The Lies Freelancers Tell Themselves And The Lies Clients Tell Freelancers


Being a freelancer is an experience in and of itself. Along the way you will deal with cash-flow difficulties and other troubles if you do not stop the lies? What lies?

There are lies that we tell ourselves as freelancers; things that we like to believe are true but it’s more wishful thinking than it is reality-based thinking. Then there are the lies that clients and prospective clients try to tell us. Sometimes these are little half truths and they’re lying to themselves as well as you, other times it’s a negotiating angle and then there are the attempts at outright deception in one form or another.

In order to help you to correctly discern the lies they tell themselves as well as what they hear from their clients, we have to put together this guide so you can do a better job of picking up on these lies as they happen and learn to deal with them appropriately.


The Lies Clients Tell Freelancers


Rates Will Go Up Once The Project Is Successful

Reality here is that if you’re working for a client in a project that is in start-up phase, then you will either need equity in the business to balance the risk as most start-ups fail or if you are truly a freelancer then just know that most new projects don’t work out.

Project leaders and owners of new businesses are typically very enthusiastic. They will never entertain the idea of failure in their planning or discussions. Indeed, they will usually get very annoyed at a freelancer who questions even if this could happen. And yet… they will use the fact that they’ll be successful later, to offer you a lower rate of pay now, with a bump in pay later later (when they have more money). Alternatively, they’ll say that they need something quickly and cheap, but will order more later (the carrot).


From experience, freelancers can tell you that this almost never happens because many start-ups go down and so accepting a lower initial rate means you’ll either never see the higher rate or you’ll be stuck at that low rate forever. Don’t accept that. Find someone who can afford to pay you a proper rate.

You’re not an investor in their business, so what you get paid and when you receive it should not ride on the business launch being successful. If they don’t have the money to pay you properly, then they don’t have money period. In which case, they shouldn’t even be in business and are just using freelancers to launch an underfunded business.

When the business fails (and it will) they’ll just walk away and you’ll be left hanging. They’ll be enthusiastically pumping up their next little venture with almost no money down! Understand that this is a subtle form of con and do not accept it. Ever.

We Can Offer You More Work Later

This is an easy one to fall for. But like above, this is just more spin in order to negotiate a cheaper price now. Either this means that they’re cheap to begin with or they lack funding. Either way, respectfully ask for your rate.

If they respect the value of your services then they’ll pay what you are worth. If they just want to low-ball their offer, then pass on them. Once you accept a lower rate, any other work they’ll offer will be for small money too (and usually doesn’t materialize anyway).

Check Is In The Mail

In these days of PayPal and direct bank transfers, it’s rarely necessary to write a check anymore. Some companies have even stopped issuing them. If a company or an individual doesn’t have the money to pay at the time of the order, you need to be very careful.

As a freelancer, I recently had an Indian client who ordered one article but then gave numerous excuses why he hadn’t paid for it. Does his work offline, etc etc. In the end he was forced to admit that he had selected me for more writing, but didn’t have the funds to pay for anything for at least one week. Supposed I might write more for him, and then wait to get paid later when he now had a history of late or non-payment.


Many clients won’t pay at the start with new freelancers, so you cannot protect against this completely, but keep the order size to something minimal (as I did) in order to check that they pay their bills. Accordingly, I informed the client that future orders would need to be paid 100% in advance and nothing will move forward until he pays for the single article he’s already received.

You’ll Become Well Known From This Work. We Should Get A Better Price

Some clients are a bit wily. They use social media and have a strong following. Or their Facebook page gets a lot of followers. They may try to leverage that by suggesting that they could give your services a mention and that exposure to their followers will get you referral business. And so they should pay less (or nothing) for their order.

Remember, there is no guarantee that their followers or readership will even care about who provided the service. If their company puts out a lot of tweets, it will just be one of many and so it may not create any leads, let alone a new client. New clients are found where people are actively looking for the service you provide, rather than at an unrelated social media account whose readership may not be the slightest bit interested in what you have to offer.

Of course, the client may not see it in those terms. In which case, it is best to say that you did that before with another client who was equally positive it would deliver results and it delivered none (don’t believe their business “is different”. Accordingly, your prices remain the same. If the client is kind enough to give you a mention, much appreciated, but you don’t do sponsored tweets in that way.

Your Competition Charges Less Than You

your Competition Charges Less Than YouDepending on the service that you offer, their service may not be comparable with yours. They may not have the same experience, the same quality, the same delivery dates, etc.

Also, quality costs money. The other provider may be new and charging less to build up their clientele. Comparing your service to theirs therefore is not fair or a like for like comparison because you have a lot more experience.

There will always be other providers charging less, especially as we all operate now in a global marketplace. So stating that someone is cheaper isn’t really a good argument any longer. Do they offer the same or better service? Are they reliable? Those are better questions. If the prospective client truly thought that the other provider was better, then they would have ordered from them already and stopped talking with you. All these issues can be pointed out in a polite manner.

This Is Easy (For You) And Will Take Little Time

Some clients will assume that you know how to accomplish the task easily and then make the unfair connection that it should be less expensive because it’s easy for you. Being knowledgeable about a subject, which means you can accomplish the task better, should command a higher fee not a lower one. To suggest otherwise is twisting the facts to suit their needs.

