The Way We Work
April 12, 2011 by Tamara Rice

In freelancing and contract work, there are some unspoken rules about professional behavior--many of which focus on what is not appropriate to do or to say to your employer.

No matter the temptation, here are seven things you should never ever say to your employer:

7. "I can't make your deadline. Something came up for another employer that's more important." Now, we understand juggling other people's deadlines is a reality of freelance work, but there is a way to finesses the matter and avoid offending with your words. Your employer must never feel that their deadlines are lower priority than someone else's. Choose your words wisely to manage both your deadlines and your working relationships.

6. "Can you write me another check? I lost the first one." If you have automatic payments set up, like on oDesk, this will never come up. But if you're dealing with paper invoices and checks, things like a misplaced check happen sometimes. If you lose a check you'll need to say something to your employer about it... but make sure to temper your request with an understanding of their payment cycle and patience for the time it will take them to reissue you payment.

5. "I love my line of work so much, I'd do it for free." Errr, if that's true, they'll probably take you up on that at some point. Even if you adore what you do, saying you'd do it for free belittles the value of your work. Loving what you do means you are worth every penny because you're passionate, but be sure to show your passion without hinting that you'd be willing to give away your work.

4. "I'm too hungover to work today." Okay. It sounds far-fetched. But people really say such things when they get a bit too comfortable in their working relationships. Be careful when offering excuses--they will be used to measure your character and your ability to manage both your work and your personal life. Stay professional and don't give your employer reason to think less of you.

3. "I'm thinking of moving into another line of work." These types of statements are written in stone.While you may be kicking the tires on a career change, to an employer it sounds like you're one foot out the door already. Employers put in this uncomfortable spot will likely replace you, thinking that it's a better move than waiting around for you to replace them.

2. "Gotta go, my lawyer is on the other line. I'm suing my former employer." There may be all kinds of legitimate reasons to sue a former employer, and you might have a very good one. But avoid having to tell your current employer these details or you might as well write "litigation risk" across your forehead. Those words don't exactly spell out "trust me".

And the number one thing you should never say to your employer ...

1. "I'm in the bathroom right now." Just because you may use your cellphone, your smartphone or your laptop in the lavatory, doesn't mean your employer (or really anyone else) needs to know that you do. Please, don't ever say these words -- aloud, via text message or IM, or in email. These words are the definition of "too much information."

Ever said something to your employer you regretted? Have a tale of misplaced words that we can all learn from? Tell us in the comments below!


Tamara Rice

Freelance Writer and Editor

Tamara Rice is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. She joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, after more than six years on staff at an award-winning national magazine.

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  • http://www.123UNIX.com Alex

    Well, I've been telling the #1 "don't tell" thing (like "I'm on the road right now") and they've been happy to continue working with me.

    But I agree with #5 - free work offer, however subtle, is a big turn-off for new clients and a catch with the existing ones.

  • Umar Rahim

    thats good.... i m the new one on odesk and want to learn much more about odesk, emplyer,and freelancer this advice is one of the best lesson learnt for me......

  • ikram niazi

    Great info..i like that...

  • http://www.healthy-plans.com/ healthy plan

    point to a freelancer is to always highlight the positive side, never make small mistakes, mistakes that we consider trivial, can be a great thing for others, thanks for giving very useful advice:)

  • http://thefreelancepinoy.com/ Stephanie

    Hahaha excellent advice! To answer the question, the only thing I ever regret was releasing my anger and frustrations out on my client. He was letting me go because according to him, he was charging too much for my services.

    I wouldn't have gotten so angry if a fight I had at home didn't occur at the same time when this happened. Sadly, we parted ways in bad terms and I learned from this mistake.