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Next in my lengthy series on lessons I’ve learnt so far in my freelance journey. It’s very easy to promise too much for the money on offer.

In the middle of last year, I received a referral from a good friend of mine to a nonprofit agency who needed some help with their grant-writing work (which I do pretty well). They employ a part-time grant writer, who had been diligently working away with little success. For a small nonprofit in a competitive marketplace, this was a problem: no grants, no pay, no organisation.

They asked me to come down to their Melbourne office for a day and help them work out what was going wrong, then write a proposal for how to fix it, then help them with a grant proposal to implement the changes I jumped at the chance. Problem was, they only had a small amount of money. No matter: I loved their work and wanted to help. You can guess the outcome: I’ve spent too much time on that job, a job that probably needed about triple their budget to do well. I’m still waiting on them in order to do the last part of the project, and get paid the last instalment. Not a good outcome!

So what will I do next time?

1. Put my eagerness in check: Sure, I like the work they do, but my work is also worthwhile, and worth paying the right figure for.
2. Educate the client: Let the client know how much their request will cost to do properly. Often writing clients, especially if they have not used writers before, have an unrealistic view of the cost.
3. Suggest a realistic task for the budget: Work out a section of the task, and split it off from the whole. Put that section forward as an achievable chunk for the budget they have.

I can hear my inner voice calling me to do favours for people who do good work, and I’ll continue to do so sometimes. But not following my rules above will lead to overwork, tiredness, and financial stress.