The Way We Work
April 6, 2011 by Julia Camenisch

As an employer, you're focused on hiring diligent, honest and talented workers. All fine and good. But have you taken a close look at your freelance management style? To help you evaluate yourself (and to improve your feedback if you haven't been getting good marks) here's a list of 5 things never to say to the freelance graphic artist you hired. Or the web coder. Or the copywriter. Or any other freelancer. As a one myself, I can tell you with confidence that use of these phrases will insure enmity towards you from the entire freelance community.

Avoid that fate by never uttering these statements from the dark side of freelance management:

  • "I'll have that key information to you in a couple weeks...probably one day before the deadline." - Okay, so you probably never actually say it that way. You just keep putting off sending what's needed and instead promising it will arrive "tomorrow." And then you forget. Or procrastinate. Or don't consider it a high priority. While you probably don't mean to be cruel or to cause unnecessary stress, last minute delivery of key project elements is guaranteed to cause great angst to your freelancer.
  • "I need a $10,000 website for $100." - This statement is usually made in a more subtle fashion and occurs after the freelancer has been hired and the deliverables supposedly agreed upon. But without warning, the scope of the project morphs as you think of all the nifty things you'd like to add to your site. The only problem is that your budget hasn't changed and you can't pay any more than you originally agreed upon. So, you ask for this extra feature and that bit of coding and another lemonade and maybe a cute picture of a kitten and so on. While all these requests may seem small to you, they add up. If you must alter course, make sure the job is hourly, the budget reflects the mid-stream change in plan, and that we will be paid for re-doing the work to meet the new specs as they change.
  • "I don't know exactly what I want. I'll tell you when I see it." - This statement usually signals trouble down the road. If you haven't clearly thought through your goals for a project, it's likely that you'll refine your ideas by making us produce a gazillion different versions of the logo or write thousands of widely varying pages of copy. It's impossible to gauge the scope of a job that lacks defined goals. This is a source of tension that could be easily eliminated by hammering out your plans before hiring someone. Or if you need help with the process, let us know upfront and pay us to be consultants on the project.
  • "I'm running behind on payments. Can you wait another week? Or two?" - Freelancers don't pull regular paychecks. As such, we're dependent on you paying in a timely fashion. In fact, we took your job in order to have the money needed to pay bills, feed our families and make car payments. In good faith, we assume that the money will arrive when promised. When it doesn't, that puts us in a tough position. Please, please don't hire if you don't have the money to pay on time. We're trying to make a living--just like you.
  • You say nothing. Some employers just don't say anything. And that's not what we want to hear (or not hear, as the case may be). We ask to review what's been accomplished so far. No reply. We ask for further direction. No answer. We beg you to acknowledge our existence. Not a word. This type of silent treatment puts the whole relationship in jeopardy.  What's a freelancer to do? Please respond in a timely fashion so that we can both be happy at the end of the day.

Hopefully, you've never uttered one of these dreaded phrases. But if you have, or if you've said something equally regrettable, share it and the lessons learned below!

Julia Camenisch

Contributing Author

Julia Camenisch is a freelance technology and business journalist. She also works as an editor and copywriter for a wide range of clients, including national magazines, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Julia brings to oDesk a passion for empowering small businesses through the innovative use of technology.