• Advice

The Get and Give: Freelance Strategies for Dealing with Criticism

Criticism is a funny thing. Either we don’t get enough of it or we receive mixed messages, making it difficult to keep working on a project or with the client in a productive way.

Freelancers know their success is tied to what they deliver to their clients. We also know that the road to delivery is often lined with client feedback.

Having effective strategies for receiving – and giving – criticism are essential so you can provide your clients with what they want, the way they want it, or at least find diplomatic ways to manage their expectations.

Use these tips from Sara Horowitz’s The Freelancer's Bible to handle your next round of feedback:


Here are three ways to make getting feedback easier:

**1) Prep your client. **Tell them changes, revisions, and corrections are part of the process. A sketch, mock-up, or sample is just that. You’ll work with them to shape it.

**2) Prep yourself. **It’s hard to be detached, but listening to your client is part of your work, too. If you need time to think over feedback, say, “I’m just going to listen and take notes right now.” That way the client won’t expect you to respond immediately.

**3) If the feedback’s negative, could communication be better? **Are there key questions you should have asked? Were wrong assumptions made? Suggest ways to avoid future problems: More check-ins? Showing material in earlier stages?


It may seem surprising, but part of your job is actually to give your client criticism—in the form of constructive suggestions about what you need in order to do your job well. Here are three strategies to try:

**1) Stay project-focused. **“I frame it in terms of what will help the project,” one experienced freelancer says. “It keeps things objective. Even if they disagree, they can’t argue with my wanting to do right by the work.”

**2) Collect your thoughts. **Jot down your points if necessary: “I’ve been doing some thinking, and . . .”

**3) Be honest, yet respectful, and expect the same. **“Next time, just tell me if you don’t like the design concepts. I’d rather spend time finding new ideas than developing ones you don’t like.”