One of the mistakes I made a lot in the past and I have also done recently is how I handle freelance design cancellations.

For the first year and a half that I freelanced, the majority of my work was working inhouse for design agencies. Sometimes a design agency would contact me as much as a few months in advance and book me for holiday cover for someone who was going away. I would book the job in my diary and take that design work/income to be set in stone (guaranteed). The problem arose when either a week or few days before the week/two week freelance design job was due to start I would receive a call to say I wasn’t needed anymore. Maybe it was because holiday plans had been changed or the studio was quiet and didn’t need an extra pair of hands after all. That left me, having possibly turned down other freelance design work, with the prospect of potentially no work and no income for a week or two. I was naive and should have built a cancellation fee into a booking, so that if a freelance design booking wasn’t cancelled before a certain period I could at least charge a partial fee for my loss of earnings. For those of you starting out I would strongly advise that when taking a freelance booking in advance that you advise the client that there will be a cancellation fee if the job is not cancelled by a reasonable date.

Fortunately I now work at home and so this doesn’t happen very often, but still every now and again I get caught out. It’s a difficult thing to manage, you don’t want to put people off but you don’t want to be left in the cold with no work either.

How do you handle freelance design cancellations?