Freelance does not mean my services are free, people

Freelance does not mean my services are free, people

I’m a relative newbie to the world of freelancing and I have already been caught out by a client (or two) who will not pay me.

Freelancer, independent contractor, consultant … whatever we call ourselves doesn’t matter. But we all have similar stories about not being paid. Even the most seasoned among us still falls prey to a rogue client. We’ve all heard at least one of these: you didn’t fulfil the brief, or you delivered late, or – my personal favourite – but you did it for exposure!

JustMeneesha, Meneesha Govender, Durban, free, freelance, freelancer, freelance life, contract

Every day I learn something new about running my own business. One of the most difficult lessons is ensuring I am remunerated.

Now, I could sit back and bemoan a client’s scruples. Or seek to expose them for their duplicity. Or simply shriek to the heavens in frustration. But will this help my bank account? Highly unlikely.

On the offence

Allie Gray Freeland says the “best defense against late or no payment is a good (and legally binding) offense”.

Whether the person I do work for is a family member, friend or stranger, I have learnt that if I expect payment for anything I do, I must ensure a contract (or a memorandum of understanding at the least) is in place before I even begin thinking of the work. And that’s my responsibility. I cannot depend on the client’s sense of fair play or goodwill.

JustMeneesha, Meneesha Govender, Durban, free, freelance, freelancer, freelance life, contract

The responsibility to protect myself rests with me. I ensure that I have a memorandum of understanding, at the very least, in place with a client.


Getting your hands on a simple contract is easy enough on the internet. I found a great start through PandaDoc*. I had to tweak a few clauses to make it relevant to my context. But on the whole, it has served me well.

As the scope of my work changes often, I’ve had to refine my contracts and now I have a few templates that I turn to depending on what I am doing. I’ve learnt to seek out advice and assistance wherever I can – an attorney, colleagues at SAFREA (the Southern African Freelancers’ Association I belong to), my partner, the internet.

It’s served me well not to be arrogant about my services. It serves me well to be pragmatic about protecting myself.

There is no 100% guarantee I will be paid, but it certainly encourages clients to take me seriously.

  • Im navigating this new world of entrepreneurship. Read more about my journey here.
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About Meneesha

Online and books editor by day, mum even while I sleep, individual all the time. I live in the beautiful city of Durban - the unpolished gem in South Africa. If I didn't have a family, I'd be that crazy cat lady your mum probably warned you not to feed! Blogging is where I share, vent, rant, laugh and generally be myself. Join the ride!


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