Have you ever heard of the toughest species on the Earth? It’s named Toughus Freelancerus, common named Freelancers. Not only do we survive clients from hell, we have also worked hours on low-budget, supernatural-ranking projects while keeping our sanity intact. Some of us even wish to go back to the days before, when we were newborn and innocent, with no fear for much of anything except not being taken seriously.
I am considered lucky to have survived this far and I feel obligated to share some of my horror stories, oops, projects that freelancers would probably experience or come across, although I would not actually wish that you share a fate as bad as mine.
And for the freelancers who are just starting out, if you are not scared off yet, you can refer to this whenever some of your clients start to act weird, intentionally of course. Let’s check out the 15 projects you will come across in your freelancing career.
Recommended Reading: What’s So Great (And Not) About Freelancing
#1. The ‘Iron Man’ Project
It’s a project with high promise, the kind that will shake the world, bringing a tide of revolution that will impress the mortals. The client speaks about it like it is inventing a new form of metal. Twice. In his mind, of course.
You will have to hear the term ‘revolutionary’ for 30 times before you can even slip in a question about how the project actually works. Depending on the project’s authenticity, this could be a new high or new low in your freelance career.
Undeniably, though, most freelancers actually love this specific kind of challenging project, as long as the revolutionary project pays your bills. Whenever I come across a project like this, I demand a contract and 50% upfront payment.
#2: The ‘Clone Wars’ Project
So you are asked to develop an innovative website that will reboot the Earth and change the way humans interact (again), and it sounds like a mashup clone of Facebook, Pinterest and Vine combined.
After some period working on the project, the technical part gets sticky, so you request for more charged hours. They tell you the budget is tight, so they make do with a Pinterest clone. Apparently, it’s all good for them as long as it’s a clone of a mega-buzzed social media platform with a coincidentally identical design.
You deliver the project, take your fee and walk away, without mentioning those Pinterest clones you have visited for reference, or developed before (it’s the dark side of the freelance business, after all).
#3. The ‘Jack of All Trades’ Project
In this era, it’s certainly better to be a jack of all trades than a master of one, as it’s really hard for me to think of freelance projects that require only one set of skills. However, what happens is that in some projects, the client thinks you’re a master of all trades!
(Image Source: StacMaster-S)
After you hear all those requirements and work details from client and translate them into a note about job requirement, your requirement may look like this: Mastery in CSS, CSS3, HTML5, JS, PHP, MySQL, Python, C++, C#, C, Photoshop, Illustrator, Copywriting, SEO, Animated GIF… and on and on. It is deadly important for you to state clearly what you can do before any work starts.
If however you actually master all of them, then it is time to test whether your client is the master of paying all bills.
#4. The ‘Trouble Saver’ Project
You are hired to clean up the mess that the previous designer left. Judging from the spaghetti code strewn all over the project, your experience tells you that it should be done by amateur freelancers… not, college students. It seems like your client has hired cheap labor, but ended up injuring himself.
It’s a relaxing job as you’re just fixing the atrocities that previous designers committed, but be sure to request the full payment before handing over the project. Who knows if the project you’re currently fixing is actually a compilation of work that has been unpaid by a client on the run!
#5. The ‘Sixth Sense’ Project
Philosophically speaking, the project itself is the client. It revolves around the very soul of the client himself, which is commonly referred as ‘feel’, and you need to have at least a Bachelor of Psychology, or a sixth sense to figure out how (in the world) you can deliver this project.
‘Design a website that rocks and pops with everything edgy and spicy’, you will be amazed at how many adjectives clients can come up with to describe absolutely nothing.
Any design task or project goal will change according to the client’s artistic sense. But you simply don’t have time to guess his every whim, so your best bet is to narrow down the project outline with as much details as possible. Otherwise, you will be stuck into the ‘I don’t feel like it’s right’ black hole forever.
#6. The Project Within A Project
The Project Within A Project is the best example of why you should sign a contract, but not an agreement with your client.
So you just submitted the design and happily wait to smell the fragrance of cash, only to receive the client’s rejection the next day, and the problem is not even about your design. The problem is its own logo. They command you to design a new logo for their brand, just to make the website design look good, or they won’t consider the job done. A new baby project has born!
You know you are (tightly) screwed, but you don’t want to lose the money since you put a hell lot of effort into it. After working furiously on the logo, and the mascot, and the copywriting, and the SEO… you are finally fed up and decided to state the obvious, that you are a web designer, then they promise to talk to their web designer about your concern.
But wait, I’m their web designer! The mess goes on and on, and the only confirmed thing is you will not receive payment any soon.
#7. The ‘Need for Speed’ Project
It often starts as a task, then ends up snowballing into a project. A wild client appears and pitches a project, and they sound like the world will end tomorrow if you don’t help them, then here comes the two keywords – fast and easy. You feel like the deal is okay and since it doesn’t take much time… why not?
You started to work on the task, but suddenly they demand more details than before. You threaten them by demanding more time, and the shocking thing is they say no problem!
Since you have other projects on deadline too, your time suddenly become very limited since this new project piled on. Now, it’s your turn to feel as if the world is going to end tomorrow. This project teaches you a lesson: tell them that you are charging double, just to see if they actually need you to rush it just to save the world.
