Ten things you should never say to a freelancer

4 min to read

For many people, freelancing is an entirely alien concept. But what may seem like a life of working in our pyjamas in front of the TV for big bucks is actually a hectic and often stressful way to work, requiring great talent and self-motivation.

If you freelance in any capacity then you’ll definitely have encountered these annoying, anger-inducing, and sometimes downright offensive phrases from clients or friends.

1. “I didn’t think you’d charge me for that.”

When clients hire you for work, sometimes it’s hard for them to understand that they, er, hired you for work.  Those ‘quick’ changes, that extra hour of social media management, or the additional 500 words you ask us for all come at a price. The bottom line is, if you can’t afford to hire a freelancer then don’t. It’s unreasonable to expect freebies after you have agreed upon a fee. In exchange, we won’t move the goal posts either. Promise.

2. “Anyone could do your job.”

This is one usually aimed at social media or graphic design freelancers… because those things are easy, right? Sadly, clients, that is where you’re wrong. Freelancers hire out their expertise because they are exactly that: experts. Firing out a few tweets does not a social media manager make, nor does creating a logo on Canva qualify you as a design expert.  Working with freelancers is an opportunity to utilise the skills of someone else to make your own business exceptional, so please: go back to your business manager role and leave the specialist work to us.

3. “Ahh, so you’ve not found anything permanent yet.”

Friends and family often don’t understand that freelancing is, in fact, a real job and not just a euphemism for ‘unemployed’.  Yes, sometimes it does feel like we are constantly job searching when we are pitching for new business, but the vast majority of us love the freelance lifestyle and wouldn’t swap it for an office job any day. We appreciate your interest, but honestly, we don’t need you to keep sending us links to salaried jobs. We’ve got this.

4. “I don’t have any budget, but it will be great exposure.”

If only I could pay my rent with exposure I’d live in a palace! But sadly, us freelancers need those Great British Pounds like the rest of the country.  Imagine going to your office job and being told you were to be given exposure in exchange for your services instead of money. That would be a swift ‘nope’ from you, and it’s a swift ‘nope’ from us freelancers too.

5. “You charge how much per hour?”

For those who don’t understand the world of freelancing, many people’s hourly rates seem incredibly high. But unlike conventional workers, the self-employed don’t get paid holidays or sick days. We often provide our own kit, plus we need to fork out the cost of whatever space we work from. While you may think we are paid unfairly higher than staffers doing our roles, any freelancer who has regular bills to pay with an irregular income stream will be quick to disagree.

6. “Just do what you think will work.” Followed by – “Oh, this wasn’t really what I had in mind.”

The key to successful freelance work is client communication. Of course, you as a freelancer understand that – it doesn’t mean the people you are working for do. Often the clients who claim they don’t know what they are looking for are the ones who are hardest to please. Always be wary of someone who wants to leave a project up to your creativity as it seldom ends well. And clients, if you don’t know what you want then we can’t help you. You wouldn’t ask someone who works in a supermarket to do your weekly shop without a list, yet expect him to know exactly the type of biscuits you like. The same goes for working with freelancers – the more explicit you are with your brief, the quicker and simpler the process will be for everyone.

7. “So what exactly do you do all day?”

We get it – for those of you who work a 9-5 then the prospect of working when and how suits us from home is baffling. Unfortunately, just because we are at home doesn’t mean we have the day off, and while freelancing does provide flexibility, it doesn’t mean we are free to “just” clean the house/ pick up your parcels/ help at your charity event etc. at the last minute.

8. “I’ll need you to do an unpaid trial before I give you any paid work.”

Imagine saying to a mechanic: “I need you to do this first MOT for free before I pay you in the future.” Exactly – you just wouldn’t do it. The same principle should be applied to any self-employed person you seek the services of. By all means, ask for previous examples of our work or client testimonials, but to ask us to produce an unpaid piece of work just for you is majorly exploitative.

9. “How do you make money?”

We’ve accepted as a society that it is generally impolite to ask people about their finances, yet this is often all anyone will ask you when they find out you’re a freelancer. We make money because we do a job. It’s as simple as that (except with slightly more complicated taxes). Sometimes it feels like we don’t actually make any money at all, which leads me on to the number one no-no statement to say to a freelancer:

10. “We’ll process your invoice soon.”

Maybe The Smiths were singing about self-employment when they wrote: ‘How Soon is Now.’ Soon is not a good word. Please, please, please respect our payment terms, clients. We’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed, so reimbursing us for work three months after it’s complete isn’t cool. Seriously, don’t do it.