[Season 2] Ep 4: What to Do When Clients Don’t Pay

“I’ll pay you next month,” the client says. And then next month becomes next month and before you know it, a year has passed. Perhaps you eventually write it off as a loss and tell yourself it’s a lesson learned. But you don’t always have to do that.

In today’s episode, we talk to Justin Wong a super solopreneur who founded Write Handed Communications and Kinidia, a streaming platform featuring Malaysian movies. He shares his experiences of taking legal action against clients who delayed payment and refused to pay. Hopefully things never go this far with your client, but it helps to know that even if it does, you have options!  

Show Notes

Read more about the Small Claim Court and how to file a case at this PDF link.

Let us know what you think of this episode in the comments section! If you have any questions, ask away in this form.

Transcript

[Prologue]

Jean 00:01

I think it’s just good to know that there are things we can actually do.

Justin 00:04

At the end of the day, yes, you have rights. Someone doesn’t pay you, even if it’s like half not your fault, money owed is money owed, you know. So I waited until the money was in my bank. So it’s not just a word from finance, not just a acknowledgement or a receipt or anything like that. No, no, I got to see that number. Next station.

Sarah  00:33

Hi, there. It’s Sarah.

Jean  00:34

And Jeannette.

Sarah  00:35

And this is Solo Sync, a podcast for the curious solopreneur where we discover simple solutions to keep enjoying what we do together.

[Start]

Jean  00:43

So one thing that super annoying for me about freelancing is when clients don’t pay or they pay late. Over the years, I figured out some ways to deal with that, for example, taking an upfront payment, collecting a deposit and so on. When clients pay late, I’ve learned to be thick-skinned enough to keep hounding them for payment. And it’s a really painful process. And I try as far as I can to avoid it.

Sarah  01:06

I completely agree with you. To be honest, it sometimes isn’t something that I follow up with either because it gets tiring to keep asking, but what else can you do when nothing else works.

Jean  01:18

So what I’ve heard is that if the amount you’re owed is less than 5000 ringgit, you can go to the small claims court. The thing is, I’ve never done that, mostly because I’ve been quite lucky with clients so far, but partly also because I’m lazy. And I don’t even know where to begin to be honest

Sarah  01:38

I hear you.

Jean  01:39

But a few months ago, a friend Justin sent me a message about going to small claims court. And he really went through with it. So today he is going to be talking to us about his experience. Just a quick intro. Justin Wong is the founder of Write Handed Communications, a digital marketing and content creation company. He’s also the creator and producer of Kinidia, which I’m sure he’ll tell us more about during our chat today. Okay, hi Justin! Nice to have you with us here today. We’ve already told everyone that you’re going to be talking to us about your small claims court adventure.

Justin  02:12

Hi, good to be here.

Jean  02:13

Tell us about how that happened.

Justin  02:15

Okay, I guess everyone’s nightmare is when someone owes you money, and that person decides not to pay. So that’s why the justice system has this thing called a small claims court. Now this court is for pretty much almost any situation where someone owes you money. It doesn’t have to be a freelancer-client relationship, doesn’t have to be agency and client. It can be returning a defective product or landlord and tenant kind of relationships or like in pretty much almost any case that someone owes you money. And they handle cases up to 5000 ringgit of claims. And the beauty of it is that you don’t need a lawyer. Both you and the defendant.

Sarah 02:56

That’s super useful to know, lawyers cost a lot.

Jean  02:58

Because lawyers are the biggest hassle of like going to court, right?

Justin  03:02

It depends. Because in some situations, you will want to let your lawyer handle everything, you know, my house or whatever it is, just handle the paperwork for me, you know. But so in this case, you get to do all this without the help of a lawyer, and that will save you mone. You need to do the application procedure on your own. So here is how you do it. You ready for this?

Sarah 03:26

Go for it.

Justin  03:27

Okay, step one, you go to a magistrate court, you go to any magistrate court. You can go to either the KL one if your defendent is in KL, or you can go to the Shah Alam one, if your defendant is in Selangor. It doesn’t matter where you are based, it matters where your defendant is based. So in my case, it was it was for PJ, so that was fine. So I just had to go to the Shah Alam one. You cannot go to the PJ court because for some reason they don’t do this. So you have to go to the Shah Alam one. You go there, and then you pick up the form. And that form is really, really simple. You just need to fill out who you are, and who you’re claiming money from. So if it’s a company, it’s going to be name of company, registration number, address, phone number, plus the amount that you’re trying to get. That’s it. It’s a very simple form. And then, the procedure also asks for supporting documents. You put in things like a quotation, invoice. Or screencaps of the conversations that you had, whether it’s email or WhatsApp. It’s important that if you did some work for a client, it will be super helpful if you can get like black and white even back when the project was starting. Right. So at that moment, if you can get a in black and white that they say, “Oh, please start work”. That’s important. Because otherwise, they might have that wiggle room of saying that, “Oh, we didn’t ask you to start work. You just did it for us.”

Sarah  04:58

Yeah, good point.

Justin  04:59

I mean, that’s a very weak case. But you know, even the big agencies, you know, practice that line. Wait for the client to say, “Please start work.” So oh, yeah, sorry, I’ve glossed over my part. So in my case, why I did it right, in my particular case. So I did work for a client a couple of years ago. It’s really nothing. It was just 1000 bucks. But, you know, they delay me for so long. Weeks, and months and months, became a year. It came to a time when I’m like, “Okay, it’s not about the 1000 bucks. It’s more about the principle of it. I didn’t want them or anyone to disrespect my profession, you know?”

Sarah  05:37

Yeah. And just curious, has this happened before? Or was this the first time you decided to really take action?

Justin  05:44

That was the first time

Sarah  05:45

So this has happened before?

Justin  05:47

All my other clients have paid me eventually. All of them.

Sarah  05:51

So this was the first client that didn’t pay you?

Justin  05:54

Yes.

Sarah  05:55

Wow, don’t mess with Justin.

Justin  05:57

Don’t mess with me, man. At that point, I’m like, “Okay, this is a I saw it as a disrespect to freelancers and agencies and small agencies.” So I didn’t want them to be able to just think that they can just walk away. Yeah. So it’s not so much for the money. Just, you know, I didn’t want want that to happen to others. So if that can be a deterrent then I’ve done my job.

Jean  06:23

So you’re the superhero for all freelancers.

Justin  06:28

I am the night. I am justice. Yeah.

Sarah  06:32

So what happens next?

Justin  06:34

Okay, so I went into court, got my form, and I got my supporting documents as well. So on top of my supporting documents, of my quotation, my invoice, snapshots, I also wrote a cover letter, because I thought that will help the case. Right, and to clarify on what’s happening. So I just wrote like, there’s like no format, because I don’t think anyone asked for it. I just I just wrote it. And I so I, there’s no format, I just put in a block of text that says, I did so and so work for so and so company for this much. But at this date, but I haven’t been paid yet. And this is a list of attached documents. So this is for clarity purposes, I guess. So I did that. And so what you can do is prepare the supporting documents first and bring it to the court. And then when you get the form at the court, you fill in the form on the spot, and then you can submit on the spot.

Sarah  07:24

Okay, so you definitely have to do it in person. There’s no electronic way to do it.

Justin  07:28

No, not so far. No.

Sarah  07:30

Right. So you send me a form on the spot. And then how long do you have to wait for an answer? Or do you queue up on the spot?

Justin  07:37

Yeah, I queued up on the spot. Oh, wait a minute. Yeah, I got another form. I had to go home because when I looked it up, apparently they needed like four copies, like four sets of everything, four sets of the form and supporting documents. I went there twice. But the thing is, so that’s where the discrepancy lies because when I went there again, they only took one of my copies. So so I’m like, “What? I printed all this for nothing.” Anyways, that’s no problem. So yeah, I submitted one, then it goes into the system. And then I think I waited about a week. It’s pretty fast. So this is the important distinction here, right? When you submit that form and supporting documents, they will key it into their system. But that is not the point where they make a judgement. They’re just putting you in a system. That’s all at that point. And they will set a court date. I think, for me, it was a month plus from the time that I got the confirmation. You get a confirmation email. Okay, now, this is the fun part. This is the funnest part of the whole process. Okay, once you get a confirmation that you’ve received official documents through email, you will get a summons. Now you have to find a way to serve that summons to your client. There are two ways. Number one, you go to your client in person, hand over the summons to them, and then get them to sign a thing that says, okay, they received it. If your client and you are not good talking terms, they’re not going to sign right.

Sarah  09:08

I’m just picturing an episode of Suits right now. Where you coolly take that piece of paper out of your coat.

Justin  09:14

Yeah. And then the other guy will like throw it back in your face or something like that. Yeah. I think for them, it’s like subpoena. It’s just as good as handing it to them. It’s good enough, but, but for us, we need a signature.

Sarah  09:24

Okay. And the second one?

Justin  09:26

That’s why I think we should just opt for the second thing, which is registered post. You send it to them by mail, and then when they receive the mail, they don’t know what’s inside the envelope. So they’ll just open it and realise later. Yeah, so the way it works is that now because this is not your normal Poslaju, this is called AR. There’s a yellow card involved. What you do is you just go to any post office and then say you want AR, you want registered post and then when they deliver it to your client for you, the deliverer will require a signature, the yellow card, and then the yellow card will be sent back to you. And then that yellow card will be proof to the court that the summons is served.

Sarah  10:10

Oh, wow. Okay.

Justin  10:12

So that is key here. Because if you cannot serve the summons, then you have no case. You can’t sue them at all, because they’re not even aware of it, you know. So that’s just fair to them, I guess.

Jean  10:24

How long do you have to serve them the summons?

Justin  10:27

To do that? Well, the court date was a month plus away from the time they received the confirmation. So I have that amount of time.

Jean 10:37

Did you have to write the summons yourself? Or like it’s something you get from the court?

Justin  10:39

No, no, no, no, you just send them what they emailed you? Just print out what they emailed you. And then that has like a chop and everything already. So that’s, that will act as a summons. So what it is to say is, you know, please come to Court. Unfortunately, in my case, that part did not go through for me, because the company was going through some troubles. It became a problem when their company office was closed. No one was in the office, because why? The company’s in trouble. So therefore, there’s nobody in the office to receive the summons. So therefore, the summons was not served.

