Freelance Frustration

The meeting had been postponed from Tuesday to Thursday to now, Friday afternoon. My client looked at me and said, “I need this piece on Monday.” I’d waltzed over those green fields before–and with this client. Her chronic disorganization resulted in many emergencies.

My weekend was fully planned by then, and I said, “Tuesday is the earliest I can get this to you.”

The client looked at me and said, “You are a freelancer. You work nights and weekends. That’s why we hire you. Monday.”

I looked her directly in the eye and replied, “I’m a freelancer because I own my business. And this weekend I’m booked.”

She didn’t blink, “What are you doing this weekend that’s so important–more important than this job?”

“Not part of this discussion,” I said. “Let’s continue to focus on the due date of the project. After a few more tart responses we agreed on Tuesday.

I’m sure clients have a long list of the trespasses of freelancers. But it’s my blog, and today it’s my turn to wake up clients to behavior that gets the best response from freelancers.images1.jpeg

1. Just because you put off facing a project, does not give you permission to set the freelancer’s hair on fire. If you like working under pressure, if you enjoy saving the day by causing emergencies so you can ‘solve’ them, please do it in your own office with the door closed and the phone firmly on the hook. Diva-like behavior is not appealing to anyone else, least of all a freelancer. And you aren’t the boss, you are a client, and there is a world of difference there.

2. Please know what the project is about. You should be capable of summarizing the main point in under 60 seconds. You should be able to tell the freelancer what the end product should be in the same time. When you start with the history of the project, we don’t know what to listen for or what the important details are. So you’ll be repeating that part anyway.

3. Freelancers have lives, just like you do. We may work on weekends on occasion, but most of us have plans on weekends, evenings, and early in the morning. Don’t assume that time is available for you.

4. Client meetings take up at least part of every day. That means we don’t check our emails every two minutes. When I am with a client, she has my full attention. I won’t take phone calls or check my emails. I will do the same with you.

5. Please do not send me every email you have ever received and sent on a project and expect me to read them “for background.” If the project is due in three days, don’t send 12 files totaling 600 Megs of data. I won’t have time to read them.

There are other tips, too. Scope creep, paying on time (and including my invoice number on your check), honesty about the job (if I’m the fourth writer and you’ve fired the other three, I should know), and the names and phone number of subject matter experts you want me to contact is all part of building a good relationship.

Freelancers will almost always jump through some hoops, even ones that are on fire, to please a client. We sympathize with your emergencies, unless we sense you don’t care. Which brings me to the last plea–if you care about quality, please don’t expect a 24-hour turnaround. When you insist on an impossible deadline and we meet it, no fair complaining about lack of quality.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who works with companies to create a corporate culture of cooperation and understanding. She is perfecting other miracles as well. See her work at You’ll find her artwork there, too.