Recently, I reached out to a bunch of freelance friends, conducting an informal survey. Specifically, I asked them to tell me their most common career irritants: What poisons the well of their work? What makes them reluctant to work with certain clients again, and what frustrates them the most?
In no particular order, here are the 5 most common answers – the pet peeves that Freelancers wish clients knew to avoid.
1.) ”The check is in the mail”
Every single freelancer I spoke to said that late payment is one of their biggest pet peeves. Nothing irritates us more than waiting for a check that comes belatedly… or worse, never comes at all! At best, it’s frustratingly disorganized and absent-minded on the client’s part (see #5); at worst, it’s disrespectful – or even criminal, in the case of complete non-payment.
Freelancers have to pay bills like everyone else; if you can get the electric payment out on time, you can manage to send out a check to your graphic designer.
2.) Relentless bargain-hunting
Hear me, O prospective clients; please stop trying to get the “bargain” rate for freelance services. It does not exist, and your inquiry does not start business relationships out on the best foot. Most freelance rates are set after careful consideration; if we gave special treatment to everyone, those rates would be meaningless.
You wouldn’t go into a restaurant and try to order from the non-existent “secret discount menu” (at least, I hope you would not); don’t insult freelancers by instantly trying to whittle down our prices.
3.) Unhelpful/vague feedback
“Make it more orange, but not orange-orange.”
“This doesn’t have the right feel; could we get a different feel?”
“I wanted a more unique tone.”
… what does any of that mean, exactly?
Freelancers aren’t mind-readers; it’s frustrating to get feedback that poses more problems, without giving us a path to solutions. If you hire a freelancer, try to be as specific as possible in your constructive comments – what exactly don’t you like, why don’t you like it, and what direction do you want to head in? Freelancers want to make their clients happy; help us help you!
4.) Disappearing / chronically disorganized clients
I’ve written about this phenomenon extensively, and with good reason; almost every freelancer I talked to expressed frustration about clients who suddenly drop off the face of the map, or who don’t have their organizational ducks in a row – creating chaos and delays not only for the freelancer, but for themselves.
NO freelancer can help clients who don’t have their own business in order. Consistent, organized, open client/freelancer communication is key to getting projects done on time and within budget.
5.) Broken promises
Freelancers do a good deal of their work relying on a client’s word. Even with a contract in place or a deposit paid, every freelancer takes a leap of faith: that they will be treated fairly, that the work will be as consistent as promised – and that they will be paid on schedule. Unfortunately, freelancers assume a certain amount of risk with every new client.
When clients make promises and break them – even if unintentionally – they create big headaches for freelancers. Every freelancer has a story of frantically struggling last-minute to plug a budgetary hole caused by a flakey client, or quitting one freelance gig to make room for a new job… that never materialized.
These pet peeves are so irritating because they ultimately lower client satisfaction AND prevent freelancers from establishing smooth-running, profitable businesses… and that’s good for nobody involved. Sidestepping these 5 pit falls ensures productive relationships – the best way to make both freelancers and clients happy!
Got freelance pet peeves? We want to hear them: Take the Annual Independent Workers Survey now!
Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.