Sarah  11:17

Would you know what would take place next, if the summons was successfully served.

Justin  11:23

If it were served, basically, they will be summoned to court. And then you just need both parties need to show up on the court appointed date. Then when your number gets called. Yeah, then you get to speak with judge.

Sarah  11:37

I have I’m just curious. Earlier, we talked about how, just the attitude behind you coming to this point to make this decision. You knew that company was going through some financial difficulty. And you decided to go ahead with it anyway. Because you’re right, they need to settle their own problems, and you need to get paid for the work that you’ve done. But were there any other thoughts that went through your mind? Like, were you concerned about burning bridges? What kind of repercussions did you consider that this action of yours would take? I’m just guessing you probably didn’t have a really tight personal relationship with them to begin with right. It was just like a business transaction.

Justin  12:15

Yes. I didn’t know them prior to that.

Sarah  12:18

Jeannette and I, we’ve had experiences with clients that don’t pay. And I think it gets really sticky when you already have a personal relationship with them.

Justin  12:28

Yeah, it might be.

Sarah  12:30

And, and sometimes I wonder, you know, for freelancers, it’s either you have a personal relationship with your client and that makes it difficult for you to even consider bringing things like this to court. Or you’re just I would imagine, I would be really concerned maybe that the world is so small. And by doing this, people will talk, you know, I would think, oh, is one client going to tell another, “Oh, watch out for this person.” You know, that kind of thing? Like, what would you say to thoughts like that?

Justin  12:59

Well, in my case, I’d be happy for that conversation to take place. You know, if my client was, was telling other people, hey, that this guy had legal action against me Oh, did you pay him? No? There you go. So I’m, yes, happy for that conversation to happen.

Jean 13:16

They’re helping you do some filtering as well, right? Because clients who are likely to default will be like, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t hire him.”

Justin  13:24

Well, there you go.

Sarah  13:25

Alright, I think we have a lot to learn. Well, I have a lot to learn from your confidence.

Justin  13:29

Well, yeah, again, I wasn’t close to them at all. It just came to a point where, you know, I didn’t want them to do the same thing to others. So I just want to use that as a deterrent.

Jean  13:40

What was it about the way they delayed your payment that made you think that “Oh, it’s the principle of it, and I need to take them to small claims court.”

Justin 13:48

It was the fact that they did not pay me even after two years. And the excuses that they gave me was, the company is having some troubles, which is not my responsibility. And yeah, so I just took this opportunity to do it. And then if anything, learned how to do it so that I can do it properly the next time around. But you know, even though it didn’t work out for me, for you, as long as you can get your the summons in the hands of your client, then you’ll be able to do that. The small claims court way of doing things. Now, I happen to have experienced yet another case where a different client of mine decided not to pay me for work that I’ve done. So this was different. This one was a different scope of work. This was a higher amount. And because of that I cannot use the small claims court because the small claims court can only number one, handle claims of up to 5000 ringgit or below and number two the small claims court can only help you as an individual, but for me, I did the job for my client as a company. Well, let me just talk about how that went down. First, let me preface this by saying that okay, I cannot go into the details. And number two, I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Please call a lawyer.

Jean  14:01

Yeah, all we want to know is that it’s possible to win these cases.

Justin  15:30

Yes, it is possible. There is light at the end of the tunnel. So what happened to me, I did some work with this particular client, and it went all the way to the end, I submitted the final delivery based on what they asked for, and then after that they straight up didn’t want to pay me. It’s not a matter of, “Oh, I’ll pay soon, soon, soon” and soon became two years, three years, five years. No, no, no, no, that is not the case. These guys straight up said, “We don’t want to pay you.”

Jean  16:06

Oh, my God. That’s crazy.

Justin  16:08

Yeah, I can’t get into the details. But it is definitely not my fault. I know, it’s my biased opinion. But believe me. It’s not my fault. So because I know, objectively, that it’s not my fault that I decided to take the leap and call my lawyers to help. This is the first phase. This is probably not the term that lawyers are using – phases. But okay, it starts off with a letter of demand. So my lawyers helped me write a letter of demand to send to my client on my behalf to say that, “Hey, you owe my client this much money, please pay.” It’s just a letter and the client can respond in one of two ways. Number one, this is just a piece of paper, these people can’t make me do anything. Or number two, wow these guys mean business. Well, in my case, it was number one. So we moved on to phase two. What my lawyers did was to file a claim to the magistrate court, on this case, on my behalf, and in order to generate a summons to my client. Now, how these summons are served? As lawyers, they are able to do it and do it properly. As opposed to me doing it on my own in the first case. But what happened to me is that they got their own lawyers involved. And then that’s when they decided to pay.

Jean  17:50

Their lawyers must have told them to.

Justin  17:54

I would like to imagine that. I go to sleep at night and picture that scenario happening with their lawyers at the time saying that you got to pay this guy. Yes.

Jean  18:08

Were you intimidated at all when they got their lawyers involved?

Justin  18:12

No, because I found out about their lawyers involvement at the same time when I found out that they decided to pay.

Jean  18:18

I see.

Justin  18:20

Yeah, so in my head was like as per what you said, like, oh, it must be their advice to pay me then. So what happens after that is they said, Okay, we’ll pay you. We’re going to rush our finance department to process this as fast as possible. Please, please retract the case. Yeah. So that was important for them – for us to retract the case from the court. So I waited until the money is in my bank. So it’s not just a word from finance, not just an acknowledgement or a receipt or anything like that. Nope, nope, I got to see that number, on my bank. It’s in my hands, then then. Then only I’ll inform my client and lawyer and say, “Hey, I got paid. Thanks.” Yeah.

Jean  19:14

That’s amazing, man.

Justin  19:16

Yeah. So to add on to all that. Of course, I gotta pay my lawyer’s legal fees, and not just the legal fees, but also the court filing fees and things like that. So you have to ensure that the amount that you’re suing for is substantial enough.

Jean  19:35

I think it’s just good to know that there are things we can actually do.

Justi  19:39

At the end of the day, yes, you you have rights. Someone doesn’t pay you, even if it’s like half not your fault, which is but you know, money owed is money owed. You know the metaphor I like to use, the analogy I like to use is that you know, if you pay a contractor to build a shitty house but the shitty house is as per instructions. You know, you still you still gotta pay the contractor.

Jean  20:10

Yeah, totally man. Well, I’m glad that’s over for you. You’ve moved on to better things. I understand that you’re doing some exciting things now.

Justin  20:20

Yes, yes. So somewhere in the middle of last year, I had a little time on my hands and I stumbled upon an opportunity and I jumped on it. Long story short, I’m trying to give an opportunity for a Malaysian-made films to be exhibited online because there isn’t another avenue otherwise. Then I decided to jump in that I built it. I spent like weeks in my own cave coding the thing.

Jean  20:46

Wow.

Justin  20:47

And there it is. Kinidia. So it is a movie streaming platform featuring local films. And yes, if you want to check out some local films, or some recent films, some Afdlin Shauki films, please check out Kinidia.com.

Jean  21:01

Wow, amazing. You’re definitely one of those super solopreneurs that I really look up to.

Justin  21:08

That’s, that’s high praise coming from you, Jeannette.

Jean  21:11

Thank you so much for being with us here today and sharing your experience. I hope we have you on again sometime.

Justin  21:17

I’d be happy to come back. Yes, this is so much fun.

Jean  21:20

Thank you for listening today. Show notes for this episode will be on our website, http://www.solosync.xyz. If you’d like to get in touch with us for any reason – ask some questions, if you want to suggest some topic, feel free to drop us a line at hello@solosync.xyz.

Sarah  21:42

You can also follow us on Instagram for more updates too! Our handle is @solosyncpodcast.

Featured photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Ep 6: Self-Discovery & Personal Growth Through Freelancing

Freelancing can be an incredible journey of self-discovery. Just being 100% responsible for your clients, quality of work, income source, and business growth, you’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process. As you do so, you may want to continue finding opportunities for personal growth instead of getting caught up with the cycle of work or getting comfortable. We talk about our own way of doing this while managing our workload.

Transcript

[Prologue]

Jeannette Goon  00:00

Freelancing has been exciting because of how much I get to explore different industries, different kinds of work, different kinds of people.

Sarah   00:07

It shifts the perspective from always depending on my environment or my circumstances, to recognizing that, hey, this is happening, because I signed up for it. If I’m not proud of it, I need to be better at making decisions. How do you think we can ensure that we keep growing as people and developing in our careers?

Jeannette Goon  00:22

I think one of the big questions I asked myself was, “What does growth look like to me?”.  If you don’t know how you want to do that, it’s quite hard to figure out where you want to go and what next steps you’re going to take.

[Start]

Sarah   00:40

Hi there, it’s Sarah and Jeanette. Welcome to Solo Sync, a podcast for the curious solopreneur, where we discover simple solutions to keep enjoying what we do together.

Jeannette Goon  00:49

Today, we’re going to be talking about self-discovery and personal growth through freelancing. To be honest, I didn’t quit my job with the intention to keep freelancing. I mean, I didn’t have a plan to say… go back to work after a year or something like that. But I also didn’t think that more than five years later, I would still be jobless every half year. So I do find myself casually job hunting, but somehow never managed to find anything that I want to stick to for the long term. I found such a thrill and being able to work for myself. But more than that, freelancing has been exciting because of how much I get to explore different industries, different kinds of work, different kinds of people. Suddenly, the frustration I used to feel when working full time made so much sense. You know, I didn’t get that kind of diversity in work. Through freelancing, I discovered that I’m the sort of person who loves range, variety, the possibility of being able to constantly experiment and learn new things. What about you, Sarah? Do you think you learned more about yourself through freelancing? 

Sarah   01:44

Yeah, definitely. Freelancing has helped me be more grateful. Overall, it’s helped me take ownership of my career decisions in my life. When I was still in a full time job, I found that it’s very easy for me as a full-timer to say, oh, why is my company not doing more for me? or do they not understand the work hours that I have to go through? How much effort is being done? Why am I not getting compensated? And it wasn’t just me, it was the people around me as well. It was just so easy to take things for granted. But being a freelancer has helped me realize that everything that I’m doing now, every single job that I get, is something to be grateful for. And it’s something I personally said yes to. So there’s a difference. It shifts the perspective from always depending on my environment, or my circumstances, to recognizing that, hey, this is happening, because I signed up for it. And I need to be proud of that. And if I’m not proud of it, I need to be better at making decisions,

Jeannette Goon  02:41

Right? You have more control over work life and what you want to do with it, right?

