By now, you probably know that not everyone can be a successful freelancer. Along with good organization, self-discipline, determination, desire to improve and grow, the work principles are yet another reason for freelancers to succeed (or fail).
We, freelancers, should know well who we are, what our capabilities are. We should have our work principles and stand our ground when negotiating with clients, potential or current ones. This way we increase our chances to make a good impression and land the job.
Of course, there will always be clients who’d prefer that we said only what they wanted to hear. Those clients will choose the bootlicker contractor and not the freelancer with work principles. Well, the good news is that we don’t need such clients anyway. Having said this, standing our ground and sticking to our work principles is a good way to filter the bad clients straight from the beginning 😉
As an example, I will share a few of my work principles as a freelancer
I always stick to these when I negotiate the terms of a contract, especially if I have not worked with the client before.
I need my freedom
I don’t tolerate clients who try to micromanage me – when I work, how much I work, where I work, am I in Skype while working or not… If the client has a good reason to require any of the above information – we can discuss and I can agree, but never just “because I say so”. What should matter to the client the most is that I keep my deadlines and do my job well. Freedom is what I couldn’t have at my regular 9-to-5 job and what I can afford to require as a freelancer. So I do.
I should never ever have to lie
Honesty and frankness define me very much as a person. Sometimes, it’s a curse but more often, it saves me the trouble in the long run. I don’t work with clients and don’t take upon projects which would in some way compromise my integrity. This is also the reason why I reject projects for marketing products and/or services which I would not buy and use myself.
I need to be trusted
I believe in the proverb “trust but verify” – that’s why I don’t mind filing regular reports, to take part in weekly meetings and discussions, etc. However, I do have a problem with micro-managers (I think I already said that!). I don’t handle well if someone’s constantly watching over my shoulder and following every little step along the way. After all, the client is paying for my services, right? The best thing to do is let me do my job 😀
Professionalism is paramount
Without a second thought I decline work from people who don’t know what they want or even worse – who think they are the smartest people ever lived; who think they know better, can better, do better than everyone else. These clients are a “lost cause”. I used to be lured by attractive propositions – highly paid project, a quick job for more than usual money, interesting product, etc. End of the day, I learnt my lesson. It is always better, both for my pocket and for my health, to stay away from unprofessional clients.
Excellent communication skills and objective feedback
I believe communication is a must for a successful collaboration. There’s no way a project would be completed successfully, unless the client and the freelancer(s) communicate well. For that reason, we should leave out the door our personal relations and ego. Both the client and the freelancer should ask questions and the other side should answer in timely manner. The client should give prompt and objective feedback for the job well (or not so well) done and not for the person who’s done the job. There should be a healthy team environment. It should be clear that if the freelancer needs help or advice, all he or she should do is ask. And vise verse – if the client has any doubts, concerns, or just needs more details about the project progress, all they need to do is ask.
I think I could list my work principles from dusk till dawn!
Unfortunately for my friends and family, sometimes my principles come close to pedantry 😀 But I’d like to end woth the following – I build my reputation on professionalism, skills, happy clients and trust. I have been disappointed only with colleagues-freelancers who have not had their work principles and have been chasing quick money and temporary results instead.
So my advice for you, fellow freelancers, is to think carefully what you want to achieve being a freelancer and to stand your ground and work principles when negotiating with clients.
my most important principle is always to hire freelancers like you – freelancers who know what they want and have really figured out why they want to be freelancers are exactly what a client is looking for (or he/she would hire 9-5 employees instead)
Keep on being super cool Diana
Thanks for your comment, Oren, and for your continuous support! It is always good to know i am on the right track 😉
Lorraine Marie Reguly says
I agree with the “leave me alone and let me do my job” attitude!
I work best at night, so having someone “tell me when to work” certainly does not ‘work’ for me! 🙂
I agree! Well, there are some tasks which require presence at certain times – e.g. customer support, work on shifts, etc. – then i suppose expectation of regular presence online is normal 😀 But generally speaking, it is definitely not a good approach as a client to demand your freelance consultants to be online all day on skype (for instance) “just in case” – it’s a deal breaker for me, too. Thanks for your comment, Lorraine!
Take action. So much is touted, I believe incorrectly, about the Law of Attraction. I believe in it, don’t get me wrong. But with visualizing, and feeling good, you still, have to take action. We are human beings in a physical world and that is part of the game.
Valuable principles in your list. Thanks.
Thanks for your comment, Pat! Yes, being proactive IS a very very VERY important part of every freelancer’s life, (well, successful freelancer’s life anyway 😀 )
I think clear communication is the most important thing; I have had clients say one thing to my face & another when I wasn’t around–and I just won’t work with people like that.
I also agree with your points about micro-managers; these types of people are the hardest to get honest answers from. If someone is paying a person to do a job, please let them do it!
Thanks for stopping by, Ann – i am glad we are on the same page about principles 😀 As for the clients who say one thing to you and another thing behind your bag – well, that;s not even so much about the principles any more, i would send those straight to the “bad clients” and do-not-work-with list – it’s a great idea you stay away from those…
Elizabeth Scott says
Part of being a freelance admin is that I get to make the decisions on how I run my business. I agree with you that micromanaging customers are something I will not tolerate. I believe the most important thing is to partner with your client to expand their business and yours. Sometimes there will be compromising but only when its mutually beneficial.
Thanks for your comment, Elizabeth! You are making a very good point – actually, i think that many clients often don’t realize that you are working with them, and not for them…
Reasonable compromise is always on the table – but as i said, never with things like communication, or honesty, or freedom, etc. I prefer to decline an offer rather than compromise my integrity.
