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How to Be a Good Client and Get the Most Out of Your Freelancer

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When you’re hiring a freelancer, you want the best person for the job. This includes a process that looks and feels a lot like hiring an employee. You’ll put out the job ad, freelancers will send their pitches, and you’ll have a meeting or two to gauge whether they’re the right freelancer for you.

What you might not realize is that the freelancer is vetting you as much as you’re vetting them. Any freelancer with experience will have their own list of things they’re looking for in a client, red flags, and minimum price points. Once hired, a freelancer will also have the ability to fire you as a client if they feel it’s necessary.

The client-freelancer relationship can be a wonderful one. Often, freelancers feel more like a partner than an employee. They have a vested interest in their work as well as your success, since it will reflect back on their business. If you treat your freelancer well and establish a good connection, then there’s no reason why your freelancer can’t be someone you can depend on for years to come.

However, if you’ve never worked with a freelancer before, it’s easy to misunderstand this relationship. While they are doing work for you, they aren’t your employee, and you can’t treat them as such. On top of this, you must know how to be clear with your vision in order to help the freelancer complete the job well.

Here are some tips to being a fabulous client who freelancers love to work with.

1) Decide what you want from a freelancer before you start looking

Before you find the perfect freelancer for you, you must decide what you want your relationship to look like. In a freelancer-client relationship, work styles and personality are just as important as the freelancer’s ability to do the job. You need to analyze what’s important to you so that you can properly vet candidates and know which questions to ask. Believe us, your freelancer will do the same when it comes time for negotiations.

Here are some things to consider:

  • How important are deadlines?

  • What hours do you expect them to be available?

  • How do you communicate (phone, email, in person)?

  • How many hours a week do you expect them to work for you?

  • Do you want to pay them hourly or by the project?

  • Do you expect them to use software to track their productivity, or do you trust them to manage their own time?

  • Will you provide them access to sensitive company information, or will you keep them off the company grid?

The answers to these questions will help guide the type of freelancer you will find, and it will also help your freelancer to know whether you’re a good fit for them. 

Keep in mind that there are no wrong answers to these questions, but your answers might limit your freelancer pool. For example, many freelancers become freelancers so that they can enjoy a flexible schedule. If you require your freelancer to be available 24/7, that will be a deal breaker for many candidates. If you have a difficult time finding a freelancer, then revisit these considerations to make the position more appealing.

2) Be prepared for negotiations

In the freelancing world, it’s a rookie error to forego negotiations. Any experienced freelancer will enter a contract meeting ready to negotiate their fees. You might have a set price in mind, but they’ll likely have a counter offer.

Some freelancers might be concrete in the fees that they offer, but many will be willing to adjust their fees, depending on the situation. Often, a one-time project will cost more than if you negotiate a few months’ work; long term gigs are almost always preferable to a freelancer, and they might give you a discount for guaranteed work.

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Don’t be afraid of negotiation.

In fact, it’s a sign that the freelancer is experienced.

If their fees are way outside of your budget, refrain from saying things like, “I can get the same job from (name drop) for half of that price!” The freelancer will likely invite you to use those services instead, thank you for your time, and make a mental note to never work with you.

Instead, you can either save up until you can afford the freelancer you want or find a cheaper service. Remember that the freelancer is vetting you as much as you’re vetting them. You should present a professional impression even if you decide not to work together.

3) Make sure that the freelancer has everything he or she needs to succeed

You’ve gone through the hiring process, signed contracts, and you’re ready to start working together. Now, you need to provide thorough resources so that the freelancer can do their job.

It’s common for a client to hire a freelancer and assume that the freelancer will magically be able to read their mind. They might provide a vague description of their vision for the project, then leave the freelancer to do the work. This usually ends with both the freelancer and the client becoming frustrated because the job wasn’t properly communicated.

If you have a very specific vision, make sure that you make that vision known to the freelancer. You can send examples, write a style guide, set up video meetings, or anything else you can do to make that vision clear. If you’re not sure what you want, that’s okay, too. But, you should set up a few consultations with the freelancer so that you can work on that vision together before the project begins.

It’s a good idea to set up milestones throughout the project so that you and the freelancer can review the project’s direction. You and the freelancer will appreciate being on the same page, and you’ll be able to make sure that you’re communicating your ideas clearly. If the freelancer is off track, don’t immediately assume that they aren’t doing the job correctly; analyze the materials that you’ve provided and determine how to adjust your communication so that they better understand your needs.

4) Listen to your freelancer’s advice and let him or her do their job

Often, clients outsource their work because they don’t have time to do it. They might have a background in whatever they’re outsourcing, but other aspects of their business need their time and attention, so they hire someone else to do it.

In these cases, it can be difficult for you, the client, to keep your hands off of the project. You might think that you’re helping, but in the end, this will only bring frustration to you and your freelancer. Remember that, even if you have a background in your freelancer’s industry, your freelancer has built a career on it. They do this every day, they’ve honed their craft, and they’re up to date with modern practices. If you hire a professional to do a job, you should defer to their judgement. 

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Listen to your freelancer.

You hired them for their expertise, so you should take advantage of it.

That being said, don’t be afraid to discuss things with your freelancer. If you don’t like the direction that they’re taking things, talk to them about why they’re making the choices that they’re making. If they’re a professional, they should be able to tell you exactly why. You can then either agree with what they’re saying or ask them to go in the direction you’d like. 

If you don’t like some of their choices, provide constructive feedback instead of making the changes yourself. If you look at freelancer stories, you’ll see countless tales of frustrated freelancers venting about clients who paid them to do a job, then completely changed it after it was received. 