Sarah   02:47

I think what I really enjoy about freelancing is that it helps me realize what I really enjoy doing versus what I may not enjoy doing as much even though I can do it. So I think… I don’t know if it’s a personality thing. But as a full-time employee, I always felt obliged to say yes, or I’ll do anything. Because at the end of the day, you’re just paying for my time, and I didn’t feel empowered to say no, that’s not my scope of work, but I need to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Overall, it’s helped me just feel more comfortable and confident in who I am. I used to feel that there’s something wrong with me, why do I keep needing to change jobs? Why do I get bored so easily? Or why is it my interest seems to be everywhere. And I guess back in the day, people would kind of say, you know, “That’s just not very responsible take on life,” or “Get your act together, you’re already an adult.” You know, I used to have that kind of attitude thrown at me. 

Jeannette Goon  03:44

Or they’ll say you’re so millennial.

Sarah   03:46

Yeah! Like, okay, that doesn’t help. What I do about that now, you know? 

Jeannette Goon  03:51

Yeah.

Sarah   03:52

But I think since starting freelancing, and being able to see that, hey, I’m able to make ends meet, save, and do what I love. I have nothing to apologize for at all. It’s just a different life entirely. I found my zone, my comfort zone. 

Jeannette Goon  04:07

Yeah, that’s so true. Because when you’re working for someone else, there’s just a lot of things that you may not enjoy doing. And you really don’t have the autonomy to say, No, I don’t want to do this, because it’s all part of the job, right? And you learn to sort of suck it up. You want to deal with it.

Sarah   04:22

You want to be a team player as well. 

Jeannette Goon  04:24

Yes, totally.

Jeannette Goon  04:25

I think for me, what I really discovered (I’ve been doing this for years), I finally discovered this year that I really, really enjoy doing research. That’s the part of my work that I love the most, that I look forward to. I’ve managed to deepen that more this year. I suppose this whole self discovery thing, it’s not just some, “Woooo, I’m spiritual” and stuff like that. It’s also something that I think contributes to our growth as people. So that’s actually one thing that I really miss about working full-time, you know. Amidst all the stuff that I didn’t enjoy doing. One thing that I really miss is actually my bosses.

Sarah   05:03

Tell me why.

Jeannette Goon  05:04

So I had a couple of really amazing bosses. And they were both women, by the way. So the whole “lady boss being a bad thing” is a total sexist stereotype. These two bosses, they were amazing! They helped me grow in my career. And it wasn’t just work, you know, we socialized as well. And they really taught me a lot about what kind of person I could be at work and in life. And people have said that I’ve been really fortunate because it’s really hard to find good mentors. But as a freelancer, that kind of guidance and mentorship can be even harder to find, especially if you’re the type of freelancer that doesn’t interact with people very much, anyway.

Sarah   05:37

Yeah. So then, in that case, how do you think we can be more intentional about personal growth as a freelancer? Like, how do you think we can ensure that we keep growing as people and developing in our careers?

Jeannette Goon  05:48

I think it’s about understanding yourself. And that’s where that self-discovery component is an important thing. For me, I’ve discovered that I really want to keep getting better at what I do. And that’s writing, even after everything else I’ve done. I’ve, as you know, I’ve dabbled in quite a number of things. But I always find myself coming back to writing. There is a craft to it that I really enjoy. And for the last couple of years, I would say that I felt that I’ve been stagnating for a while. Although I’ve tried to, you know, try other things like coding, data science… I even did a UX design course and picked up water coloring as a hobby. I still had this feeling of dissatisfaction because I wasn’t growing the area that I wanted to the most. So this year, I kind of decided that,  I’m going to sign up for this eight week writing fellowship and start a Master of Research course. And I did this because I felt like it was something that would help me grow in a way that was more structured, which I felt I needed. And that was my way of being intentional about it. And in order to get to that there were some questions that I needed to ask myself. What about you?

Sarah   06:58

Well, I think on the same note, taking on new challenges really helps push yourself to grow, even if you’re afraid, you know. That’s the thing. Take it on, even if you’re afraid because sometimes you can really get very comfortable doing what you’re already familiar with. So there’s less opportunity for growth in the area. So I agree. And I like how you’ve just been doing a few different things. Yet, they are things that can also help you focus. The other way to keep growing is to try improving what you feel you’re already halfway there at. For me, that’s time management. It’s also how I speak to clients and build a relationship. I really struggle in that area sometimes. I want to say what’s on my mind, and then I say it, and later I’m thinking, Oh my gosh, Sarah, maybe that sounded too rude! Was there, you know, a more politically correct way of phrasing what you were trying to say? But I just keep trying. And the idea is to be intentional about it. And thank God for the people whom I work with, they’ve been so gracious. Hopefully I haven’t offended too many people! But for me it means treating it like an experiment. If Method A doesn’t work, try Method B and keep track. And that’s how you get better at doing things. But you need to be aware of what you’re doing in order to treat it like an experiment.

Jeannette Goon  08:07

And I found that one way that has helped me become more aware of how I want to grow as a person is to ask myself a series of questions. I didn’t actually verbalize this before. But as I’m thinking about it now, I think one of the big questions I asked myself was, what does growth look like to me? How do I want to grow, right? Because if you don’t know how you want to do that, it’s quite hard to figure out where you want to go and what next steps you’re going to take. Is that something that you find yourself doing as well, when it comes to experimenting, and all that?

Sarah   08:41

For the longest time, I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to keep growing and to reach my goals. In fact, I think I took that approach, like for a good deal of my life. And I found that when I couldn’t reach my goals, I would take it really badly. There was a stage in my life that I was just so overwhelmed with how many goals I had not achieved at a certain age. And I know that maybe at that time, it’s because I was having the wrong perspective towards goal setting, you know, but I took it really badly. And it took me quite a while to get out of that state of feeling like a failure. And I don’t want to go back there. So what I’ve started doing is, I’ve changed my whole perspective on life. And I tried to stay away from really massive goals as well. Also because with the pandemic, it’s made me realize that life is just so unpredictable. And what if we don’t get to achieve all our goals? Are we then failures? We can’t be. But for me, I feel that instead of being goal-oriented, purpose-oriented makes more sense. But that’s just how I deal with it. And I think that everyone has a different way of looking at it.

Jeannette Goon  09:43

Yeah, that’s true. I think I’m not the best goal-setter as well. My goals tend to be more fluid. I just want to be happy and do more of what makes me happy this year! 

Sarah   09:53

Yaa! I know what you mean! 

Jeannette Goon  09:55

And I read somewhere actually that if you’re constantly failing or setting yourself up for failure, you actually develop a sense of body chemistry that promotes more failure. I don’t know how true that is. Apparently it happens in the animal kingdom with lobsters or something like that! 

Sarah   10:10

You’ve really been going deep into research!

Jeannette Goon  10:14

For me this year growth was about writing. That was the thing that really makes me happy all the time. And that’s what I set out to do this year.

Sarah   10:22

What is it about writing that you want it to grow in specifically?

Jeannette Goon  10:27

I guess there was something about my writing that I felt was lacking. I’ve always been a science student, I never studied the humanities. And whenever I read books, or articles, by my favorite writers, I found that they always spoke about things in a way that I couldn’t achieve with my current skill set. I didn’t have the right vocabulary, I didn’t have the right concepts in my toolbox. So I think that’s what I wanted to make sure… that I could add to my writing as well, developing that kind of conceptual thinking. 

Sarah   10:54

Yeap. 

Jeannette Goon  10:54

I guess there are many ways to go about this kind of growth, right? Once you’ve set your goals or figured out how you want your growth to look like, that’s when you can sort of figure out how you’re going to go about doing it. For me, I felt like I needed something with more structure. And I think that it’s about figuring out what works, and then sort of like pursuing that as well. Right?

Sarah   11:15

Yeah. Also, I do realize that I’m quite driven by the big projects that I’m working on with my clients. So let’s say I’m working with Client A on a script, and it could be like long form script, and I feel I really want to improve in that area. So during that period of time, I am reading up about how to improve in script writing, and reading up about story flow, you know? And so I find that having these short bursts of projects to push me to improve in a certain area works for me, rather than the overall generic thing where I sit back, and I notice in my life, there are these missing pieces. Of course, there is that, and those would be more like my personal management, finance, time management… But when it comes to other skills that can be applied to benefit someone else, it really is quite client-driven, I feel. Because it takes up so much of my time, you know, and so the urgency is there. And so my focus goes there. 

Jeannette Goon  12:13

Do you find that it’s also helpful because you’re working with people who can give you feedback?

Sarah   12:19

Yeah, it does. Having that community really helps, rather than just studying it on my own. Which is great, but maybe that’s just half the picture.

Jeannette Goon  12:28

Yeah, I think one of the reasons I decided to do a Master’s was because of that one-on-one consultation time that I get with a supervisor. And I found that kind of structured feedback that was missing, because I don’t work with people anymore, right. And sometimes I don’t get the kind of feedback that I need, I feel, to improve. 

Sarah   12:48

Hmm, that’s really interesting. I mean, it’s why we’re doing what we’re doing now. Because freelancing is not a solo journey. Maybe for introverts or people who just prefer working solo, you might think that, oh, finally, I found this comfortable spot where I can just do whatever I want, take it or leave it, you know. But the truth is, you need to ask yourself, am I compromising on this area of growth? And you will always need people around you. And I like how you’ve been very intentional in putting yourself into a mentor kind of relationship, so that you always have someone to give you feedback. And you’re not afraid to hear that feedback as well. That’s something I need to learn.

Jeannette Goon  13:25

Yeah. But I do think you’re in a really great working environment as well, because you’re working with other freelancers who sort of like have more experience as well, right?

Sarah   13:34

Yeah, I am very grateful for that. It can get challenging because sometimes the freelancers whom I work with, they don’t have the same skill set as I do. While it’s really fun to learn something new. Sometimes we do have like, disagreements on how things should be done. Because that person is coming from such a different perspective. And I’m coming from, you know, my perspective. It’s like a completely different industry. But I guess that’s where trust is important. And if you can trust somebody, you’ll be able to learn to receive their feedback with grace and not be all insecure about it. And honestly, that’s something that I still am working on up to today. Okay, so maybe that’s a goal, to learn how to receive feedback without getting insecure and sensitive! Like for me, that’s a huge thing. I need to learn, and I want to be better at it.

