One size doesn’t fit all.
Top 5 Problems Clients Have with Freelancers–Solved!
Posted July 28, 2011 in Managing Clients
Anybody who wants to become a freelancer needs to know and accept that freelancing is a job–a very serious job that requires dedication. Freelancers need to give the same amount of time and dedication to freelancing (in fact more) that they would give to a regular office job.
If all freelancers realized the importance of freelancing, it would have grown to be a widely respected and accepted profession. Sadly, instead of the respect they deserve, freelancers are sometimes regarded as a cheap alternative to other workers–the last resort, and a risky option. This is partly caused by problems that freelancers create for themselves and for clients.
In this post, I’ll explain why freelancers don’t get enough respect. I’ll also list of some of the most common freelancing problems faced by clients, along with some tips on how freelancers can keep such problems from happening.
Why Freelancers Don’t Get Enough Respect
Unfortunately, some people consider freelancing to be child’s play, simply because they are working from the comfort of their home couches. To be brutally honest, every Tom, Dick and Harry with a computer and internet access wants to be a writer, an SEO expert, a graphic designer. There’s nothing wrong with the ambition, but it can be justified only if the needed amount of dedication and responsibility is given to the work. (Plus, of course, they need to have the required skills.)
Freelancers often fail to perform because they take their work for granted. They allow domestic issues, personal issues, and a whole lot of other problems to obstruct the workflow and disrupt the entire work plan. Not only is the freelancer’s professional reputation at stake, but the business of the client also suffers. This creates apprehensions and bitterness in clients and the next time they hire a freelancer, they come up with a very strict set of terms and conditions.
Now that I’ve identified the respect problem, let’s move on to some of the underlying causes and their solutions.
Problem # 1: The Moody Fellow
Freelancers sometimes let their mood affect their work. If they are all good and happy, then work gets done and is submitted on time. If not, the client is left to sit and pray for his project to arrive.
Procrastination is prevalent in the freelancing world because some freelancers have the entire day to themselves. They tend to procrastinate and drag a project out beyond its timeline. When they finally do work (after the client has started to lose his temper), quality suffers and they are unable to produce something that can make them proud or more importantly, make the client happy.
If you’re moody and can’t keep it from affecting your work, better look for other work, not freelancing, for the sake of your client.
Here is one solution. Decide if you truly have the professionalism, the dedication, and the serious attitude needed to work as a freelancer. If you find freelancing too easy, boring, and not interesting, then quit. Remember that if you can’t give your 100%, the earnings will never be good enough. Do not let your personal problems affect your worklife–least of all your mood. Even though you’re working from home, learn to keep domestic problems under control. Why should someone else’s project suffer because you’re having a bad day?
Problem # 2: Taking More Than You Can Handle
It’s fun to bid on several projects at a time and it’s exciting when you are lucky enough to win most of them. You’re all excited, jubilant, and start thinking of the riches, but when you actually sit down and start working reality strikes. There is too much work, a tight time limit, and demanding clients. You now consider yourself doomed! Your freelancing becomes a mess. You may lie, give excuses, and try your best to complete them all. Quality suffers, employers complain, your ego gets hurt, and you’re all drained of energy.
Here is one solution. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Keep a diary. Plan work according to the time you have available. Dedicate a fixed amount of time to each project and make sure you complete the work within the time slot. Once you are done with the first project, pick another. This way you won’t have to worry about too many different pending projects and you can focus on one of them at a time. This ensures that the delivered work meets high quality standards. Clients will see the quality. (Trust me, they’re not as dumb as you might think.) If you can promise and deliver quality work, you’ll earn long-term clients who will pay a handsome amount for your work. Earn good money by doing less work at a higher quality, instead of doing more work with zero quality.
Problem # 3: Ignoring Guidelines
This is probably the worst mistake freelancers make. Ignoring a client’s guidelines means the freelancer is either too careless or too proud to look at the guidelines. If the freelancer is a thorough professional, they would read every line carefully and make sure that the client’s demands are fulfilled. But because freelancers are always in a hurry mode, they do not always read the requirements and just set about working mindlessly. The end result is sometimes far from what the client wants it to be. The client then demands revisions and the freelancer will have to spend more time on their project, causing other projects to suffer.
The solution is simple! Take a deep breath and read each and every word of the set of guidelines sent over to you. Every client has different demands for their work. Sometimes they might need additional features in what seems to be straightforward work and because they are paying for the project, they deserve to have those demands fulfilled. Missing the guidelines destroys your reliability as a freelancer. It doesn’t take more than ten minutes to carefully read the instructions, so why risk work integrity and your precious time by neglecting them?
