If you’ve read through my posts on What’s Great About Freelancing, you’ll know that I regularly insist freelancers can make more money in less time—or even with less work—than their corporate counterparts.
A former employer got me for a design project. We agreed on a pleasantly surprising price for my services.
Pleasantly surprising, when you realize that companies are willing to pay consultants and freelancers more than their own employees, in terms of hourly compensation.
To be fair, paying full–time staff per project instead on a monthly basis is a very expensive proposition, making it hard for a company to make a profit. But this reality also highlights another advantage for freelancers. Earning on a per–project basis can be very lucrative, especially if you devote enough hours to marketing your skills, looking for new clients, and getting things done.
And since a full–time freelancer has full control over their schedule, it’s possible to work as much as you want or need.
Big Employer, Slow Returns
I’m sure you’ll agree that working for a high–profile company, and being able to take credit for your output, will do wonders for your freelance career.
But if you’re expecting the money to flow in quickly, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.
A well–known consumer electronics distributor was once my employer. And as part of its marketing department, my responsibilities included drafting up the documentation needed to secure financing for projects. And many times, we outsourced some of the work to freelancers. Like when we contracted freelance photographers, models, and even stylists for a product launch.
I witnessed first–hand how slowly things can move in a company. You see, after a fiscal year when costs spiraled out of control, my former employer was forced to adapt much more stringent financial controls.
This included requiring the owner’s’ approval for any non–sales–related expenditure—which included some of the marketing efforts under my supervision. Having to push a request through the upper management, then to finance, then have it sent to the owners for final signing meant that it took days, even weeks, before the checks were cut. Including payments for any freelance services rendered.
Working with such a bureaucracy reminds me why it’s great to be a freelancer.
To be fair, my former company had good reasons behind such a time–consuming system. They still made sure that the money moved quickly for their bread–and–butter operations: procurement and sales. While to prevent carefree spending, every cent had to be accounted for.
This doesn’t mean they don’t understand their responsibilities. And it’s usually never a matter of lacking money. High–profile companies operate on a reputation of trust. They’re very willing to pay you as soon as they can, once they sort out how your project fits into the big financial picture.
If you find yourself working for a big company, or at least a company with an extensive organization, here’s what you should do: ask for a promised payment date (which you should always do in any case) and add a buffer. If the payment is promised in week’s time for instance, expect to receive the money after 10–14 days.
I’d like to hear from you, dear readers. What are your experiences with working with big employers? How quickly does your compensation arrive?