The frustration comes for a few reasons: (1) the freelancer’s name is on the project, but it’s not the same product that they submitted, (2) often, the client makes changes that weaken the project, and had they asked the freelancer to make some edits, it could have reached their vision while remaining strong, and (3) they received no feedback on their work and had no clue that they didn’t achieve the client’s vision. 

To make the most of your freelancer’s expertise, always talk to them about any edits or changes.

5) Make sure that you stick to project schedules

Clients expect their freelancers to stick to project deadlines, but they often forget that they need to adhere to these deadlines, too. If they ask the freelancer to submit work for approval on a certain date, they need to make sure that they provide the feedback in a timely manner.

It’s incredibly frustrating for a freelancer to have a project on the back burner with a client who is nowhere to be found. The freelancer will have made space in his or her schedule to address edits shortly after the deadline date, and if those edits come at an unpredictable time, it makes it difficult to schedule them in. To make the most of your freelancer, and to ensure that the project is done in a timely manner, you need to make sure that you’re adhering to deadlines as much as you expect your freelancer to.

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Stick to the agreed schedule.

You can’t expect your freelancer to wait around for your response.

If you don’t have the time to commit, then you should let your freelancer know. You and your freelancer can work out an agreement, whether it means holding the freelancer on retainer until you have more time, giving your freelancer more duties and responsibilities so that they can get the work done, or whatever works best for both of you. Life gets busy, and your freelancer will understand that. They won’t, however, appreciate being ghosted.

6) Give ample time for your freelancer to complete a project

Most freelancers have their schedules set for at least a week out. Some freelancers make room for rush projects, but they still need time to do the project correctly. Even shorter projects might need a few days to be completed.

Be prepared to discuss deadlines and schedules with the freelancer. You possibly have a timeline in mind, but it might not be realistic for the freelancer. Try to be flexible, and be willing to adjust your timeline expectations if the freelancer says it’s not possible. At the end of the day, the project will be better for it.

Things come up, and sometimes you need a job done now. If that’s the case, expect to pay a rush fee. Additionally, don’t get upset if your regular freelancer says no. They understand their limitations, and they’re doing you a favor by declining; likely they know that they won’t be able to produce quality work in such a short time.

7) Don’t just look for the best deal

When shopping for a freelancer, you’ll have a budget in mind. However, you shouldn’t just shop around for the best deal. That’s a great way to get a freelancer who’s ready to negotiate him or herself to the bottom.

Quality, experienced freelancers know what they’re worth, and they know the minimum payment that they’ll expect. They aren’t afraid to say no because they’ve learned that quality clients are willing to pay them what they’re worth. Furthermore, if you show them that you think that they’re work is worth the cost, they’ll be much more likely to bring their best to the table.

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Pay your freelancer what they’re worth.

If you pay instant ramen prices, expect instant ramen results.

Conversely, if you make it clear that their work is only worth the very minimum that they can get, they aren’t going to feel motivated to work for you. Don’t forget that many freelancers do what they do because they are passionate about their industry. If you’re not willing to pay for their work, it shows disrespect for their field.

The best way to get the most out of your freelancer is to develop a positive relationship. This begins when you show them that you believe their work is valuable.

8) Pay on time

A good way to make sure that freelancers never want to work for you is to make them wait for payment. Besides the fact that it’s rude to make them wait, it’s stressful for the freelancer to have to send you multiple reminders, and it takes time out of their day.

When you pay on time, your freelancer will learn to trust you. Your relationship will be better for it, and you’ll have someone loyal to turn to when a project comes up. 

9) If you love your freelancer, give good reviews, provide praise, and refer them 

The thing about being a freelancer is that you’re always on the lookout for the next gig. While long term contracts are available, the majority of freelance work is done project to project. If you love your freelancer, spread their name so that their business can grow, and they can continue their work. After all, you want them to still be working the next time you have a project.

You should also tell them what they’re doing well. Freelancers are always looking to improve, and they hear constructive criticism quite a bit. Edits on their work abound, and while it helps them to become better freelancers, it can be demotivating to constantly receive edits without praise. While it’s not your duty as a client to commend them, it’s highly appreciated, and it helps cultivate a positive relationship. Your freelancer will likely be more motivated to produce work for you, and you’ll quickly become their favorite client.

10) Freelancer red flags

We do love freelancers, but we also know that there are tons of freelancers out there, and some of them will offer services that they can’t quite perform. Part of being a good client is knowing how to vet freelancers so that you can find one who you trust. Here are some red flags that show that the freelancer might not be very experienced.

The freelancer can’t answer basic questions about their field.

  • The freelancer seems to be making answers up as they go. (It’s perfectly fine for them to say that they need to think about it or look it up and get back to you. It’s not okay if they start making things up to sound like they know what they’re talking about.)

  • The freelancer’s prices seem way too low.

  • The freelancer says yes to everything. (Experienced freelancers know their niche as well as their strengths and weaknesses. They’ll be confident enough to tell you when your request is outside of their area of expertise. If they say “yes” to everything, from writing code to producing blog content, then it’s a sign that they don’t really know what they’re doing at all, unless they are part of a team.)

Finding the perfect freelancer can be difficult, but you can make it easy by being a fantastic client. When you go above and beyond as a client, your freelancer will work doubly hard for your business, they’ll spread your name as a great client, and they’ll develop a loyalty to your company, perhaps even sending clients and customers your way.

A freelancer can perform only as well as their client allows them to. Follow these tips, and find freelancers you can work with for years to come.

Meghan O'NealComment