with a paying project that takes just as much time as your profit share one, who do you think will get the freelancer’s attention?

How much faith can a freelancer have in a client who can’t budget appropriately for their project? If you can’t budget for staff, if you can’t understand the concept of people needing money to live, just how good at business can you be?

What if your golden dream doesn’t come into fruition? What then? Why should a freelancer take on all the risk for minimal and deferred reward?

Hire a freelancer and you won’t have to worry about us second guessing whether your business idea is legitimate.

The proof is in the pudding

When you try to hire a freelancer like me, don’t under-estimate our business acumen. I track all the clients I say no to and/or offer me profit share. I want to know if I’ve misjudged a situation and missed out on something awesome because it may inform how I approach things in future.

In 6 years, none of the clients I have passed on have become amazing success stories. Some don’t exist anymore, some never got off the ground, one or two are around but they aren’t game changers.

That’s not a very good endorsement for the “it’ll rain money sometime in the future” approach.

If I had said yes, just how negative would the impact on my freelance career have been? I’d probably have been wiped out along with them.

Considering the overwhelming evidence that I’m probably right to say no, I shall continue to do so. Funnily enough, no other freelancer has ever said “Well, it worked for me!” either.

Doesn’t that tell you something?

Let me spell it out for you- come prepared to hire a freelancer for the work you need or get off the fantasy merry-go-round. We’re not here to play act in your business pantomime.

Stop drinking your own bath water and calling it Perrier. Come to a freelancer with a budget in mind, or don’t come to them at all. It will save us all a lot of angst.

Are you serious about your business? Want to hire a freelancer that works hard to make your business a success? Contact me now. 




9 Comments. Leave new

  • Yet another fantastic article by Bek.

  • Oh, I hear you! I was recently offered some kind of profit share arrangement thingo by two separate businesses. One wanted to pay me ‘on performance’ despite the fact that there was numerous factors (and other peopel) influencing their success or otherwise, with my marketing being but one part and another joker said they wanted “some part” of my payment to be performance-based. Neither had a clear proposal – I was suppose to negotiate and work that out for them.

    Ha! I told them both that I worked for project or hourly fees only.

    • I can totally relate to the whole not having any idea, too.

      In fact, I find not having budget seems to go hand in hand with not having a clear plan. And that’s fine when it’s just you and it’s your project, but once you start asking other people to work on it, you need to get yourself organised.

      Perhaps it’s the assumption that all freelancers are desperate for work, or broken in some way? That we don’t get how it works?

  • Its very true, and I’ve been in the same situation many times however if a potentially good offer does come in I would be prepared to do it on the condition it didn’t impact my day work. Some times you do need to take a punt, you never know!

    • Lee, I have offered other ways for people to gain access to free work and am actively giving free advice on a regularly basis via social media and my website. I’ve run a barter marketing swap product, written a free content eBook and also do a monthly clinic based on emails from clients who need help.

      I think that’s enough free work for a one person freelance outfit.

  • Pricing is always one of the hardest things for any business to get right and will make the difference between whether you succeed or fail. Being an SEO company we used to offer results based payment schemes where the client would only pay once they saw results, the problem was getting the payment once the results were achieved. We ended up being debt collectors which wasn’t allowing us to grow or focus on our core business. Bottom line is always get your payment up front, or implement a direct debit system.

    • Hey Nathan,

      I believe in payment, contracts and retainers. I think there’s a time and a place for free work, and it isn’t among my regular offerings. I can totally understand why you would need upfront payment being in SEO. I can also imagine its quite difficult to get cut through amongst cheap resellers, let alone doing freebie work.

      I have been lucky as have only had to consider debt collectors with one business… who are now in court facing a class action from a bunch of people they haven’t paid on all kinds of levels. It certainly trains you about payment terms!

      Thanks for commenting.

  • Margaret Paton
    July 3, 2020 8:06 am

    Yes, spot on. I keep seeing ads for grant writers, but … get this … you’ll only get paid IF and when they get the grant funding. Hmmmm


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