How Do I Stop Losing Money on the Work I Do?

young lady sitting by her laptop with her head in her hands, stressed out

It’s a freelancer’s nightmare scenario: losing money on a job. Unfortunately, it happens more frequently than you might think. As a freelancer, you have to learn hard lessons as you build your business. However, you shouldn’t have to continue losing money on jobs you work hard to get. Here’s how to make sure you are getting paid for your work by being organized upfront.

Why Are You Losing Money?

If you are like most freelancers, you might not realize you are losing money on a specific client or job until you are frustrated and at your wit’s end. These feelings of stress often accompany all the extra work you are putting into a job, meaning you are working on a project for more hours than you anticipated.

As a freelancer, you already know that time = money, so why are you allowing clients to increase your time commitment to their project?

Determining why you are losing money and working more hours on a specific project is the first step in remedying the problem. Common culprits can include:

  • A client that is asking for one more edit, one more revision, or one more draft
  • Experiencing “scope creep”, or clients who are asking for tasks outside of the scope of work
  • Not effectively using a creative brief

Defining Your Boundaries

Most freelancers, especially those first starting out, struggle with setting boundaries. Without boundaries to work between clients can end up taking more of your time and talents than you originally projected, causing you to lose money. Protect your time by defining boundaries with a robust conversation with clients before you sign a contract and enter into the project long-term.

How can you lay out the scope of work as well as get the client to agree to the final outcome? A creative brief.

More About Creative Briefs

A creative brief is an excellent way to keep everyone on the same page and you can use a similar brief template each time you begin a new project for a client. You may have heard it referred to as a Scope of Works, which is a term most commonly used for technical projects, including building websites. Most agencies and businesses now use the term “creative brief” more often than Scope, as it is an overarching term for all types of freelance projects.

It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you have one.

Your creative brief is a way to keep everyone on the same page. It allows you to develop a plan and allocate your time and resources toward that plan, giving you and the client boundaries to work within.

Clients can have input on the creative brief as well, but once it is approved, stick to it.

Things to Include in Your Creative Brief

Creative briefs will look different from project to project, freelancer to freelancer. However, you can build your brief basics by including any of these:

  • General outline of the project, including audience persona
  • How this project fits in with a short or long-term goal of the company
  • Timeline estimates and hard deadlines
  • What work is included for each of the steps of the project
  • How many hours of work you will work on the project per week
  • Your hourly rate, as well as your rate for hours worked after your allotted time for the project
  • Billing for phone calls, video chats, emails, etc. with the client about the project
  • Additional resources needed, and who is responsible for picking up that cost (stock photo acquisition, hosting services, etc.)

You might also consider adding parameters to the creative brief that help you maintain work-life balance or other clients on your busy freelance calendar:

  • Hours when you are available to reply to phone calls, emails, etc.
  • Specific days of the week when you will focus solely on the project

white and yellow paint lines on the road

Remember, the creative brief is meant to make expectations and boundaries clear, making estimating a project cost and making the project work as effectively as possible.

How a Creative Brief Stops Scope Creep

A creative brief can decrease or eliminate all the “extras” clients can sometimes request during a contract. In turn, you can focus on the task at hand without wasting your time and resources accommodating any extra requests that were not a part of your original creative brief plan.

Even better, in the long run, a creative brief forces you and the client to think long-term about the project. This discussion upfront can lead to a more organized process, leaving you able to schedule your time realistically on your client calendar and judging whether you can pick up a few more side projects over the next few months or not.

Stop losing money. Stop stressing out and working too many hours as you do one more “extra” task per a client’s request. There’s another way to navigate your freelancing business, and it begins with a creative brief.

Learn more freelancing secrets and best practices that I’ve earned over my career here.

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