Problem # 4: Quality Samples, Not Quality Work!
A high percentage of freelance clients will cite this problem: “The freelancer sent me a great sample, but when I got my hands on the actual work, it was far from the quality seen in the samples.” The samples freelancers send are often of high quality to persuade the client into hiring that freelancer. However, some freelancers will outsource projects. Problems arise when the outsourced work falls absolutely short of the client’s expectations. This makes the client feel cheated and the freelancer won’t get any repeat business from that client.
Here’s one solution. If you’re outsourcing work, make sure to check it and make any necessary improvements before submitting it to the client. If you fail to do so, your image may be tarnished. If a project is very demanding and needs your special expertise, then do not outsource it. If you don’t have time to do it yourself, just refuse it.
Problem # 5: Delayed Communication
Freelancers sometimes don’t check for updates or any new messages from their clients often enough, nor do they provide the client with enough timely updates. If a freelancer is not checking their inbox they will not only irritate the current clients, but also fail to grab some new opportunities. In fact, freelancers should go one step further and check their spam folders as well. Sometimes referrals who are contacting a freelancer for the first time might end up in the junk folder.
Here is a solution. If you use a platform like Elance or oDesk, make sure that the account is synched with a primary email address (yes, the same email that you check ten times a day). This way you won’t have to log into the site very often and you won’t miss out on important messages and notifications. Do make sure that you reply to clients as soon as possible. Don’t keep them waiting for updates, unless you’d like to wait for your payment as well.
Have you hired a freelancer yourself? What problems have you encountered?
Share your answers (and solutions) in the comments.
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July 28th, 2011 at 10:46 am
July 28th, 2011 at 11:07 am
Roberto, I can’t stop laughing at item#4 as I often see a lot of clients complain in freelancing forums about it. I think, ignorance is the worse fault of a client. If a client did thorough checking, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place. Then, I remember encountering lots of job postings asking for spec work. I think that to ask for work sample is a nice way to test the skills of a freelancer…but if you haven’t met that person offline, just how would you know that it’s not someone else doing the work? I’m an advocate of the No to Spec Work! campaign and I think that even samples need to get paid.. as time is money ( said Benjamin Franklin ), and I do this all the time when screening applicants for my project. There will always be difficulties along the way and when you’ve worked with freelancers across the globe for more than a decade, I guess the magic formula for me is summed up to a single word: TRUST.
July 28th, 2011 at 12:17 pm
I always take one project at a time, or I usually am doing a personal project and take on a paid one. Never more than two, not more than one if a particular project is “hard.”
Problem # 3: Ignoring Guidelines
I take a deep look into the requirements for what someone asks, this is to me, the most important piece of data. Everything I design and build is based around the information I gather.
July 28th, 2011 at 2:29 pm
Great post. I think you were spot on with every point you bring up.
July 28th, 2011 at 3:33 pm
Great post! It does annoy me when people assume it’s an easy job (also that anyone can do what we do, given a computer and a day off). And it REALLY annoys me when people come to me thinking freelancers are unreliable, don’t listen, etc., etc., because it makes my job of making them trust me that bit harder. Of course, I probably then ruin them for any bad freelancers they might come across!
July 28th, 2011 at 5:12 pm
#4 also hits a chord with me. Especially because we get files from clients who in-turn got them from another freelancer and while the physical design looks great, the files are just awful!
And Shaleen, I don’t agree with most spec work (there’s a time and place), but for decades, high-end ad agencies have been doing spec work so they initially set the precedence for young designers. Most designers haven’t done enough research on the topic to know how it started, they only know they don’t like it.
July 28th, 2011 at 5:30 pm
Good post and some really helpful things to remember. Call me weird, but I really don’t view freelancing as a job. I started freelancing because I hate jobs.
I view it more as a business. The better I run my business, the more money I make and the less effort I have to invest to make it.
I think that the problems you list all point to the core issue, which is: you will earn respect when you are worthy of respect. Usually, the first person you have to sell that idea to is yourself.
July 28th, 2011 at 11:23 pm
These are great points to keep in mind. I’m going to be freelancing full-time soon so seeing things from a client’s perspective is really helpful. I’m already starting to fall into #2, taking on more than I can handle. Will definitely have to re-evaluate things and make sure I’m delivering a quality product.