#8. The ‘Fight or Die’ Project
This is the project that makes you feel bad about yourself, but ironically it’s also the one you will show off to your friends and children. Since most freelancers are naturally adventurous, we tend to accept projects with immense challenges that make us question our technical and mental capabilities, only to realize later that the project is simply too hard to beat.
At this point, you have 2 choices: admit you can’t do it and surrender, or slave through it day and night, just to break the surface. Since surrender is for the weak, you decided to go all-in, and retreat to weep at the corner of your room in night.
But in the end, everything falls into place, and you walk away not just with a paycheck but also with a great appreciation and respect for yourself. You feel like you can conquer anything from now on while giving yourself advice that runs along the lines of "know when to drop it and run" for a healthier and longer life.
#9. The Cheap Project
It’s just what the title literally means: a cheap project from a cheap client, but this time, you are forced to accept it because you need that urgent money to pay your rent. The strategy here is to receive 50% of the payment upfront, then use that to please your angry landlord, while the spare will go to stop the incessant growling coming from your stomach.
I believe every freelancer has somehow tasted this during the less secure foundation years, and we all know the mental disturbance that the cheap project caused is even more harmful than all above-mentioned issues combined. Your body is simply open to any torture that the client could think of. It’s a fun past that serves as a reminder for you to always have backup savings for difficult times.
#10: The ‘Forever Billing’ Project
You do a project for a giant corporation, but strangely you never saw a dime coming from their pockets. Billing the clients is easier than actually collecting from the client. And when you stretch that pay up period long enough, they may come back and tell you, ‘We have no money to pay you’, or worse, they take off with no reply at all.
Our courage grows weaker every time we request for payments, even though we know that we should be paid. But you must confront the client as fast as possible since the more time you delay, the less chance you are going to get paid. Don’t email or call him, face him at the office, or invite him out for a meal or a 1-to-1. Once you get the payment, you can dump the client even if he asks you to do another project for him.
Once is enough.
#11. The ‘Relative = Free’ Project
Your cousin wants to design a website for a college project, and you’re appointed by your mom to be his free technical slave. You swear your loyalty to your cousin
because mom says so since you had some fun times together, but soon you realize that this is one of the biggest mistakes you have ever made.
You will probably end up doing all the work yourself since your cousin probably doesn’t have any skills to build a website at all. And after so much explanation that is sometimes more hectic than actual work, you find it easier to complete everything for him. Makes you feel like telling everyone you do not know anything, so no one will come looking for you for favors again.
#12. The Friend’s ‘Not So Friendly’ Project
Your friend has accepted a project, and now he’s asking for your help, which you logically will not refuse because friends help each other, right? This is an extension of #11, just replace cousin with a friend, the always asleep, always snoring friend. And worse of all, if the project fails to come up to the mark, it’s your fault for not giving it your all. " You’re supposed to help me, you’re supposed to be my friend."
By this point you should already know that, any project that involves close relationships should be avoided at all costs. It’s still okay to help your friend with important tasks though, just not anything that involves big money (a few of them are still in my Ignore list).
#13. The ‘Multiplayer’ Project
It’s a rare circumstance that 2 or more freelancers are hired for a project, but if it happens to you, congrats, as you’ll be gaining precious experience working with multiple, expert-level freelancers like you. But remember to ask this question to the others before starting work, has this boss paid you before?’
This is a strategic question, as it not only confirms the sanity of your current client, but also opens up a chance to chat with them, thus setting up a friendly working atmosphere with your freelance comrades. You will also learn how to work on the same design at the same time without technical conflicts, and it’s done even without verbal communication!
You feel like the good ol’ times when you’re working with a bunch of people in the office, except this time they are all true professionals, and they don’t like to play office politics.
#14. The ‘More Than Money’ Project
Sometimes it’s not just about money, but absolutely not about exposure, too. Freelancing can be touching and romantic, and that’s what the ‘More Than Money’ project is all about. You saw a charity organization running a campaign, but they are financially unable to hire a designer for the banner.
That’s fine, you do it for them, charging them with the children’s smile for the service fee. Most importantly, when the banner is lifted up onto the sky, you feel proud. You have done something good, refilled your karma, the good kind.
There are also times when your better half’s birthday is around the corner, and you want to pour your very best into crafting a website or mini-game to surprise her, and show to her that, she has got a great partner (this is why you should date a geek).
Money is great, but these are something meaningful that makes you happy about life.
#15. The Dream Project
It’s this project you will shout out “oh my god! oh my god!” when you first check the invitation mail, be it from Google or Facebook. It’s the project you will check countless times to see if it is legitimate or genuine because it’s too good to be true. It feels nice. It tastes sweet. It defines who you are – a world-class software engineer.
You will soon be hit with the technical terms and techniques that you have never heard of, but that’s fine because everything here is worth fighting for! Three months have passed and the project’s ended, but you feel like it was just about to begin. You made sure you a few ways form to contact you again, then stared at the screen for a few seconds, then clicked to sign off.
The sunlight has never been so bright, your life has never been so great. You can’t wait to empower yourself with a new skill or knowledge today, in order to experience this vivid dream again one day.