If a freelancer is charging for a particular service rather than charging by the hour, then some clients will argue with the fee if the task is known to have taken less time than they would have expected. This does in fact balance itself out with other orders that take longer than expected, which creates an average over time.

The Lies We Tell Ourselves


Marketing Is Wasted Time

It’s very easy to only focus our time on productive work. This is all well and good when clients are repeat customers, but it’s easy for their work to suddenly dry up. Anyone with freelance writing clients whose web sites were badly affected by the recent Google Penguin 2.1 algorithm update can confirm that. Continually marketing your services despite being busy at the time is essential to ensure fewer shallow periods which can drastically affect monthly income.

They’re Paying A High Price So It’ll Be Okay

This affects freelancers, especially programmers but also freelance writers, who accept a fixed price payment for projects where the scope is too vague.

For example, an “automatic login” feature can be an agreed feature, but a coder may believe that means from the login page only, whereas the client may believe a visitor arriving on any page should be automatically logged in. With hand-coded web sites, changing from one structure to the other can add on significant time when needing to resolve such a dispute later.

Get real specific about what is and is not included in fixed price deals, even if the price seems to provide a buffer. You’ll be thankful later if the client expects more than you thought was included in the price. Without specifying exactly what is (and is not) included will leave yourself wide open to abuse.

Clients Will Be Angry If Asked Too Many Questions At The Start

Freelancers believe that their clients are busy people (true) and will not be happy to be asked more than a couple of questions before proceeding (false). Reality here is that many clients will appreciate a thorough freelancer who digs down to the details. It actually demonstrates that you understand the project well, but want to learn more so that you can deliver the right service as needed.


Not asking questions leave open issues of what you don’t know and failed to ask at the outset. In some cases this could have highlighted a client as having unrealistic expectations which could have been resolved early or a decision made to reject the project before it got started.

Sometimes client also prefer to keep things vague because they don’t have a proper plan worked out (so will waste your time with multiple versions until they see something they like) or because they deliberately wish to keep things vague so that they can add more work in for the same price later. Without asking questions, you don’t know what you’re walking into.

Also, if a client gets irritated or angry at being asked specific questions, then this is a good indicator of how they will behave during the project and you might want to think twice about working with them.

Reading Blogs Is Being Productive

Regularly looking over blogs related to your industry is fine, but beyond acquiring the basic news and facts about what is going on, reading the odd tutorial and generally keeping abreast of things, you’re better off getting to work rather than being idle.

If you believe you are really networking, then what is your marketing plan? Do you even have one? Are you interacting with leaders in your industry and keeping up to date on what they are posting so that you have something to start a discussion with? Or is it more a case of mindless surfing and you’re really just burning daylight? Be honest with yourself…

Believing Hyped-Up Sales Pitches For Informational Products

Whether you’re interested in internet marketing, SEO or another form of digital marketing, beware of the “I got $5,200 in sales in two hours” type pitches.

Think about it sensibly. If someone actually found a great way to make almost instant cash, and it was both repeatable and scalable, why would they broadcast about it to everyone?

In each case, remember there are no secrets to great success. Usually success comes from hard work, good strategies, continuous learning and successful networking. Get rich quick schemes, in whatever form, aren’t any more real than the tooth fairy.

Experts Don’t Need To Learn Anything

If you’re quite knowledgeable or would even consider yourself an expert, do you think that you can sit on your laurels and stop learning? Even the top experts in every industry need to keep learning new skills, launching new product lines as others will inevitably die, and keep up to date with industry news. No one is an island.

Continual learning should be a given in any industry, whether you work alone or for a large corporation. Anyone who refuses to try new things and thinks they know everything they need to will quickly become outdated.

With that said, don’t overdo it by learning and learning without applying anything. This can lead to a type of analysis paralysis where you learn but won’t or cannot get yourself to execute on the knowledge you’re acquiring. It is said that learning is knowledge-based, but wisdom requires action to be taken.

You’re Not Really Working When You’re A Freelancer

Friends, neighbors and relatives often like to be able to describe what you do. If you are a bit of a floater who does many different tasks or if you do something that doesn’t conform to their set definition of success, then they may say that you don’t really work and should just go and get a job.

Often this is also connected to where you work. If you work from a home office, they don’t think you’re really working and may even believe that you have enough free time to run errands for them while they’re stuck in their office working.

For writers, that may mean that because you don’t publish in magazines or books, they don’t think your articles published on web sites actually count. For internet entrepreneurs with many web sites, if none of them are a dot com venture capital backed start-ups that they’ve heard of, then they don’t think you’re successful at all. Even if you show them an income check to prove it, they’ll probably dismiss that as a one-off. “It won’t last,” they’ll say.

Getting Started As A Freelancer Is Expensive

For most freelancing “careers” all you need is a laptop, an internet connection and somewhere to set-up to work. Artists need a quiet place to paint or can even set-up outside the area they are painting which then becomes “their office” for the day.

Expensive memberships, specialist software purchases and more can come later. Most small businesses fail in the first year because they spend far too much in the start-up phase buying everything under the sun that they think they need. Go lean, test out the business model first, because you invest heavily.