July 29th, 2011 at 1:22 am
July 29th, 2011 at 1:57 am
To get oneself detached from personal happenings and mood swings is a challenging thing. Since most of freelancing jobs (at least the ones that involve writing) involve a lot of brain work. So it is highly necessary that the freelancer really keeps his/her mind protected from getting modulated with any personal worries or problems.
It can be really hard to detach emotionally in the beginning. But with practice it is possible. Great post! You have nailed almost every annoying problem with freelancers :)
July 29th, 2011 at 2:43 am
Nice write-up. IMO. its because most freelancers tend to disappear all of a sudden without leaving a clue to track the activity that they have usually taken up. Hence forming trust with the freelancers is something that many individuals have to struggle initially. Once a long duration of relationship is maintained and you could be reached anytime, one can definitely earn a lot and be reputed for being a trusted individual.
July 29th, 2011 at 1:56 pm
Some great points here. Often it’s very easy to overlook these simple guidelines. The most dangerous one for me is not responding to email quickly enough. If you send an email, you generally want the reply straight away, but when on the receiving end it’s so easy to leave it till later. This is not good enough for freelances who want to get referrals via happy clients!
August 3rd, 2011 at 9:06 pm
Highly useful post
August 5th, 2011 at 4:37 am
Great post. but I’m agree to Jason’s say.
September 8th, 2011 at 7:45 am
I’d say that another fragile issue are deadlines.
Especially when either a client or a freelancer changes something into the project, and then the time has to change as well. I had a very bad experience of a client delaying at the beginning and then blaming a freelancer of a delay. And vice versa, many freelancer don’t care and think that a day or two won’t make change.
Time is money and you have to track it well.
September 8th, 2011 at 1:10 pm
Lisa… I’ve had that happen to me where the client delays the project and I was blamed.
With one of the clients I kept a log of emails and calls because the project was with a group of clients. What I learned from that is that I will spell out who I work with in writing. Mainly because this ‘group’ allowed another graphic designer to work with me and she kept making changes but didn’t understand the process or how to build a website.
It caused a lot of in fighting with the group after I showed them the notes and emails from her.
November 6th, 2011 at 5:08 pm
Undoubtedly the biggest problems are number 2 and number 3. They take on more than they can handle and will drop you and ignore you if they have a more lucrative project that they are working on. They also love to ignore guidelines because they think that the client is wrong, leaving me to have to explain to the client why we did it outside of their guidelines.
November 7th, 2011 at 2:47 am
Reading these ongoing comments is fascinating – I am shocked at how some of my fellow freelancers seem to behave, and I understand now why people think I’m so good, just because I never do these things!
I would never dream of going outside the client’s guidelines: if I see something I think should be different, I flag it up and suggest a change to the guide, but I wouldn’t unilaterally change it.
I plan deadlines carefully and the one time I over-committed I made darn sure that I made my deadlines, at cost to my sleep and personal life but not to the client!
I would also never disappear – even if I go on holiday, I tell my main regulars (and am OK with them sending me urgent stuff) and make sure they know what’s going on. For the ones who send me very urgent work, I even let them know if I’m going to be off-radar for a single day.
I am sorry people have had so many bad experiences. I think a lot of it comes from people thinking it’s an easy job and not realising about the hard work doing the marketing and admin as well as doing the work itself to a high standard – and have written about that on my blog recently, if anyone’s interested (and wants to be reassured that some of us do care, and care enough to warn other potential freelancers of the pitfalls!) http://www.libroediting.com/blog/
December 3rd, 2011 at 4:06 am
Great post Roberto,
You’ve hit the nail on the head. Probably most freelancers provide perfect high quality samples and then deliver substandard work. These are the middle men who actually rip off both the clients and the freelancers of their rightful share by getting the major chunk of the profits and make low quality freelancers work for nickel and dimes.
January 5th, 2013 at 7:08 pm
90 % of people who post job are common people and not very professional. They have some business idea but don’t have skills to get it started so they are looking for some at lowest price . They will bargain to lowest possible price. No matter how much price you agree to work on, they will always want a high standard output. So never gauge a work by the amount you will be paid. Always stick to fare price . Don’t go below the genuine price to win the job otherwise after winning the job it will be more of a headache than some thing to be proud of.
I got this idea from this website.
- Top 5 Clienti probleme au cu Liber-profesionişti-rezolvate! | ro-Stire
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- Top 5 Problems Clients Have with Freelancers–Solved! | FreelanceFolder | LinguaGreca | Scoop.it
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