5 Things a Freelancer Should Set Before Working for a Client

So, your job application or your pitch has been noticed. You finally got a message from a client, wanting to further discuss the work with you!

Do you squeal with excitement and say yes the moment your potential client make the offer? You would do everything just to snag that job. Money is money, after all. Some work is better than no work at all.

Hey, I was this freelancer. Way before I knew better.



I made a lot of mistakes during my early freelancing years (3-4 years ago), causing me to cave in to low pay rates and to comply with a clients’ never ending editing job. You don’t have to learn from your freelancing mistakes when you can learn from mine.

Before you go digitally signing that contract, here are things that you need to discuss with your potential client.


Work Style Details

What attracts you first to a certain job posting (if you’re looking on a bidding site like oDesk) is the job itself. If you know you can do it, (or if you are willing to learn and do it), then you go for it.

On top of the basic work descriptions, I always ask my clients the following questions so that I can produce the work that they are looking for:

  • Who are your target audience?
  • Do you have a B2B or a B2C company?
  • What kind of voice do you want the piece to have?
  • Do you have a specific number of words required?
  • Do you have a particular idea that you would like to be stressed out?
  • What is the purpose of this article/press release/blog post?
  • Would you providing me with the details or do I have to do my own research? (If I know that I need to work on additional research, I usually charge more.)
  • Would you like to see the draft/outline of the article/website/blog post? (So you’ll know if you’re on the right track and you wouldn’t end up re-doing the entire thing when your client dislikes it.)


Pay/Rate & Mode of Payment

First off, you should be sure that you are comfortable and happy with the rate or payment that is being offered to you. The payment agreement can be tricky as there are other fees involved, especially if you’re in the premises of an online site-bidding platform.

You and your client should be clear of:

Payment style — fixed-price or hourly rate

If it’s hourly, you should discuss the number of hours that would take you to complete the job. 


         This is my usual mistake — not discussing if the fees are covered. If you’re working on oDesk, there is a 10% fee. You only get the 90%. If you’re working on a fixed job payment, sometimes, you would think that the agreed price is price that you’re going to receive. Always keep the fees in mind when discussing your pay.

Milestone payment

         To be sure that you are not being scammed, you can demand 50% before starting the work. Then on the first draft, you can demand another 25%. Then the remaining 25% is due when the project is completed. I only practice 100% payment on the end of the work, but I think I need to change my terms. I haven’t had a bad experience though. All my clients are paying me.

Mode of payment

         If you have a client outside of oDesk, then you can opt to be paid through Paypal by international clients or bank transfer by local clients. Paypal don’t have fees when you are paid through “personal payments”, but they do have 5% fee when payment is made through invoices. Discuss this with your client.

Scope of Work

Sure, the job details have been specified, but sometimes clients ask you to do work outside of the agreed plan. To avoid this, you can:

  • Send out an outline of the work that you will be working on (sort of like a minutes-of-the-meeting e-mail)
  • Agree on the number of revisions that you are willing to give. Limit it to 2 or 3.
  • Writing an article is different from sharing it. An article writer is not expected to be a social media manager unless the job title and job description says so.


The deadline is one of the important things that you and your client should agree upon. I only take projects that I know I can deliver. This is something that I am concerned about since I am only a part-time freelancer as of the moment. To make sure that there would be no conflicts between you and your client, you should:

  • Be open about your schedule. If you have a day job, tell him/her so he/she can understand your working patterns.
  • Be honest about the number of hours that you can work per week.
  • Don’t take on urgent projects if you can’t work on it ASAP. You’ll be ruining your relationship with your client.
  • Choose a realistic deadline. Under promise, but over deliver.

As long as clients are happy with the way you work and the quality of your output, they will consider your work schedule.


Your work’s copyright depends on the work that you have snagged. Sometimes, your byline is allowed, sometimes you need to ghost write. Sometimes, clients need you to legally sign a document stating the intellectual property of the finished work.

If you’re planning to place a project on your online portfolio, ask the client first before doing so.

Do you also freelance? Or would you like to try?

If you’re curious, I’m working in oDesk as a freelance writer since 2011.

If you have tips that worked for you or questions about freelancing, feel free to drop them in the comment box below.