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Working for small businesses

I read an interesting blog from an experienced freelance writer about why she doesn't work for small businesses any more. Her reasons: small budgets, not clear about what they want and often too busy to get back to you. And it got me thinking. I am not as experienced as she is and I don't have a raft of regular clients to call on, but I have had a few small businesses as clients and I could relate to much of what she said.

Here's a short list of what I've encountered as a freelancer working with small businesses. Do these client types sound familiar to you?

The time-wasters

I'm afraid I've come across this one more than once. They might ask you to do a 'very quick' audit of their social media presence and then to come up with a full-blown strategy as part of the recruitment process. A word of warning: never give too much away. It makes it too easy for them to turn you down and hand the job over to someone they can get away with paying less. It happens.

This type of client might also invite you to have a casual chat over coffee and then ask you a zillion questions about how they could improve what they're doing. It's the same as above, but just a friendlier guise.

Or they might want you to blog for their clever new app, but they won't have a clear content strategy or much of a marketing budget. This client will probably only be paying you to deliver the actual blog, so they won't be paying for all the other time you spend on their project - and it can be substantial. Beware of very small budgets, too, because they have a way of disappearing suddenly. Instead of writing the 10 blogs they promised, you only end up writing one but you've already done about 8 hours' worth of research, sat through two conference calls and answered several emails.

Wants the world

You will inevitably come across the client who wants you to deliver the impossible. This is the type who will hire you in November and expect you to perform some sort of Christmas miracle - and I'm not talking about the immaculate conception either.

Some social media clients can be a bit like this. They dream big and have unrealistic expectations of what you can do for them. Often this is related to increasing their followers on social media by the thousands, but with little budget and in just a few weeks. As most of you know, social media marketing is not a sprint to the finish line. It takes time to build and retain a loyal and engaged audience on any platform. A little tip: buying your followers is not a good idea!

Ancient structure

All I can think about when I meet this type of client is that Rome wasn't built in a day and neither were authentic Instagram accounts with millions of followers.

The freeloader

Empty road

Yes, you will probably have a client who suddenly wants you to do a bunch of stuff you never agreed to do for FREE. It might be the occasional blog, coming up with a list of content ideas or helping out with a bit of 'this and that'. Before you know it, you are in a precarious position because you have crossed a line if you say yes to anything outside your contractual obligation. I suggest you don't start down this road. It is generally a road to nowhere.

These are just some observations and many people are genuinely lovely to work with. But I do think a lot of this comes back to having the confidence to charge what you're worth (probably more than you think) and go for the clients who will pay it without batting an eyelid. Easier said than done, right? I really do believe that quite a few freelancers undersell themselves. I am guilty of this too. I definitely would like to work with small businesses, but I do approach it with a bit more caution.

I'd love to hear other people's experiences - feel free to comment.

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