Jeannette Goon  14:17

Are we going to discover that at the end of the day, for personal growth, you need interaction with other human beings? 

Sarah   14:23

Haha! I’m afraid so, Jeannette!

Sarah   14:26

So how do you balance ensuring that you’re able to grow but also generating personal income?

Jeannette Goon  14:34

That’s a super important question to ask yourself, right? Because even as you’re pursuing all these different modes of personal growth, income is obviously one of the most vital things especially if you don’t have a full time job. And you know, you’re not doing freelancing as a side hustle. Freelancing is your Thing, you know. That’s the only place you get income. For me… so I’m supposedly studying full time, but I still definitely need to generate that amount of income every month, and possibly increase it. I found that one thing that helps, is having passive income. So if you listen to the previous episode where we talk about finance and how to make sure you have some kind of investments going, you know, doing things like that was helpful to me. I also plan my time very tightly. If I can, I usually try to plan my meetings to the minute and I’ve started doing stuff like ordering catered food, it’s cheaper. I don’t have to think about what I eat. A lot of brain energy I find, goes to making decisions. 

Sarah   15:28

Yeah. 

Jeannette Goon  15:29

And, and this sounds like hustle porn, but I mean, I don’t believe in hustle porn, but I found that, you know… 

Sarah   15:34

What is hustle porn??

Jeannette Goon  15:36

Ohh like, you know, people who are always on about productivity and about optimizing their schedule, and talking about how they have a full uniform, because they don’t want to make decisions anymore, because it takes up too many minutes in the day? 

Sarah   15:51

Right, right, right.

Jeannette Goon  15:52

Yeah. So that’s the whole, you know, I wake up at 5AM. And I’ve worked till 1AM kind of thing. 

Sarah   15:58

It’s so annoying. I sometimes feel people show off too much. 

Jeannette Goon  16:01

Yeah, yeah. So that’s the porn part of it. You know, they find pleasure in uh… 

Sarah   16:05

… being like the king hustler.

Jeannette Goon  16:07

Yes.

Sarah   16:08

Right? 

Jeannette Goon  16:08

Yes. Or like sharing, sharing that process with other people, you know, and talking about it. 

Sarah   16:12

Oversharing? 

Jeannette Goon  16:13

Yeah.

Sarah   16:14

Because we do need to learn, but sometimes it’s just too much, right? 

Jeannette Goon  16:17

Yeah, it’s too much! But I have found certain things about that process, you know, like minimizing the amount of decisions you make. Having a uniform, I’ve considered that! So I found that these things have been helpful in really ensuring that you have enough time to learn and also work.

Sarah   16:34

So you spend time making decisions that matter, and less time on decisions that don’t matter as much.

Jeannette Goon  16:41

Yeah, at the end of the day, I guess, if you’re working at home, nobody cares what you’re wearing.

Sarah   16:46

Unless you need to do a Zoom meeting call. Then just make sure you know, it’s decent.

Sarah   16:50

All right. And I guess the takeaway is that freelancing or starting a business will definitely be a growing experience. If you want to be more intentional about it, you have to ask yourself a couple of questions. How do you want to grow? What do you enjoy? And even maybe what… you know, do you need a course? Or do you want to design your own syllabus?

Jeannette Goon  17:11

You need to know what’s available out there? Is there anything you can sign up for or pick up on during work itself? And then how can you learn without giving up income? I really like your method of learning while making sure you have an income as well, which is to learn on the job. That’s such a brilliant way to do it. And if there is the opportunity to do that, I would definitely take it too.

Sarah   17:33

Yeah, and I think that’s why I say take new challenges because I think you’re excellent at time management. I’m not. So I don’t have time to go do another course while I’m working. My work is my course.

Jeannette Goon  17:44

Yeah, but I think that’s your way of being intentional about it as well. 

Sarah   17:47

Yeah, you’re right. 

Jeannette Goon  17:48

So thank you so much for listening to this episode. Show notes are on our website as usual at http://www.solosync.xyz,

Sarah   17:57

And if you’d like to get in touch with us to suggest a topic for an upcoming episode, you can always email us at hello@solosync.xyz. 

Jeannette Goon  18:06

You can also follow us on Instagram for more updates. Our handle is @solosyncpodcast.

Sarah   18:11

Thanks for listening. See ya!

[Featured image by Annie Spratt on Unsplash]

Ep 5: Intro to Financial Planning for Freelancers

One very important thing that we learned as freelancers is how to manage our finances. Since we don’t always a fixed monthly salary, it’s vital that we have our finances in order so that we are able to keep up with our expenses, while having a cash runway so that we are never in a desperate position. How should we plan? In this episode, we talk to Abel Goon, who is a CFA charterholder, fund manager and associate in a financial planning firm.

Show Notes

If you’re looking for ways to start investing, check out fundsupermart.com and Stashaway. If you’d like to get a consultation from Abel Goon, let us know via email at hello [at] solosync [dot] xyz or slide into our DMs on Instagram.

Transcript

[Prologue]

Sarah   00:01

I only started having savings when I became a freelancer. And I think it’s because when I came out on my own, it made me more conscious of the way I manage my money.

Jeannette Goon  00:09

Sometimes I think I have quite a good handle on things, mainly because I’ve gotten a lot of advice over the years from people who do understand the finance side of things. But there’s still a lot that I don’t know. So I guess that’s why we turn to experts.

Abel  00:21

I mean, if you think about it, every dollar you have is actually your employee so how will you want your employee to perform every day or every year? What would you want them to do for you?

Full transcript

Ep 4: How Your Hobbies Enhance Your Work

The responsibilities of typical working adult life can make hobbies seem like a thing of the past. Part of a childhood that is long forgotten, that we’ve “grown out of”. Not for us. In fact, we see our hobbies and interests as something that makes us better at what we do as solopreneurs… or as human beings, really! It’s all about drawing connections between different areas of interests, and allowing them fuel your creativity at work.

Show Notes

Case studies mentioned in the show: Pokemon by Satoshi Tajiri, Under Armour by Kevin Plank, yarn bombing art by Magda Sayeg, the iPhone by Steve Jobs, and Walt Disney.

Questions or feedback? Email us at hello [at] solosync [dot] xyz or slide into our DMs on Instagram.

Transcript

[Prologue]

Jean  00:00

They could find writers, good writers, and they could find people who were experts in the F&B industry, but they couldn’t find people who could do both. Like write about, and have technical knowledge as well. So I think sometimes when you pick up hobbies, you discover these intersections. And I think that sometimes that can really make you stand out.

Sarah   00:16

I think sometimes our hobbies can also do more than just help us in the work we do. For some people, it becomes the work we do. I mean, we know entrepreneurs who turn their hobbies into a business. There’s Satoshi Tajiri… he combined his childhood bug collecting hobby with his later passion of video game design. And when he pitched his video game idea to Nintendo, they took it on and we now know that game as Pokemon! You know, that tagline? “Gotta catch em all”?

[Start] 

Sarah   00:46

Hi, there. It’s Sarah and Jeanette. Welcome to Solo Sync, a podcast for the curious solopreneur where we discover simple solutions to keep enjoying what we do together. 

Sarah   00:56

So at the time of recording this in Malaysia, where we’re based has gone back into a conditional movement control order, the CMCO, due to a third wave of COVID-19, I must say Jean, being encouraged to stay home again reminded me of things we would do to pass time when we were all stuck at home during the second wave earlier this year. It kind of gave us the chance to slow down a little bit more and make time for the things that we were interested in. Aside from work, of course.

Jean  01:22

Yeah, I did find myself with a lot of free time during that period. I think it was fun to sort of like, explore and rediscover all hobbies, or like find out new ones.

Sarah   01:32

Yeah, like suddenly, you had a little bit of a hit space for even just areas of interest that you have, right? Like you’re not constantly thinking of shuttling to and fro from work and stuff like that. What were some of the hobbies that you found yourself picking up again?

Jean  01:45

Um, well, definitely The Sims 4. Every time I find that I have a lot of hours on my hand, I do go back into the game and start playing it again. I started coding even more again, as well as looking more into UX design. 

Sarah   02:03

I love how those are your “hobbies”. They sound like work to me!

Jean  02:08

I think it’s because most of my work involves writing. So things like coding and using my brain in a different way feels like hobbies to me.

Sarah   02:15

Something different. 

Jean  02:16

Yeah. But of course, the other obvious hobbies that I’ve been practicing since I was young would be things like reading. I also rediscovered my love for music. I did some music writing and singing and recording with a friend. What about you?

Sarah   02:31

I got a chance to pick up weaving again. It’s really therapeutic. I just wanted to find things that would help me like stay away from the screen. So you know, stuff I could do with my hands, more tactile activities, like playing a guitar… garden quite a bit. But yeah, I think you’re talking about just areas of interest that I had more headspace for? I enjoy like reading up about interior designing a bit. I always say that, you know, if I could go back to studying again, it would either be history and religion, or I would take up interior designing. I really enjoy reading up about movies and about the TV series and really going deep like, Oh, you know, what is it that inspired the writers to use that particular idea or concept for this story? And then before you know it, and like last down the rabbit hole, right. And I know this sounds a little strange, but I think I really enjoy collecting kids toys and books. Especially pop ups! Hey, they are super creative!

Jean  03:32

They are. They are. They are.

Sarah   03:33

But you know, remember a time when we really didn’t need a lockdown to remind us about stuff like this. It’s called childhood?

Jean  03:42

Yeah, we weren’t always thinking about getting from A to B or meeting some deadlines.

Sarah   03:47

Exactly. What were some of the things you used to do as a kid? I mean, other than reading,

Jean  03:51

I have to say I think I was quite a boring kid. I spent a lot of time daydreaming, I could literally sit in a chair and stare into space for like hours at a time.

Sarah   04:02

You know, I think that’s quite a skill. I don’t really think kids today get much opportunity to do that.

Jean  04:08

Yeah. And they always, they always have things to do right

Sarah   04:11

 To occupy them. Yeah. And that gives you room for kind of building your imagination or… having a sense of imagination.

