Being a freelancer means that you’ve chosen a different type of lifestyle. If you work at home, then you’re not rushing to fight traffic every morning. You’re probably not wearing formal attire. Most likely, you don’t consider yourself quite so mainstream. And yes, that does make you very cool (not to mention good-looking)!
The trouble is that clients, family and friends also see you as different. They may actually have a pretty hard time wrapping their heads around your unconventional career. That can lead to some odd requests or just plain crazy situations.
So, how do you annoy a freelancer? Here are some slightly-dramatized versions of situations that I’ve found myself in that were annoying and/or just plain baffling.
Play a game of hurry up and wait
Client: “I need this site to be up in a week!”
Freelancer (reluctantly): “That’s going to be tough, but I’ll give it everything I’ve got to launch on time. Just keep in mind I’ll need all the content within 48 hours.”
Fast-forward to three days later…
Freelancer (proudly): “Great news – I’ve finished the site’s theme! Just send me that content and I can get everything ready for launch.”
Client: *crickets chirping*
Now, six weeks later…
Freelancer (miffed): “Um, do you have that content yet? I thought this was a rush job and now it’s well past your specified launch date. I’ve sent several requests for content and left voice mails.”
Client: “Oh, something came up. We’re putting the site on hold for now. I will get back to you after our committee meets next month.”
Four months after that…
Client: “Hey, attached is all of our content! You may notice that we’ve added some new stuff and changed the functionality around. Can we have this ready by the end of the week?”
Freelancer (opening a bottle of wine): *unintelligible moaning sound*
Does this mean that the client is a horrible, unfeeling monster? Not necessarily.
Isn’t it amazing how everything is rush-rush until the ball is in the client’s court? While delays are understandable, there aren’t many good excuses for disappearing from view and then coming back several months after-the-fact demanding immediate action on your part.
What this really shows is just a lack of respect (even if it’s not intentional or personal in nature) for a freelancer’s time. When a client delays, you have no choice but to move on to other projects that need taken care of. It’s not as if you can then just drop those other projects the minute the M.I.A. client suddenly reappears.
Does this mean that the client is a horrible, unfeeling monster? Not necessarily. Is it annoying? Heck yes.
Assume they have no life because, hey, they work at home
It’s a lovely Saturday evening and you’re at a family gathering…
Client: “Could you please replace the text on the About Us page with the attached copy? Thanks!”
A few hours later, you come home and check your email…
Client: “This is completely unprofessional! I expect you to respond quickly when we need something done. Please get this done ASAP.”
Freelancer (majorly ticked): “I do apologize, but I was away at a family event this evening. I had no idea changes would be coming in. Typically I am not in the office on weekend nights waiting for unexpected work to arrive.”
There’s a fine line between expecting outstanding service (which, as a client, you should expect) and requiring non-stop attention.
One of the biggest misconceptions of freelancers is that somehow we’re just sitting around waiting for a client to send work to be done immediately. Now, to a degree I guess that’s true. We’re here to serve the needs of our clients, right? But sometimes this can be taken to a whole new level of strange.
There’s a fine line between expecting outstanding service (which, as a client, you should expect) and requiring non-stop attention. That being said, it is up to freelancers to make their policy regarding after-hours availability known.
Treating invoices not-so-seriously
Freelancer (hopeful): “Hi! Attached is the invoice for the design. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.”
Two months after the due date…
Freelancer (quizzically): “Hi! How are things going with the new site? I wanted to reach out and make sure that you received the invoice I sent a couple months ago — did it come through?”
Three months after the due date…
Freelancer (starving): “Here’s another copy of the design invoice. Please confirm receipt ASAP. I have also sent a copy to your mailing address.”
To me, a good comparison to this situation would be receiving your electric bill. How seriously would you treat that bill? Odds are you would probably want to pay it quickly so that the lights don’t get shut off.
Unfortunately, not everyone treats an invoice from a freelancer with quite the same seriousness. You might be seen as someone who is a hobbyist or without the resources to fight for your payment.
The good news here is that you can solve a lot of issues by having a contract that stipulates when and how you’re to be paid for your work. That will at least give you some leverage against someone who is either refusing to pay or is just exceptionally slow to do so. It also sends a message that you are a professional and deserve to be treated as such.
Schedule a pointless meeting
Client: “Can you come by the office tomorrow at 10am?”
Freelancer (frazzled): “Well, tomorrow might be difficult as I have a lot of work to get done. What did you want to discuss?”
Client: “I just wanted to run a couple of ideas by you. See you then!”
While it’s pretty safe to assume that most people don’t enjoy pointless meetings, freelancers may have reason to dread them even more. Why? Well, consider that a solo freelancer is usually working on multiple projects at once. Meetings, while sometimes a necessity of doing business, can take already limited time away from getting things done.
There are situations when meetings make perfect sense. But there are many times when a simple phone call or Skype session will suffice. I’ve taken to suggesting the latter as a time-saving means of communication that will help get things done more quickly. After all, completing a project is in everyone’s best interest.
You have the power to set expectations
As you may have surmised, I am a person who can be easily annoyed! Part of the problem may be that client expectations of freelancers are a little different than that of larger agencies. The other half of that equation is that I haven’t always set the expectations as well as I should have.
While it won’t lead to eternal bliss, I speak from experience when I say that it really can cut down on those annoyances.
That’s just part of the learning experience and it can take time to understand. Once you realize that, you can set policies which clarify what a client can and should expect from your relationship. While it won’t lead to eternal bliss, I speak from experience when I say that it really can cut down on those annoyances.
Speaking of which, what annoys you as a freelancer? Leave a comment and share what pushes your buttons and your solution for dealing with it.
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