Human Side of Client-Freelance Relationship


If you run a simple google search, it is easy to find a million articles on how a freelancer should act when it comes to remote jobs. On the contrary, it is rare to find a single nice guideline on client behavior. There appears to be a serious gap that needs working out. I have tried to explore the least discussed aspects of the client process.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a client is a person using the services or the advice of a professional person or organization.

A client originates from a business entity or private endeavor of value creation. No matter what business they are in either bricks and mortar or purely online. It is absurd to ignore the contribution of a freelancer in the value chain of the end product by the CLIENT.

2020 Upwork future workforce report suggests, 2 out of 3 CEOs believe that agility is a new business currency. About 75% of organizations have skill gaps that are limiting their service levels or/and business growth. Rich Postler, once a senior advisor at the P&G said,"If you can’t build or buy skills, borrow them."

Here I believe that: A client is an individual or an organization that happens to borrow time and skills from the freelancer in a particular marketplace. Whereas a freelancer is a skilled person/agency/resource who is competent to solve that one issue, the client is unable to fix. Freelance resources are humans and agency entities developed to take multiple assignments for different clients instead of being a full-time employee of any one organization. Freelancers are usually not familiar with job security, pension, intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, perks associated with compensation structure, and retirement security when it comes to this type of employment.

“Freelancers contribute nearly $1 trillion in freelancing income to the economy or nearly 5% of U.S. GDP.” - More than the major industries like Construction.

Communication is the key to success in any relationship, either it is in personal life or professional network. Quality of relationship objectively depends on the clarity of goals timelines, project understanding, and overall value creation. An enthusiastic team, although with consistent values and in-depth subject knowledge, still requires a coherent talent to achieve the objectives laid down by the client.

As Kane et al., discusses in The Technology Fallacy, Great digital strategies first require great talent.

We have learned that great talent in this diverse skill market requires smart team management. Here are some tips on setting realistic expectations for projects, deadlines, and results:

  • Timely response to freelancer queries

  • Prompt feedback

  • Listening to the needs of the online teams

These can seriously improve the turnaround time and quality of work. Some other important aspects of client-freelancer relationships are working arrangement, time zone consideration, realistic pricing, timely payments, and human-to-human (H2H) interaction besides the game of numbers.

Freelancers surrounded with precarity are there to create value for you and your business. Treating them with respect by providing clarity will not only make their work easy but will also help in meeting the deadlines. It will ultimately help you in the desired growth of your business. Most freelancers I knew and researched online were working full-time in their freelance roles. The cash generated with freelancing goes directly to the wellbeing of a family without endless administration costs. We can further deduce that the value creation for your business is cash generation for a freelance “business entity.”

Imagine yourself in a reversed role. What would be your expectations of a client? It is not rare in the business world that often you play both roles of client/employer and a service provider. Reflecting on your experience with different types of clients will help you to be a better client towards your freelancer. What kind of client are you? Are you better than your best client? Or are you worse than your worst client? What type of client do you want to be?

Join Tooba in the "How to Be a Better Client" Series, as she underlines the importance and overlooked dimensions of the H2H relationship shared between freelancers and clients.

Tooba (Ideas Forest) looks for the dimensions where old and new disciplines meet. Trusting that continuous change on the foundations of past knowledge can create progressive societies, her writings are not limited to traditional spectrums. As a strong believer of continuous learning, she is always up for new challenges as an input to her mental growth.

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