Jean  04:19

I suppose. So yeah, my brothers and I used to talk about our secret garden all the time.

Sarah   04:26

I remember. So we grew up together, right? And there was this thing that your brothers and you and me used to do where we would create our own games. On notebooks. You remember that? 

Jean  04:37

Yes. 

Sarah   04:37

So we were kind of like draw out like we had this map on our notebook, which had no lines on it. And it will be this little ball that will kind of go through a maze of sorts. When you reach the edge of the page, you have to choose path A or path B, right. And then whichever you choose will kind of lead either to the next page or like three pages later. Yeah, to kind of find out your fate.

Jean  04:58

Yeah, it’s like an illustrated version of a ‘Choose your own adventure’ novel.

Sarah   05:02

Yes! Yeah, it was fun! it helped our imagination kind of go wild. I think when you’re a kid, you may not realize it. But the whole idea of play exploration or having an interest in something, it’s really quite a crucial part of our development, right?

Jean  05:16

Mm hmm. Yeah, definitely. Even now, as adults, I think that play is actually something really important as well. It shouldn’t be something that you pressure yourself to do, because you think it might have some value to it, or it has some kind of implications for your work or life. But I think it’s something that you can I, as an adult… I think it’s a luxury.

Sarah   05:39

Okay, if you had to give yourself an adult reason to do it… having hobbies and interests outside of work does have a lot of benefits. Well, I find that it helps you grow your patience, because when you’re learning something new, you have to be patient with yourself. You know, you kind of develop something new and you know that there is going to be a learning curve, you kind of get a chance to learn how to build your concentration as well. 

Jean  06:05

Yeah, you also develop that discomfort of being new to something again. And I think it jolts you out of that comfort zone, you know?

Sarah   06:14

Hmm. I think that’s really important. Sometimes we take our work for granted. I mean, I’m just saying what, because that’s really what we do as… the adult experience. It’s so refreshing sometimes to not know something, in a way. I think that helps with confidence as well, for two reasons. So it helps you like be familiar with not knowing and be okay with that. And then when you do know something outside of your usual scope, you just feel a little bit more confident. And you know, I guess it’s fun to talk about. 

Jean  06:42

That’s so true. I remember when I first started learning, coding, it was something so unfamiliar and I was so new to syntax, and how to even like, I’m not very good with tech, to be honest, because I have some memory issues. So being that uncomfortable with some really new topics sort of made me feel like you know, since then every time I encounter something new again, I’m like, oh, I have this, you know, I can actually get through it. I can figure out a way to make this work.

Sarah   07:12

Yeah, we need to give ourselves opportunities to feel that way. So that when it does happen in our work context, we’re not like all panicky. It gives us the opportunity to have more to work with where we need to connect ideas or come up with new concepts. Okay, I know, I’m like going back into work again. But it’s true when you’re trying to explain yourself, you know, when you’re trying to come up with a good metaphor for something, I think that having areas outside of what you usually do, what your scope of work is, gives you more to work with when you’re trying to explain something. And people need that they don’t need the technical jargon. They need things that they can relate to in everyday life, you know, simple things like painting or gardening, you can draw so many metaphors from that to kind of express yourself.

Jean  07:58

Yeah, I like what you’re saying about connecting ideas and coming up with concepts as well. Earlier this year, I read this book called range by David Epstein. And he was talking about how specialists within one single field actually find themselves going back to the same tools over and over again, even when that specific tool might not be the best one, to use in a situation. So for example, heart surgeons would always look to surgery as the first solution to a chest pain or something like that, when that’s actually not the first course of action that should be taken.

Sarah   08:34

It’s about thinking habits, right? Developing the right thinking habits, and allowing yourself to have more than just one.

Jean  08:40

Yeah, like you have a whole toolbox to choose from rather than just a hammer. And you know, that saying right, when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Sarah   08:48

People always say, oh, you know, having hobbies makes you a more interesting person. So that when you go, you know, when you go for drinks, or when you hang out with people, office parties, you have something to talk about. But I think it’s more than that. I mean, why do you think like when you go for job interviews, sometimes they ask you oh, so what do you like doing outside of work? Right? When I was a fresh grad, I used to feel a little bit afraid, when that question came. It really wasn’t a test, or it wasn’t a way to say like, oh, so that’s what you’re gonna be doing when you’re not working, you know, but I think people just really want to get to know a little bit more about who you are, and the stuff that you enjoy out of pure passion and pure interest really do say a lot about you. And if you don’t have anything that says a lot about you as well!

Jean  09:29

I wonder what it says about me, but like my hobbies mostly involve other forms of work, or what other people think of his work and reading.

Sarah   09:37

Well, we’ll come to that in a second! Yeah, anyway, I think as a freelancer or creative consultant or entrepreneur in general, just recognizing that last bit is really so useful. I mean, we constantly work with different industries, and it’s impossible to be a subject matter expert at everything, but you definitely can bring more value to the table when you draw from different places. 

Jean  09:58

Definitely, definitely. 

Sarah   09:59

To me I think it’s also about cultivating like, we talked about that earlier, the ability to connect dots across different areas of interest. I mean, especially in today’s world of endless possibilities and sudden changes, people don’t really care about what you know, but about how you can use it. I think the question here that we could ask ourselves is, how can we draw inspiration from what we love to bring a new level of creativity and innovation to what we do?

Jean  10:32

Earlier, we were talking about how creativity is essential to successful entrepreneurship. When was the last time you realized that something you were interested in outside of work came in super handy for what you were working on professionally?

Sarah   10:44

I think earlier this year, when we had the MCO, you know, lockdown in our side of the world. Something that I was doing with a team, we had to bring whatever physical plans we had, we had to bring that online. And that involved designing a virtual simulation to create a brand experience for a group of people. And so I had to write a storyline. And that involved quite a bit of gaming mechanics? And I found that the notebook games that we used to play when we were younger, yeah, came in really handy at this point, because it was very much based on that build your own adventure concept. The storyline also evolved a bit of fantasy, which I felt was perfect, because I was drawing from my interest in fairy tales and movies. And I also had to look into character development. And I’m not a fiction writer, but I’m a huge MCU fan, Marvel Cinematic Universe. And I find myself thinking about all these characters that I love so much that I resonate with. Really kind of breaking it down, you know, just watching videos and asking myself, what is it that makes these characters so lovable? How do I build good characters in my story that people can resonate with as well. And it was just so much fun. And I felt at that moment, Oh, my gosh, I am so thankful that I had all these interests, these areas of interest to help what I’m doing now.

Jean  12:01

Because every time you watch a movie or TV series, you would go down a rabbit hole of like discovering more about the characters and the setups and things like that, right?

Sarah   12:09

Absolutely. Like just nerding out on it, right. I’m really, I’m not a game designer. And I’m not even a fiction writer. But thank God, I just had, you know, those few things to draw upon just to kind of eat my creative work to deliver what needed to be done at that point of time. What about you?

Jean  12:25

I guess mine is a little bit more technical, I guess one of my interests in the last couple of years has been food and drink. I’m not so much interested in the trying new foods. I mean, I am interested in trying new foods, but it’s not about going to new restaurants to eat and writing reviews and things like that. So I’m more interested in the culture of food, the politics of food, and I was also very interested in drinks, especially. So in the last year, I explored bartending for a bit, I actually worked at a bar for awhile, learning more about spirits, how they are made, how they’re used in drinks and the whole basics of like, how do you build a good cocktail, right? Sometime last year, I started working for some clients in the F&B industry. And what I heard from them was that they could find writers, good writers, and they could find people who were experts in the F&B industry, but they couldn’t find people who could do both. Like write about, and have technical knowledge as well. Yeah. So I think sometimes when you pick up hobbies, you discover these intersections. And I think that sometimes that can really make you stand out.

Sarah   13:23

Yeah, that reminds me of a story of this other friend of mine, she graduated with a degree in architecture, if I’m not mistaken. And she really struggled, you know, just going from one firm to another. But on the side, she enjoyed writing, she enjoyed just expressing herself in writing. And eventually she ended up working with a magazine title that covered news on architecture and interior design. And she found that that was perfect, because she could bring her knowledge from her vocation in that sense, and pair it with her passion. And it was like a perfect match. I find that you know, sometimes the things that you’re interested in, and the thought process that goes behind the work you do for one client can sometimes benefit another project that you’re working on. We’re not talking about being lazy about your ideas and kind of like copy pasting. But we’re talking about an ecosystem. I guess when you find your why then you find that the clients that you work within and work that you do, kind of support one another. What do you think about that?

Jean  14:17

Yeah, if I get clients on, they’re usually within one industry. So I don’t look for like another client within the same industry. Or even if there are, I would probably not take them on. But I do have clients that are industries that sort of support each other. So for example, I recently worked on a report about aging in Malaysia. And then I have this other client who is working on a retirement village in Malaysia as well, that kind of supports each other because the information from the report can be used to inform work that I’m doing for the retirement village, right. 

Sarah   14:50

Yeah. 

Jean  14:50

And then I do some work in artificial intelligence writing as well. And recently I had someone come to me he’s in a health care industry. He’s looking at building AI powered robots, or machines for elderly care. 

Sarah   15:04

Wow. 

Jean  15:05

So that’s like total ecosystem going on. 

Sarah   15:07

It’s like some synergy… happening. It makes your work easier as well. 

Jean  15:11

Yeah. And if it’s something that you’re interested in, why not right?

Sarah   15:14

Yeah, I think sometimes all hobbies can also do more than just help us in what we do. For some people, it becomes the work we do. I mean, we know entrepreneurs who turn their hobbies into a business Kevin Plank, he had this desire to find a solution for his daily workout needs. He was a football player at the University of Maryland. And that desire became what we know today as the athletic clothing brand, Under Armour. There’s Satoshi Tajiri… he combined his childhood bunk collecting hobby with his later passion of video game design. And when he pitched his video game idea to Nintendo, they took it on and we now know that game as Pokemon! You know, that tagline “Gotta catch em all”? 

Jean  15:53

Yeah, like bugs, right?

Sarah   15:55

Yeah!

Jean  15:55

I guess the obvious ones as well, like Walt Disney and Steve Jobs, you know, who turn things that they were interested in into multibillion dollar empires?

