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Living the Freelance Dream: Cheap Gigs for Bad Clients?

5 quick hacks for failing fast

Warning: this article is so bad, it was rejected by four different Medium publications. Read this satire at your own risk.

New to freelancing and don’t know where to start? Fear not! With so many great gig marketplaces and collaboration tools, freelancing is easier than ever — anyone can do it, no matter your experience. The barrier of entry is literally zero.

Just ask your nephew. He earned $10 on Fiverr last week and all he had to do was design an entire website in a day. Easy peasy!

It’s so easy that everyone is jumping on the freelance bandwagon, and COVID is only accelerating the trend towards flexible employment and contracting options. It’s never been a better time to start your freelance endeavour.

They say that 80% of new businesses fail. In this time of great uncertainty, it’s important to stick with the crowd and not stand out like a tall poppy. You don’t want to be classified as a privileged top 20%er. To help you fail as hard and fast as possible — so you can get back to the soul-crushing fun of job hunting — follow these easy freelance business hacks.

“Just do gigs” instead of running a serious business

You’ve heard of the “gig economy”, right? Well, it’s time to hop on the gig gravy train.

In the old days if you wanted to be in business you had to create a business. Name it and register it. Get a separate bank account for it. Talk to accountants and lawyers. Design professional invoices. Do taxes. Get all your ducks in a row, so at the very least you appear professional even though you’re freaking out with imposter syndrome on the inside.

Yuck! Forget all that.

Just sign up to some websites and start doing random gigs. Work when you want on whatever one-off gigs you can scrape together. Your business will take care of itself. “Fly casual” as Han Solo would say.

Planning and goals? No way. Growth will happen automatically — it’s capitalism baby! Better clients will come to you without the need for building your reputation and earning higher rates. Ignore anyone who tells you a solid freelance career requires treating your work like a serious business. They’re jealous old boomers.

Rely on Upwork and Fiverr to find great clients

Gone are the days of networking and forming long-lasting partnerships with clients. That’s such a waste of time when there are countless new clients ripe for the taking on revolutionary freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr — and all without the need for any pesky relationship or trust-building hurdles.

Here’s the trick: all you have to do is work for less money than everyone else. Freelance work is ENDLESS if you’re willing to work nearly free. They don’t call it freelancing for nothing, right?

Honestly, I don't know how people freelanced before sites like this. All the real-world clients are so serious with their high-expectations and meaningful projects. And they expect to talk to you (sometimes even in-person!). No way Jose!

Race-to-the-bottom freelance marketplaces solve all those problems by connecting shitty clients with desperate freelancers, and then taking a portion of your earnings for their troubles. It’s a godsend.

Don’t waste time communicating (clients love the hard-to-get rogue cowboy)

Professionalism is so boring.

The beauty of freelancing is that you’ve got nobody to answer to. You’re the boss. So if a client starts getting all demanding and suggesting you should reply to their emails within 24 hours, ditch that nightmare fast.

Communication is a burden you don’t need in your life. Freelancing is all about working when and how you like, without the constant distraction of having to collaborate with your clients. If you wanted to push emails and Slack messages all day, you’d go get a traditional office job, amiright?!

Think of it like dating. You don’t want to appear too eager or interested. Instead, let that email mellow for a few days and only reply when they remind you a third time. They’ll appreciate your outlaw attitude.

Process and organization are for losers — leave the details for someone else to worry about

One thing that will certainly rocket your freelance career to the next level is to let details fall through the cracks. It’s not your job to manage your own projects, stay on top of requirements and deadlines, and remind your clients about critical bottlenecks. That’s the job of a project manager!

Just wing it mate. Ignore those who say you need to follow a rigorous creative process. Let your clients dictate the process, and it will be a fun surprise to see how each project unfolds unexpectedly.

Organization is only for people who lack your “rockstar” skillset. Clients want the big picture idea man, not the keyboard monkey who stresses over the details. Don’t dilute your specialisation by trying to manage your jobs professionally too.

Make sure to Instagram your glamourous digital nomad lifestyle

Nothing impresses potential clients more than knowing you’re having a great time with your girlfriend in Southeast Asia, hitchhiking around with your Macbook Pro and working from the beach. It’s important that you craft your personal brand by sharing as much as possible about how free you feel being a digital nomad and leaching of the generosity of those in developing countries less fortunate than you are.

Bonus points for “BegPacking”. Clients love to see how entitled and committed you are to travelling frugally rather than perpetuating capitalist concepts such as money and fair trade.

After all, the cheaper you live, the cheaper the clients you can attract. If I’ve learned anything over 18 years of freelancing, it’s that a strong freelance career is earned from consistently delivery mediocre work for low-budget clients.

Failure guaranteed!

Well, there you have it. A surefire way to suck at freelancing. Follow this strategy and I guarantee you will struggle through crappy client after nightmare job. Since you’re doing nothing wrong, obviously the blame falls on your clients. Good riddance I say. It’s fart easier finding new ones than building lasting relationships with the ones you’ve already got.

Now back to trawling through Upwork my friend. Your career won’t stall itself.

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Benek Lisefski

Hi, I'm Benek Lisefski. Since 2001 I've run my own independent design business. Join me as I unfold 20 years of freelance business knowledge: honest advice and practical tips to help you take your indie career from good to great.

MediumTop writer in Design, Business, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship.