How Clients Apply ‘Carrot And Stick Policy’ To Induce Freelancer Excellence

Carrot and stick policy dates back to 15th century and was applied to the conduct of the Chinese during the Ming treasure voyages. The Phrase ‘Carrot and stick‘ is a metaphor which refers to the combination of reward and punishment in order to induce a certain behavior.

This is a motivational approach that top hiring managers use to achieve the best of every freelance talent or creative they engage in their project.

If the carrot and stick approach is appropriately used, it will bring the best of any creative talent, but if overexploited, it will turn the good intention to slavery and exploitation of labor for services being offered.

Remember the our definition of ‘carrot and stick‘ above? The client will make you do a lot of hard work with a promise of good reward for excellence. It thus takes me to the history of most ‘Freelancers.’ A lot freelancers who are top rated in a particular ‘niche‘ learnt their skills at work. They are self thought. They started as beginners with meagre pay.

Those who were lucky to meet the best clients while at their early stages of Freelancing grew to become highly on demand. The best clients in this case can turn anything to Gold. They create different ‘Carrots‘ to pull the freelancer to deliver their best within the set budget.

Here are few rewards used by clients that can be referred to as Carrots in the stick. It can either make you great as a Freelancer or blind you if you don’t have a vision of what you want to achieve in your career.

Bonuses After Completion of A Contract

There is nothing wrong with bonus. I mean it’s a free carrot for excellence. I mean, how many clients are kind enough to give bonuses these days after you have completed a contract? With this said, a competent freelancer should learn from this and see if they can package the Bonus -when offered a new contract – and as an extra service. Before you go ahead and do so, ask yourself, what made the client offer you the bonus?

Do you offer extra revisions on a video or design(s)? Did you work for extra hours without billing the client? While such extra miles you take is often treated as a gift to the client, it should also be looked at in a business perspective.

You can then can apply to those stingy clients who never sees the extra hours you spend to give them the best. Also, sometimes it costs money to go the extra mile and being rewarded for it should be taken seriously.

More Work For You

Most Freelancers will agree with me on this. Let’s say you have completed the project as per the clients description. When you deliver it, the client requests for revisions. You are ok with it as you want to satisfy him or her. After 5 revisions, you realize that the request is too much and you start to question why?

The client first declines to say anything and keeps requesting for more changes. Noticing that you are persistent, he apologizes for ignoring you and starts explaining to you why you should make changes. He says that their company is made up of a big team and only you can get paid on approval by the company director which then first has to go through the finance office.

Looking back, you have no option but to do as they say. When finally they approve the project, they praise you and promise to assign you a lot of work. While you are happy that they still want to work with you, you are afraid of complying with their ‘Carrot and stick’ policy.

Good news is that you can bend the policy by restructuring your terms. When they are ready to set new milestones, you are can bring in your terms to accommodate the past conditions. i.e Introduce a charge of $40 for additional extra revisions after the 5th revisions. This is something I have practically applied and it works.

Sending Referrals Your Way

This is very common in the media and design industry. You give your best knowing that many people will watch the video or see the designs. Most definitely, one them will like the what they see and follow up to know who did it.

Question is, how sure are you that they will refer them to you? That’s why professionally, in video production, its highly ethical to include names and contacts of the production company on credits at the end. This way, if someone who watches the video wants your service, they can reach out to you for help.

On the other hand, doing donkey job with a promise to get referrals in return is not fair. It’s thus important to set your limits and ensure none in this context is exploited.

Give You A 5 Star Review

There is a price for everything. This is the price you pay when starting up. Give your clients unlimited revisions on tasks that you can do yourself. However, don’t spend your money to go an extra mile to do so in the name of revisions. You will be playing too hard to get the carrot in the stick.

If it costs money to make a certain revision; e.g Voice over revisions for a video you are producing; Let your client know of the cost implications. You will be surprised to learn that serious clients don’t play carrot and stick on such costs. Don’t set the assignment you are given a ground for a client to intimidate you.

Just do what you can to give it your best. At early stages of your career, go out of your way so that you can grow. Once you have a name, start reviewing your limits putting a price tag on it.


This happens most to actors, musicians and spokespersons. If someone is talented; when they are starting up, a lot will be required of them. In return, they will get half the pay and with a promise of exposure. This is an idea that was borrowed from carrot and stick policy.

Now, before you take any action as a freelancer, analyze the situation. Is the exposure worth it? Is is popular brand you are working with? Some brands are very popular and you being associated with them will be worth it. Build your name and do your research and know their rates. That way you will know how to negotiate when offered an opportunity.

When you do this, you will be able in full control.


Always update your terms based on how demanding the client is. For instance, if after giving your all and the client wants revisions, set a limit on the number of revisions you can offer. e.g I offer 3 rounds of revisions for free. Then, put a cost of any revisions after that. Tell your client upfront when delivering the first draft of the project. This way, they will be careful because they want to safe money.

And that’s it from me. Do you know of any other ways clients apply Carrot and Stick policy? Let me know in the comments below.

If you need help to create professional screencast videos for your software’s or application, website review and more; let me know by sending me an e-mail to

Until next time, take care.

Follow me on twitter @cheptiony.

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