Sarah   16:04

Mm hmm. I think Steve Jobs is a really interesting case study as well. He was interested in philosophies of Zen and Buddhism, how did that help him again, with what he built for Apple?

Jean  16:14

The whole design of the first Apple computer was influenced by his Zen and Buddhism sort of philosophies as well as the influence that he got from his father, who would build things in the house. And one of the things I remember reading was, he always said that the inside of whatever you’re building needs to look as beautiful as the outside. So there’s no A side and B side, but there’s just an A side, you know, from however you look at it, it looks good.

Sarah   16:40

That is absolutely true of the iPhone that we hold in our hand today! I was thinking about all these entrepreneurs, and I’m like, they’re all men okay.

Jean  16:49

Yeah.

Sarah   16:50

I hope that, you know, maybe in a future episode, we could cover one on all women. Need a bit more research on that. And like you said, earlier, we were talking about this, that’s like a whole issue in itself, right. But this woman stood out to me a little bit, and this name might not ring a bell Magda Sayeg. She was a math major who became a textile artist. That’s crazy, right? Like two different things. And if you’ve ever noticed things in public being wrapped in knitting like colorful wool. I’ve seen that in parts of Australia. I’ve even seen it in parts of India, like trees that are wrapped in wool, or like stop signs on the street. That was her contribution. She started by covering her door handle with something she knitted. And before you know it, you know, people kind of caught on to that. And they were asking her to come and do this strange new artwork for cities to kind of brighten up cities, and very soon it caught on worldwide. She would start seeing it in different parts of the world. It’s called yarn bombing. And at her TED talk in 2015, she asked the audience to imagine what we could accomplish and create if we drag ourselves away from our devices, or whatever it is we do on a daily basis, and what hobbies could end up being our next passion and a business. A hobby that you love, could grow organically into a new future for you and your career. I mean, this is something for those who are still employed full time. If you’re wondering how to branch out and eventually work for yourself one day, perhaps this could be a great start.

Jean  18:16

I think even Marie Kondo she took her hobby of like cleaning up stuff and organizing things and turned it into a book and a whole business now you know? 

Sarah   18:25

A whole religion? 

Jean  18:27

Yeah. Konmari.

Sarah   18:29

Yeah. Well, this whole idea of allowing whatever you absorb, through your interest to enhance what you do professionally, might start to make some of us have a little more respect for our hobbies. I mean, maybe it’s a whole new concept to make a habit of. How does one begin to let that happen a bit more? What are some small takeaways or, you know, little thinking habits that we might encourage to get you started on this trajectory?

Jean  18:53

I guess one thing we can start with is to stop feeling so guilty about having hobbies. We shouldn’t feel the need to be working all the time. But even as we pursue these hobbies, I think we shouldn’t take them for granted. Yeah, we can also be more aware of what it involves, like what goes into it and what we can take out of it as well.

Sarah   19:12

I think being mindful right, about what you’re doing. I think that being said, you also don’t have to pressure yourself, you know, to find a hobby that will directly translate into your business life, because that’s… yeah, that’s gonna happen organically. 

Jean  19:24

Yeah, it needs to be fun. It needs to be something that you take pleasure in, I guess. 

Sarah   19:28

Yeah. And I think this whole ability to connect dots and connect ideas is very useful in today’s world. Maybe you know, that might not be something that comes naturally for people, but I think it’s okay, you start somewhere. So maybe you could start by practicing creating your own metaphors and conversations, connecting back to what you love doing. And also with any new area, or interest or hobby, you’re obviously learning something new, yes. But I think while you’re in the process, you can ask yourself, what else can I learn from this? So for example, I picked up gardening again, doing the MCO, the lockdown in Malaysia, and I find that gardening is such a great reflection of our development as human beings, I found it a time to reflect and really feel like, Oh, you know, if this plant can grow just a little bit more in the past week, have I grown? How have I grown in my own way in the past week? Stuff like that.

Jean  20:18

So I guess the takeaways that we can get from this episode would be… One… 

Sarah   20:23

Don’t feel guilty about your hobbies, because they’re important?

Jean  20:26

Yeah, you need them. Number two, don’t take your hobbies for granted. Your hobbies and areas of interest can be a way for you to grow.

Sarah   20:34

Yeah, and don’t force it. I think the idea is to just be open to the possibility that your hobbies can enhance the work that you do. I mean, it all starts with awareness. Right? That’s the fourth point, I guess, a realization. You could ask yourself, What do you love doing outside of work? What were you interested in as a child and even now as an adult? And how can you connect the dots and use it to bring value to your work?

Jean  21:08

If you’d like to get in touch with us to suggest a topic for an upcoming episode, or if you have any questions or you just want to chat, feel free to email us at hello@solosync.xyz.  Our Instagram handle is @solosyncpodcast. Until next time!

[End]

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Ep 2: How To Charge

One of the first few questions that a new freelancer often has is, “How to charge?”. You’ll soon realise there are many ways of doing this. In this episode we talk about different ways to calculate your hourly rate (read: value) as a freelancer, how this might look different across a few industries, and how we managed price negotiations with potential clients when we’re caught off guard or find it difficult to decide. Are our solutions good? You decide.

[Prologue]

Sarah   00:01

If this client is willing to work with you for the next six to 12 months. And as a freelancer, that’s a bonus because you have some kind of financial security, but then you can’t go so low till the point where it doesn’t make sense for you. So it’s good to have a minimum benchmark.

Jean  00:13

Even though the work might not be a lot, you need to factor in the mental load as well. You’re sort of like invested in that company sort of, and is definitely going to be on your mind. Because it’s just, it just takes out a lot of you. 

[Start]

Sarah   00:33

Hey, guys, welcome to Solo Sync, a podcast for the curious solopreneur where we discover simple solutions to keep enjoying what you do and who you do it with.

Jean  00:42

I’m your host, Sarah. And I’m Jeanette and today we’re talking about how to charge. So I think this is like the first thing that a freelancer a new Freelancer always worries about, right? Not just new ones, but I think even people who have been in the field for a while are always wondering, you know, how much do I charge for this even now, like, I’ve been doing this for about five years, and I still check in with my friends to ask like, okay, is this the market rate now? and things like that.

Sarah   01:12

Yeah. It’s like a never ending journey. So maybe let’s just start with a real life scenario. So someone approaches you and asks you if you can provide a certain service. Two of us are writers, right? 

Jean  01:26

Yeah.

Sarah   01:27

We also do… well I also do social media management. I’m also a photographer.

Jean  01:31

And I do a lot of editing and proofreading as well as, well uh, sometimes bartending!

Sarah   01:38

They’re quite different services that we can both provide. But yeah, then they ask you, can you do this for me? So let’s say they ask, “Do you do article writing for a blog, or content for a website? I want to launch a product, and I want to be able to build content around it to educate my readers. So you say yes. And they ask, “How much do you charge?” How would you respond to that? How should you respond to that? 

Jean  02:05

So the first thing I would do is probably try to find out more information. Like, what what do they have in mind? Do they just want like, a single piece? Or do they want like a whole series? Do they want maybe four articles a month? Or do they just want a one off thing? And who comes out with the ideas for the content? What kind of strategy do they have? So it’s basically finding out more info before you actually say anything.

Sarah   02:32

Yeah. Sometimes we panic right? So if that happens, I think it’s important to just calm down. Always find more info first. I like that. Okay, and then they tell you everything that they know. And sometimes they actually don’t know that much, either. So you don’t have much to work with. So in that situation, like what I’ve done, I think I would just say, “I’ll get back to you” or “Let me know more” I guess.

Jean  02:59

Yeah, sometimes if it’s a field that you don’t know much about, or if it’s a totally new industry, and they tell you, we need this and that. And it can be kind of hard to gauge how much to charge for things like research. If you don’t realize that, “Oh actually, it’s quite a deep field!” and you need to do a lot of reading and stuff into it before you can actually start any writing at all. Yeah, so you need to factor that sort of thing in as well. So I guess it’s important to sort of take your time to do it. 

Sarah   03:28

Yeah. I would just say okay, I’ll get back to you. Yeah, just give yourself some time. Okay, so let’s say, they really clear about what they want. And it’s a specific service. I know that some freelancers already have a rate card, would you then off the bat, just quote from your rate card?

Jean  03:48

Yeah, I usually do that. I usually give a range. Like I’ll say it, you know, if let’s say its writing an article, my per word rate is around this much. So for the article you have in mind, it will probably be around this price. And then if it involves other scope of work, then the price might be higher. So it kind of gives them a gauge of whether we would be the right fit budget-wise as well.

Sarah   04:14

That’s good. Although I do know that for different kinds of writing also, you may not charge per word, right? Let’s say, if it’s content writing, that’s pretty straightforward. But if it’s like, writing for a printed piece of material that’s going to be used to earn money on their behalf.

Sarah   04:36

I don’t know. You know, they’re gonna really benefit from it, then you would have to think about the longevity of that value and cost. But we’ll go into that in a bit la. Now, let’s talk about like the different ways of charging as a freelancer. So just now we mentioned there’s – if you’re a writer – charging per word…

Jean  04:55

So there’s per word if you’re writer and then a lot of people do hourly rates. So even with some of my clients, after bidding for a specific job, for example, they’ll say, “How many person days do you imagine this would take?” You know, so basically, they’re trying to see how much they’re paying you per hour or per day. 

Sarah   05:20

Then understanding that there are so called eight working hours in a day. 

Jean  05:24

Yeah. So there’s like, I guess the most common ones would be like, hourly rates, or usually, there’s some kind of unit charge, but it’s a lot of people look at it as per hour, I think.

Sarah   05:35

But it is also, some people charge per product, right? Like they have a rate card. Because what if your hourly rate doesn’t justify the amount of work going into a certain type of work? So I’ll give an example. So I am a writer, I also do wedding and family photography, I charge say, my hourly rate for writing is say 90 to 150, right, depending on what and, and I can’t be charging the same for photography, cuz, okay, I’m really bad math. So let’s go with whole numbers! So let’s say my hourly rate is 100. And this shoot takes like, two hours. And then I take another three to five hours to filter through, 500 to 1000 photos. Okay la, I wouldn’t take that much, but 500 photos. So in total, I have seven hours worth of work, which means I would be charging 700 for my photoshoot, which is like way below the market rate, right? So in a situation like that, when would you know when to charge by product?