Krystyna Lagowski says
Oh, it’s so important to be disciplined. Even if your discipline is keeping weird hours – as I do – you need to be consistent about it. And you need to stay focused on your task, as tempting as it is to be distracted by social media and, say, your cats. Sometimes I turn off all my social media if I’m writing a story or on deadline. You’re in control – and that’s a good thing!
Thanks for stopping by, Krystyna! What you are saying is true. While it doesn’t have much to do with the working principles (i think?) it does give me a great idea for one of my next posts – the traits of a successful freelancer or something) – self-discipline being one of it 😉 thanks for the comment and for the idea!
Barbara Hockley says
Honesty, integrity and clear communication every time! You sound ethical, knowledgable and honest and that’s the sort of person I would want to work with and want to present as. We work too many hours and I for one want my working hours to be pleasant and productive. Life’s too short not to go there. Thanks for the post!
Thanks for stopping by, Barbara! Your words mean a lot to me – it always feels great when i know i am not alone and on the right track. As freelancers, we have the freedom to set our own rules so… we might just as well do so, right?! 😀
Jeri Walker-Bickett (@JeriWB) says
Professionalism definitely ranks highly on my list of work principles, and as I get more freelancing jobs for editing, I am quickly learning that is not always the case in regarding those who make inquiries about my editing services. It’s pretty easy to spot an unprofessional when it comes to a writer not having a clue about their editing needs.
Right. I think the root of lack of professionalism is often the i-am-the-greatest-person-ever-lived-and-dont-really-need-you kind of attitude… Not always, of course, but often. Thanks for stopping by, Jeri!
Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) says
This might be the lawyer side of my brain rearing its ugly head, but I always confirm everything in writing so that it’s not only clear what is expected from all parties, but also so that what the expectations were doesn’t become hazy with the passage of time. This has saved me a few very important times. You will probably have to be the person who sends an email that starts: Dear So-and So, This will confirm our agreement that blah, blah, blah.
Yessss, this is a rule of mine as well! I always do as you said with new clients… with the regular ones, with whom i’ve been working for months and years i often skip this part for never for new clients with whom i am about to start working or just getting used to their work habits and flow. Thanks for this very important addition, Suzanne!
Susan Cooper/findingourwaynow.com says
Having a professional attitude is vital in the business world. Not only for corporations but also use in the blogging world. Without your clients, you would not be needed. I agree that it is also wise to have a contract to clearly define all the work that is expected. 🙂
Thanks for your comment, Susan! I agree. The contract is sometimes a tricky part through – if the project is ongoing and the tasks change and/or evolve with time, it is hard to foresee what the scope of work would be let’s say 6 months from now (hence, it’s hard to include it all in a contract). But then again, regular meetings, contract updates, email reconfirmations, etc. is a good way to stay on track what’s required of whom and why…
I have several freelancers working me. To me the most important is the trust factor. I need feedback and I do get immediate responses. Sounds like you are on the right track
Thanks for your comment, Arleen, and for your encouragement! It’s good to know i am on the right track. Now i hope more freelancers and clients will get on it, too 😉
Debra Yearwood says
Is what I’m doing truthful? Is it ethical? Are the questions that are paramount to me. I think if you are in a position where you are influencing the public, that honesty has to be your operating principle.
Although your focus is on freelancers, I think most responsible workers expect the same things.
You are right, Debra – these working principles do apply for most if not all responsible workers – freelancers or not. In my experience though, it is sometimes very easy for unprofessional people to “hide” their incompetence, lack of integrity, unethical views, etc. behind other people and make excuses with colleagues’ faults, the mood of he boss, the weather or whatever comes to mind. When freelancing, we don;t hve that luxury – both success is failure is our to own so… the working principles are way more important, matter of work “life or death”, if you wish 😀 Thanks for joining the conversation, Debra!
Honesty and integrity are Huge for me. I was a film and television editor for 20 years, (freelance for 5 and owner of my business for 10) I never took a job that would compromise my name, no matter what the budget.As are clear communication and clear terms in my contracts. Respect is also big. I won’t work with people who are not respectful, it’s just not worth it.
I agree with everything you share here and I believe it applies to anyone freelance or not 🙂
Thanks for stopping by, Valerie! I totally agree with you. Sad thing is that many starting freelancers tend to compromise with many of the things you say because they are unsure of what they do and how to do it.
It really saddens me how hard it is sometimes to explain to a starting desperate wanna-be freelancer that working principles do matter and how exactly they matter.
Kirsty Stuart says
I agree with every single one of your principles Diana. If you can stand by these when times are tough as well as when times are good then I think you’re on to something pretty good. Would love to see more posts like this from you – this is fab 🙂
Thanks, Kirsty, for your continuous support!
Yes, years ago when i was starting as a freelancer i once “tried” to deviate from these principles… i say “tried” because end of the day i sticked to the principles and said “no” to the client.
She was driving me crazy with poor communication and micro management attitude even before we started (we were still negotiating the contract details)… I knew i won;t have enough money to pay the rent if i didn’t say yes – but i preferred to look elsewhere and find other clients instead of ruining my freelance career before even starting it.
So yes, if you can stick to you principles in bad times and not only in good times – that’s what counts. and i can say from experience – it’s worth it, always!
More posts like this coming your way, i promise! Feels good when i feel the love from all loyal readers and commenters, thanks for being a part of this!