During my first few years online, I spent a lot of time working as a freelancer, consulting for firms who wanted internet marketing services. For the last few years, however, I’ve been on the other side of the fence. I’ve been the client. The employer.
I tried very hard to be the best freelancer I could be (and charged a fair rate) but there are some things I just didn’t know that I could have been doing better for my clients. I didn’t know these things…until I discovered that I wanted them from other people.
The following tips come after working with dozens of freelancers, and include what I would have liked to have seen from each of them. Hopefully you can use a tip or two to improve your own freelancing services.
Tip #1–If You Don’t Know, Ask
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had someone come to me a week over deadline and either a) give me something totally unrelated to my original request or b) ask me what they’re supposed to be doing. The second part frustrates me the most because I then wonder what you’ve been doing all of the time you said you were working on the project.
Then again, putting the overdue deadline aside, I would much rather have you confirm what it is I’m asking you to do, rather than spend a lot of time working on something you’re not even sure I asked for. If you’re unsure of the task, ask me. Myself and others would really appreciate it.
Hiring Tip: Be very specific when you give instructions and ask the freelancer to relay them back to you so you’re both clear on the objective. Neither side likes wasting time.
Tip #2–Send Me Updates, Without Being Asked
I don’t know if I’m among the majority or the minority of employers, but I absolutely hate asking my staff for updates on how things are going. I understand that part of the reason you’re a freelancer is because you can (for the most part) set your own working hours, and choose which projects you work on. For that reason, I don’t want to seem like just another boss by checking in to see your work progress.
Since I don’t like asking, and I’m sure I’m not alone, you score extra bonus points from me if you can give me regular updates without them having been requested. If it’s a month long job, then give me an update once per week. If it’s just a project for a few days, let me know when you hit a milestone in development.
Hiring Tip: A freelancer is not like a member of staff in your office. Remember that if you give people room to breath, they’re more likely to produce their best results.
Tip #3–Be Honest With Me
You would be amazed how many freelancers I’ve worked with who have sick grandmothers in the hospital. I’ve heard the lie so many times that even if someone were actually telling the truth, I would struggle to believe them. The people who hire you aren’t stupid; it’s unlikely you’re the first person they’ve worked with, and therefore unlikely the first time they’ve heard excuses.
If you are late on a project for whatever reason, just say so. I would rather hear that than a tale I know simply isn’t true. If it’s taking longer than you thought purely from a complexity or resources perspective, then it’s understandable. If your daughter has broken her arm (I heard this two weeks ago) then take time off to be with her.
Whatever your reasons are, just be honest with me.
Hiring Tip: If someone is honest with you–even if you don’t like what you hear–then show your appreciation. They’ll continue to be honest with you in the future.
Tip #4–Give Me Something to Work With
Personally, I prefer working with British and American freelancers because instructions are more likely to be read correctly and I’ve found the quality of work they produce to be higher. Of course, there’s a cost to these benefits, but I think they’re worth it.
With that being said, I do occasionally also work with people in the Philippines and India on smaller, odd jobs. Since many of the people I contact are already employed, I tend to get in touch with about 25 people regarding the same position.
On a good day, ten of them will get back to me saying that they’re available. Yet 99% of them, even though I asked this in the original email, fail to show me any of their previous work. This leads to me going back and forth with them to get samples and discuss their previous projects.
Often times, the whole point of hiring a freelancer is because you want work started as soon as possible. Usually, I hire people on a “first come first serve” basis, so help to speed up the process by giving me as much information as I need to decide if I should hire you.
Hiring Tip: Make it clear that you want samples of previous work in the first email that you send someone if they’re not already available on their website / site profiles.
Is there anything I missed? What do you expect from freelancers you hire?
Image by Kumar Appaiah