Jean  06:47

Right. So I tend to prefer to charge by product. Like, I have a specific set of services that I want to offer, there are certain things that I just don’t do anymore, because after some years, I feel like it’s not worth my time, or it’s not something that I enjoy doing. So I’ve come up with a list of products: articles at around how many words and then maybe a website page, or editing of some copy, or maybe even SEO services. And I develop it in the sense that it’s a product, and then they pay a fixed price for that specific product.

Sarah   07:33

I guess that’s something that you’ll get to learn over time la. Right? Yeah, like a freelancer.

Jean  07:39

After doing it awhile you kind of like realize, okay, this sort of work involves this amount of time, time and effort. And this is what I want to get for it. 

Sarah   07:52

Yeah, actually you’re right. Even with the example I gave: writing. You’re sitting at the laptop and is a lot of research effort. But photography, it’s a lot physical effort as well. Not to mention, like covering the gear that you purchase, stuff like that, right? So I was recently reading… I follow this Instagram account that really gives great tips for freelancers. And it was talking about how we should charge per client. To find out what value the client puts to that specific scope of work. So in other words, you’re not charging for the job you’re charging for, you’re charging the client. And I know a lot of people practice that here in Malaysia as well. Or maybe overseas, I don’t know, where they have tier pricing. So there’s SME, which is small, medium enterprises. And then they’ve got another tier rate for like, slightly bigger companies. And they’ve got another rate for MNCs, maybe. What are your thoughts on it?

Jean  08:56

So this is what I’ve heard from other people as well. So recently, I was talking to someone who runs a who runs a training center. So they quote differently for SMEs and like glcs are MNC is because they say like, oh, if you if you charge an SME price, the bigger company is going to think that “Oh, actually, there’s something wrong with you, you know, that’s why you’re charging so cheap”. But to me, I sometimes feel like personally, I like to standardize my rates. So it is that price whether you are an MNC or GLC or an SME. And if it’s a company that I believe in and they really cannot afford my rates, I might work something out with them, or I might even do pro bono. So you have that standard already. That’s what I found works for me. But yeah, it could be different for different people. 

Sarah   09:53

I think that makes sense because usually this kind of practice will come in handy if you are a full grown company. You don’t have the time to keep negotiating per client. So you need to already have fixed rates, right? And it works to your benefit that when you when you have a client who is a GLC, to know that they are going to be charged a certain rate. But sometimes, like you say, even as a company of maybe like three or five or even 20, where you don’t have time to negotiate per client, you want to be able to make rates low enough to help smaller companies. And so it’s like, okay, I’ll just give you that “SME rate”, which we’ll talk about later on: what does that mean, in context of freelancing?! Umm cool. What about retainers?

Jean  10:45

I do do that with some clients, especially those with businesses that I really like. And if they have teams that, you know, we really need to collaborate and work together on a specific project. That’s when it makes sense to have a routine, I think. So when it comes to that, I think it’s fair to go lower than your usual rate. If let’s say I were to charge 5000 Ringgit for a specific piece of work. But it’s more of something that can be done per month. I mean, the overall rate can be cheaper, because it’s being sort of paid over several months.

Sarah   11:34

Yeah. And there’s value in the longevity of the job and the chance to build that relationship with the client as well.

Jean  11:41

Yeah. And I guess something we can talk about later on is cash flow. In another episode!

Sarah   11:48

Yeah, I think, you need to factor in the scope of work if you’re going to do that. And at the end of the day, have a minimum benchmark, right? Because let’s say you really like the client, you believe in their cause, you want to do the work, you love the job. So all that kind of lines up for you. And then you know that, okay, this client is willing to work with you for the next six months, six to 12 months. And as a freelancer, that’s a bonus, coz you have some kind of financial security. But then you can’t go so low till the point where it doesn’t make sense for you. Because the thing about retainers is that sometimes you’re not going to be… yeah, you have a scope of work, but you’re not going to be like terribly calculative about it as well. You’re almost like a part timer where in that sense, I would say like you really build that relationship with them. So it’s good to have a minimum benchmark and not go lower than that. Just in case.

Jean  12:40

Yeah, totally agree. Because even though the work might not be a lot, you need to factor in the mental load as well. So it’s like, you’re sort of like invested in that company, sort of, and is definitely going to be on your mind. You know, that’s why I’ve sort of cut down on retainer work. Because it just takes up a lot of you.

Sarah   13:05

That’s true, you will kind of be expected to prioritize them. You’re right. I always forget about mental load. Sometimes we quantify our value in terms of the actual, physical skills that we’re doing to produce the final outcome of that work. And then we forget like, Oh my God, why is my brain is so tired today?

Jean  13:25

So speaking of extra, one thing to remember as a freelancer is also, you know, the fact that you don’t have all the extra benefits that come with having a full time job. 

Sarah   13:36

That’s true. 

Jean  13:36

Like, you know, your medical benefits and sick days. Yeah. And EPF and SOCSO that normally your employer will pay for you, right? So I guess that’s something that you need to calculate into your hourly rate as well. How do you do that?

Sarah   13:55

Okay, let’s talk about how to calculate our hourly rate. So let’s say you’re moving from your full time employment to being a freelancer. One way to do it is you can just factor in how much you’re earning for the entire year, and just say, I want to keep earning that same amount. But you might mark it up a little for the following year la. To factor in inflation rates. So you take that amount you minus off all the non-working days. So generally, you have 22 working days a month, not counting your Saturday and Sundays. And then you’re supposed deduct, even days that you want to take holidays on throughout the year. So let’s say you tell yourself, and it’s really up to you, right? If you say okay, I want to take like the whole month of December off. Okay la, so you minus that, and then you divide that by the number of days and hours. And that’s how you get hourly rate. But then you were saying we need to factor in these added benefits. So I read somewhere and I think It makes sense that you can calculate it, like down to the last cent if you like. You already know how much you need to pay for EPF, how much your company pays on your behalf and how much you pay. So you factor that in for SOCSO. So maybe you want to take your previous company’s medical benefit as a benchmark, which is not realistic, because you’re just starting out. But you can give yourself like a leeway of… I don’t know, how much does it take to even now just go to the clinic and get very basic flu pills? You’re already paying at least 75 Ringgit, sometimes. But that being said, you should have your own health insurance, and we can talk about that in a different episode. So you will kind of calculate that. But when it gets too much, then I would say based on what I read, just mark it up by 25%. That will be a pretty good benchmark. So you have what you want to earn for that year, mark that up by 25%? And then divide that by the number of working days and billable hours. What do billable hours mean? So if there are eight, actually there are nine working hours in a day, right? To be really honest. So you’ve got nine working hours in a day, including that one hour lunch. So ask yourself, how many hours out of those nine hours are you really doing work? And things like answering emails or doing administration may not be considered actual work? Unless you are a comms specialist, then answering emails is THE work, you know. So maybe you take two hours of every day. So you’ve got seven hours left minus your lunch, you’ve got six hours left, so those six hours are your billable hours. So you divide the amount of money you want to earn for that year divided by the number of working days divided by the number of billable hours. And that’s how you get your hourly rate. 

Jean  16:54

That makes so much sense. Like I’ll be honest and say that I did not do it that way when I first started out!

Sarah   17:01

I think nobody does!

Jean  17:03

And even now I’m sort of like, feeling my way along as well. I always think like, more money is better!

Sarah   17:10

Yeah. And I think it changes also over time. I mean, of course, because as inflation goes up, you need to factor that in. I took a while to learn this as well. I have been freelancing on the side, even as I had a full time job. And I never bothered to calculate my hourly rate, or rather, I just didn’t know, you know. And then last year, I calculated… oh sorry, two years ago, when I started full-time freelancing, I calculated my hourly rate, just based on what I was earning, taking home every year. I didn’t factor in my EPF, or my SOCSO. So I was really losing out. And don’t forget to save up pink tax! Okay, is there anything else we need to factor in when we’re calculating our hourly rate?

Jean  17:58

I think if you’re offering like super different services, you know, how earlier you spoke about how you do like writing and photography. When, when offering these different services, I think the hourly rates can actually get really different from each other. Right?

Sarah   18:15

Yeah. Because of the different amount of effort that is put into it. I would say, okay, so when does calculate your hourly rate not apply? Sorry, it always applies. But when do you not charge based on your hourly rate? So when your services are different, how do you value that right? I would say put a value to your time, compare it to the market rate. So there is a market rate… you need to talk, have conversations with people, find out what other people are charging. One way to do this is talk to other freelancers, if you don’t have a single freelancing friend, within the industry, go online, find out what’s going on. But I know that like for certain regions, these resources are quite scarce. And it’s really difficult to just… there’s a lot of material on this topic in the US. And it’s really hard to just take what they’re advising and then convert it to Malaysian ringgit, it’s just difficult. But what you can also do is talk to friends who are full-time workers whose company hires freelancers and find out “How much did your company pay that person?” You know, that’s one way of doing it. So that’s how you get your market rate, I guess. And then let’s say, you know, how do you put a value to your time I would factor in things like years of experience, your unique creative angle, that’s really hard to put a value to but at least know that it’s something you value la right? The time spent and, and I mean, maybe even the cost of your gear. So with writing, it’s not so bad. You’ve pretty much got your laptop to cover, I guess. For photography, it would be your camera, your flash. You want to be able to set yourself a time limit and say in six months or three months, I want to be able to pay this off with what I’m earning. Yeah, pretty much that I would say.

Jean  20:13

Yeah, I guess for me, you know, my skill sets are quite different in range. I think one is  writing, which is very much like knowledge kind of work. Whereas, if I were to go bartend at a party or something like that, it’s something that’s very service, F&B related. And the hourly rates are honestly, quite different from each other. So that’s something that I have to take into consideration as well. I guess how much people are willing to pay for a specific service… determines the market rate. And that determines how much you can charge as well.

Sarah   20:53

Yeah, that’s right. You know, I will say this, I mean, at the end of the day its also a question of ethics. There are people who just charge so much just because they can, because the market rate is just increasing. And, I mean, I’ll just speak for myself here. Like, at least in terms of photography, I’m a photographer. I might not be the best out there, I may not have had like 10 years of experience. I do have 10 years of experience, it’s just that very minimal experience compared to full time photographers. As someone who’s paying another photographer to take my photos, there’s only so much that I think you should be paying for a photographer. I really struggle even… getting married, you’ve got so many things to pay for on your wedding. And to be able to say, I’m going to be paying 10k for one photographer, there’s so many other things to pay for. Are you really in that range? That socioeconomic range? You know, can you really afford that? And so I think you need to also ask yourself, put your customer first also, and not just think about yourself sometimes. I can’t quantify that. It’s just an attitude to have.

