Never assume. It’s a lesson I learn over and over again.

I recently delivered a gig–editing a screenplay–and learned later that the author did not see the changes and corrections I’d made on his manuscript. He actually printed out the pages of his original and my edited version to compare them, word for word. How tedious! Since I used the “track changes” feature on MS Word, I figured the returned file would automatically show all the corrections and changes.

Not so. Lesson learned: make sure the client can see the edits regardless of his or her skill.

I now alert clients to activate the “track changes” feature on MS Word when opening up their edited files and also include a PDF copy that shows that changes made. I suppose it’s best not to assume that people have more than beginner level skill with this ubiquitous program.

I also cobbled together my first vendor contract recently. Thus far, I’ve had good luck trusting in the integrity of clients. Only one thus far has defaulted on payment; however, a current client who’s a consultant herself requested a contract. I found that intimidating, but managed to get through it by not trying to mimic “legaleze.” I kept the language plain and straightforward and it seemed to work well.

Lesson learned: contracts can be simple.

I was contacted by a potential client responding to my proposal to ghostwrite a book for her. She wanted to discuss the project. That’s actually a good idea; however, the freelance platform prohibits direct interaction between vendor and client and I felt obligated to inform her as such.

Another potential client posted an RFP for a project totally unsuited for the freelance platform. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not knocking Fiverr. That’s how I get most of my freelance gigs. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to projects. The platform imposes limits on vendors and on projects. The project in this instance would require more than the 30-day maximum the platform allows and, if assigned to me, will likely result in a fee higher than Fiverr allows me.

By the way, no, I don’t give volume discounts. Words don’t get cheaper if you want more of them. I also charge for time spent on research, because my time is valuable, too.

Lesson learned: A client that doesn’t value the work performed won’t pay a fair wage for it.

Suggestions for clients, real and potential:

  1. Messages between vendors and clients (potential or actual) are not private. The platform monitors all communications posted thereon.
  2. Don’t ask the vendor to violate the platform’s rules. Doing so risks the vendor’s privilege of using the platform to solicit business.
  3. Know whether the platform takes a commission off what the vendor earns. Fiverr takes a 20% commission off the amount paid to the vendor; however, a 20% tip is greatly appreciated for replacing income lost to that commission.
  4. Remember the freelancers are trying to earn a living. (One client posted an RFP for a 10,000-word story with a maximum budget of $5. Egad.) Most freelancers will offer a fair fee in exchange for service. You might also remember that you get what you pay for: caveat emptor. As my husband likes to say, you may want cheap, fast, and good, but reality is that you’ll only get two of the three in combination. Decide what matters most: cheap, fast, or good.

Every vendor appreciates the business received and will bend over backward to satisfy the client; however, it’s incumbent upon the client to act in fairness and honesty. We want our clients to communicate with us, keep us in the loop.

Unrealistic expectations are doomed to disappointment. If you haven’t the funds to pay a fair fee for the project, then either adjust your expectations or postpone the project until you can afford it. Or find a volunteer.