At times being a freelancer is hard enough as it is, without any self-inflicted problems or issues. Many times the the problems arise because, as a freee lancer you have not properly prepared. Here is a valuable check list of freelancer rules, if followed, can keep your stress levels to a minimum.

Always get a deposit

This can be awkward, but will ensure that you get at least something for your time and work.  Serious clients should not have a problem giving you 25% to 50% upfront, depending on the size of the project. However, this can pose a problem. Some clients have been burned before and don’t feel comfortable paying anything up front and the bail. Some clients are naturally difficult to deal with. You as a designer are faced with a decision, either refund their money or work extra to please a difficult client. Everyone has doubts and these scenarios happen often, try to reassure your clients you’ll will be there for them and that you will follow through with the work you’ve agreed upon.

Get 100% verification of what your job is to do

Consult consult consult. Before you begin a new project spend valuable time consulting with your client so that you both can be clear about what is expected for the project. There’s no point in starting a project if you’re not clear about the expectations. What happens all to often is you will get waist deep in a project and then  its not what the client expected. The end game is a gross waste of your time, resources, and ultimately your money.

Decide an hourly rate or rate on a project basis

This really can be a sticking point. Far too many designers, who work on an hourly rate, have the opportunity to “pad the clock” or fleece clients by taking extra time to work on a project. It depends a lot on the freelancer which works best for them. If you like to take your time and get it perfect then hourly rates are the way to go for you. If you work fast and because of this value your time more highly then you could consider a price per project. However in experience I have found working a hourly rate allows more freedom to explore ideas and get things perfect. It also means that if the client wants revision after revision then you can keep going as you will be paid more.

Never ask for referrals

Don’t ask your clients for referrals. If they say you have done a good job for them, then i’m sure they will refer you to friends, and most likely come back themselves. Asking for referrals can make you sound desperate for work.

Offer incentives to your regular customers

Reward your regular clients with free or discounted services. This will keep them coming back.  Freelancers should do this with their regular clients, to let them know their special.

Keep your clients notified

This can help you gain / keep that professional status. If you notify your clients every time you reach a checkpoint, then they can stay updated, and it keeps them informed on how fast your working and generally whats going on at your end.

If your hosting for them, remind them of costs

Hosting clients websites can be a good up-sell you can use on your clients but its very important if you are offering it that you let them know that there will be further payments to make, perhaps on a monthly or yearly basis. Make sure you make this clear when you quote the price for hosting or domain names.

Be Honest

Be honest with your clients. If you can’t meet the deadline let them know know as early as possible and offer some sort of discount. If the client likes your work and the way you do things, they will appreciate your honesty and you will remain a professional.

Keep business and friendship separate

This one often poses a problem for me. I have such great friends and I want to see them all do well. But all to often you see  great friends fall out over money or services before they do business together again. When working with friends, be careful or be faced with keeping a strict rule that you don’t work with friends however tempting it may be.

Be flexible

Blessed are the flexible, for they are never bent out of shape. If a meeting with a client falls through, move on to something else.. time is money.

Use Social Networking Sites

Freelance designers should use social networking sites to promote themselves, and connect with clients. Sites like craigslist, allfreelancework, linkedin and deviantart are a great start for freelance designers.

Know your clients by name

It’s all about the personal touch. If you know your clients by name, then they will feel comfortable employing you to complete their web design / graphic design project. On the other hand if you cant remember their name, they may think your a really really busy person who has no time for them. Clients are number 1 priority, after all they pay your bills.

Make conversation with your clients

Business is all about relationships. Establishing a good re pore with your clients goes a long way in obtaining repeat customers.  The client will like the fact that you are interested in them, and will most probably come back for more work.

Have set prices for follow up work

Make sure your pricing is set and clear. Quite often you will be hired to do a design job, be specific about what is included and make it clear that anything on top will cost more money. For example they may ask for revisions, new sub pages, other small features. Your time is money and make that clear.

Learn how to say no

Hopefully, at some point, you get to a business level where you have plenty of projects to work on. Deadline to meet.  Learning to say no to distractions as well as new clients will be to your advantage in the long run. makes your more professional and exclusive at the same time.

Set completion dates

Deadline are just as important to you as they are to the clients. Customers are always excited to see what you have come up with so  set a deadline date and stick to it. By setting a deadline, you give the client an idea of when you expect to by paid. It will also make you more organized so that you can plan future work and time off.

Be Persistent

Sell.. Sell.. Sell.. It’s all about closing the deal. Continue to follow up and follow up until you get the deal. Take every opportunity to showcase your work and sell yourself to potiential clients.

Always offer a top notch service

You should always offer a top notch service, whoever the client. If they are really bossy you have to deal with it and stay professional. If you offer a top notch service, customers are sure to refer you and come back for later work.

The customer is always right (sometimes..)

We all know the phrase the customer is always right? Generally speaking they are, but sometimes they are lacking all the information. If the client has stated one thing in the brief and at the showing they say its not as they described, they are wrong. You just have to deal with fussy clients like that on a professional and mature level.

Go that extra mile

In order to separate yourself from the crowd, go that extra mile for your clients. After a great web design, go the extra mile and say you know what, how about some site enhancements. You’d be surprised how far adding a facebook fanpage widget can take you. It doesn’t really cost you anything, and your client will be amazed at your level of service and will be sure to come back time and time again.