Monday, August 29, 2022

How to Set Reasonable Expectations of Your Freelancer

One of the things that defines the relationship between freelancers and clients is that freelancers don't work for just one employer.  We still have to report to our clients, so they are still our "bosses" in some respects; but since we have many employers we work for, instead of just one, it changes the balance of power in the relationship.

One thing many clients struggle with is that they are not the freelancer's primary source of income, which changes our priorities somewhat.  Since we don't just work for one employer, we can't let any one employer's needs become more important than other clients' needs or our business's needs.

When you hire a freelancer, you are basically paying only for the finished product that you need.  Compare this to hiring a full-time employee to complete that product, for whom you would then need to pay the expected wage, provide benefits, set up work space for, and establish an employee culture conducive designed to keep employees happy.

Clearly hiring a freelancer is cost effective in many ways, but problems arise when clients expect freelancers to behave like salaried employees.  When we have many clients and many different projects we're working on, however, we can't behave like a full-time employee.

Here are a few of the most important things for clients to remember when navigating their expectations of their freelancers.

  • Give freelancers adequate time to respond to you.  Don't expect freelancers to be at your beck and call.  We don't have to punch a clock, and many of us don't have consistent office hours.  We'll get back to you when we are working next.
  • Provide ample time to complete the work.  Remember, you're not our only client, so order new work well in advance whenever possible.  This gives us the ability to plan it around our other client work.
  • Expect to pay extra on short notice.  Of course, sometimes you may need something back quickly, and that's okay.  It happens!  But do expect to pay a premium for a quick turnaround, as we may need to rearrange our schedule, put off other client work, and/or potentially work long hours in order to get your rush job done in time.
  • Let go of the control.  Above all, please do not try to micromanage us.  You've hired us to produce a finished product, so there's usually little you need to do in the meantime.  There's no faster way to destroy a relationship with your freelancer than to hover (even virtually) while we work.  We're not employees, often by choice, so if you try to treat us like we are, we're likely not to work with you again.
  • Ignore the client-centric attitude of content platforms.  While content platforms have become an easy way for freelancers to easily find clients, they've also perpetuated many of the unreasonable expectations clients have of them.  Content platforms tend to have short, tight deadlines and some even require that freelancers allow clients to 
The guidelines I've laid out above are often blatantly ignored by freelancing platforms, which is one of my biggest beefs with them.  They can be a good way to find clients, but make no mistake, the freelancer is not the platform's customer: The client is.  As a result, content boards often turn into a place where freelancers get taken advantage of and boundaries are ignored.  If you intend to use a content board to order content, that's fine, but remember these guidelines and be good to your freelancers!

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