Jean  22:12

What about for things like that you’ve never done before? You know, like, it’s a paid job, you’ve never done it before someone approaches you with it and says, Can you do this for me?

Sarah   22:22

Okay, it’s something that I have always wanted to do. And to try something I think that I can do, my answer is yes, I can do it. The question is, am I going to do for free or get paid, right? I think when I was younger, I used to just do things entirely for free. Because I felt that I had no experience. And so there’s no reason for them to pay me. And I was not competent. Obviously, I felt that when someone pays you the the pressures added on. But over the years, I’ve learned that even if you have no experience, just the time used to figure something out, people should value that time, and I valued at time. So I would still want to get paid like a minimum fee, right?

Jean  23:05

I think you’re bringing your knowledge from other fields into what you’re doing as well. So that’s what you’re getting paid for too.

Sarah   23:11

Yeah, that’s right. You’re getting paid for YOU la. Yeah, they asked you and no one else, you know. There’s definitely something you can bring to the table. So how to charge for that? I don’t know. How do you do it? 

Jean  23:24

So what I’ve usually done is, I guess I have a very lackadaisical way of dealing with this sort of thing. I don’t plan for it. I just take it as it comes. But I guess the closest example would be when I started bartending. And it was something that I had learned, I went for class. And it was something that I wanted experience doing as well. And at the time, I just took whatever was offered. It was below I think, like below minimum wage, but I felt like it was a learning experience. And it really was on the ground practical experience. And that had value for me as well. So I guess that’s something that very freelancer, I mean, it’s a very individual thing. Like, what you need to think about, I think, is what you really want to get out of the experience.

Sarah   24:25

What you’re getting in return la.

Jean  24:26

Yeah.

Sarah   24:27

It’s not always about money, right?

Jean  24:28

Yeah. It’s not about money all the time. Sometimes you might get interesting connections. 

Sarah   24:35

You’re right, you’re right.

Jean  24:36

Yeah. So it’s always looking for other value as well. And then trying to balance that out with how much you need to survive, you know, tomorrow.

Sarah   24:47

Okay. You know what that makes, total sense. So the thing is, you’re still valuing yourself, but you’re asking yourself, what can I get for what I value and it might be in terms of  monetary benefits or in other benefits, that can actually go quite far. I like that. It’s good. One thing I struggle with, though, when it comes to doing something new is how to estimate the time it takes.

Jean  25:12

Yeah, that can be hard. Sometimes you can gauge but even the best effort can be like, you can be wrong sometimes. And it takes more time than you anticipate. But I feel that helps you learn as well, for the next time this sort of job happens. 

Sarah   25:30

Just live and learn. Right? 

Jean  25:31

Yeah, but one thing I’ve realized is that whatever you estimate, mark it up. Because you’re usually wrong! 

Sarah   25:39

Yeah, yeah. I always underestimate the amount of time it takes to do something. I forget that energy levels is a thing as well. So, you know, maybe I can churn out an article in two hours or three hours and then … eh actually I don’t have the research done for this. Then I spend another five hours researching. Before I know it, its been eight hours. And I’m so tired and then I’ve got other things going on in life. Yeah. So really think about that.

Jean  26:07

Yeah. And then the other thing that is always difficult when speaking to a new client is when they want to negotiate. 

Sarah   26:17

Oh my gosh.

Jean  26:19

Yeah, what are some of the things that have been said to you? And how do you respond to them?

Sarah   26:26

They always say like, Can you give me SME price? Haha.

Jean  26:31

It’s like their passive aggressive way of saying, I need a huge discount!

Sarah   26:37

Yeah. What about you? What else?

Jean  26:40

Um, one of the things I always get is Oh, for this rate, I can hire a full timer.

Sarah   26:45

Oh, my gosh. And then you just say to them, Yeah, go ahead.

Jean  26:49

Yeah. Usually, that’s my response. Like, yeah, if you can hire a freelancer then yeah, go ahead. Yeah, sorry. A full-timer.

Sarah   26:56

And we mean that, right? Because it’s true. As much as we would really like to help you, we cannot be that full-timer for you, because we’ve got our own business going on. And it does make more sense for you, you know? Another thing I hear well, I guess it all boils down to how… individual clients la…  and there are some clients that just say, Oh, can you just go cheaper, I just don’t have the budget for it. 

Jean  27:21

Sometimes you got to appreciate those as well. Like, at least they’re really straightforward about it. 

Sarah   27:25

That’s true. 

Jean  27:26

And then you can say yes or no.

Sarah   27:28

Oh, hey, so here’s a question, right? Do you ask people… do you ask them… What’s your budget? Do you bother asking the clients what’s your budget? Okay, and hear me out. I feel that if you were to say that, you’re setting yourself up, to meet their benchmark, or to disappoint them. So let’s say you really have an idea of how much you’re going to charge, but you’re really not sure where this client is coming from. Then you ask them, oh, what’s your budget, and then you find out that their budget is like half of what you would charge, then that puts you in a really sticky situation, because then it’s like, you already know what their budget is, why we used to go ahead and charge like, quote, something that’s completely out their budget. It’s kind of rude, right? But yet at the same time, I don’t know. Is that beneficial? Asking that question?

Jean  28:19

Right. So this “What’s your budget” question? I usually ask after they’ve already told me what kind of work they want done. So when they tell me their budget, I’ll say okay, I can’t do what you want for that price. But we can work on something smaller first. Or I can recommend someone a bit more junior for you.

Sarah   28:40

Would you… which comes first? Asking the client’s budget or telling them your ballpark figure?

Jean  28:47

It really depends. I don’t think that I have like a fixed formula for like what I say first, but… Oh, so in one of my most recent cases, I actually did it in the same sentence. Like, “This is what I charge, tell me what your budget is”. 

Sarah   29:05

Haha! How did that go? 

Jean  29:08

She’s like, oh, okay, let’s talk about it. Okay, so I guess that that already helps you to sort of gauge, okay, this client can sort of see themselves paying that amount. So it helps to make your pre-work conversations more efficient as well. So you don’t waste time. I’ve gone to meet clients for like three meetings. These were not  my clients, but

Sarah   29:37

you were subcontracted?

Jean  29:38

Yeah, like a subcontractor. And it’s like, we’re pitching for a job. And I’ve gone to three, three hour meetings. And then eventually, nothing comes out of that, or the clients are like “Hmm-hawing” about the price, and I’ve realized that those are just not efficient and not something that I want to do necessarily.

Sarah   29:58

Yeah, I wish I could understand where the clients are coming from when they refuse to mention what their budget is. Sometimes I would feel maybe it’s because they don’t have a very high budget, and they’re just feeling like they would rather find out how much you charge in case you charge less than their budget, so that they don’t lose out on that. Or sometimes… I really don’t know.

Jean  30:26

Yeah, so I guess that that brings us to, if they really can’t pay what you asked for, they just really don’t have the budget for it or they don’t want to, but you need the job. You know, what do you usually find yourself doing in that situation?

Sarah   30:43

I’ve been in those situations quite a few times. I think it always starts that way. Okay, so ideally, like you would say, don’t ever put yourself in that position. 

Jean  30:55

Yeah. I’ve always been on the school of thought that everyone needs a “F*** off fund”. Like, whenever you don’t like the situation you’re in, you have enough of a runway to say “F*** off”.

Sarah   31:06

Yeah, but I guess sometimes, we don’t plan for it. And I mean, everyone’s got a different financial situation. They might not have had time to have much savings for… um, so they need the money, or it could be a bad month or season? Well, I would say, if you’re really desperate, you can take the job. Take it in, with dignity, but manage your expectations. You have to just know that this is a learning experience. And I guess, by going through that, by going through the motions, after that, you will come out a wiser person. You will know that no matter what, I’ll never do that, again, for free. For such a low rate, it’s not worth my time. And to avoid such a situation in future, I will make sure I have savings. Right?

Jean  32:05

Yeah. Or sometimes you might find a really valuable client out of that situation as well.

Sarah   32:11

Oh, that’s true. Build a relationship.

Jean  32:12

Yeah. Because they might really just not have the budget for it. And if you ask yourself,  even if you’re not in a place of desperation, you see that what they’re doing, the work that they’re doing is valuable, and it’s something that you’re interested in, you might want to say yes, even though it’s a lot lower than your usual rate.

Sarah   32:30

Yeah. And who knows, like you say, you could end up growing with them and their business. And just having the attitude of wanting to add value to your client as well, wanting to support them, because you believe in what they’re doing. And, you know, if the relationship is good, and if the business model makes sense, I guess, as they grow in their business, then you have more money to pay everybody, you know. Themselves, you and whoever else they’re working with. Right? 

Sarah   33:01

I think this discussion has been really interesting. I like talking about it every now and then. So what are our key takeaways?

Jean  33:09

I would say the first thing to remember is, know your value. Not just in terms of what you can do, or how much you want to charge, but like, what you bring to the table. 

Sarah   33:23

Who you are as a person, right? 

Jean  33:24

Yeah, yeah. 

Jean  33:25

Well, and I think that gets better over time.

Jean  33:27

Yeah, it’s something you learn. And I guess that that brings us to our next takeaway. You win some or you learn some.

Sarah   33:35

Yeah, no one’s a loser. You don’t lose out anything. And that’s what makes just the journey of freelancing so interesting. It’s a never ending journey right?

Jean  33:45

It’s an adventure.

Sarah   33:46

It is! It’s a life long lesson. I love it. Great. 

Sarah   33:49

We hope you found this episode useful. And if you have any other questions, Jeannette and I would love to chat.

Jean  33:55

Yeah, so feel free to email us at hello@solosync.xyz, that’s hello at S-O-L-O S-Y-N-C dot X-Y-Z or send us a message on Instagram. Our handle is @solosyncpodcast.

Sarah   34:11

Give us more ideas of what you would like us to discuss next.

Jean  34:15

Thanks for listening.

[End]