For Clients, Hiring a New Freelancer is Like a Box of Chocolates: They Don’t Know What They Are Going to Get

Just for a minute, I want us to consider what it’s like to be in the employer’s seat when it comes time to put out an ad for a new freelancer (or several of them). I know that we talk a lot here about what the freelancing world is like from the point of view of the people looking for work, and I think it’s only fair to look at what it may be like from the opposite side of the desk.

Here we go: You have been magically transformed into the employer instead of the freelancer. You prepare an ad outlining what you are looking for, including the type of writing you need, what qualifications would dazzle you, and possibly how much you are prepared to pay.

You get a ton of responses and you weed through them to find the freelancers who seem like the best fit for your project. But before you get to that point, you need to go through people who:

  • Didn’t follow instructions properly and include a resume and samples
  • Decided to rake you over the coals about your business, the project, and/or the rate of pay
  • Didn’t have the level of experience you specified in your ad
  • Filled your e-mail box with spam

Once you find the people you are interested in working with, you contact them and give them the specifications of the project. Depending on the freelancer’s policies and yours, you may pay a deposit up front to get work started.

Now The Fun Begins

  • You may get work back that is not of the same quality as the samples you were given.
  • You may get work back that doesn’t look anything like what you ordered.
  • You may never hear from the freelancer again.

Or you might be pleasantly surprised that you get the work you ordered back

  • On Time
  • The Correct Length
  • On Topic
  • Written by Someone who Takes Pride in Their Work

The next time you need work done, which type of freelancer are you going to hire?
More to the point, which type of freelancer are you?

We do take a chance when we start working for a new client, but the flip side to that is that they take a chance when they hire us too. If we do our work well, chances are very good that instead of placing another ad, the next time they need work done they will go back to the freelancers they had a good working relationship with.

One of the keys to success in this business is about building good relationships with your clients. Give them your best effort, and they will remember you long after the initial project ends.


  1. Elizabeth says

    As someone that is a writer and that also hires freelancers, I would like to echo what Jodee had to say. As someone that is regularly applying for gigs, I think it is particularly interesting for me to see the variety of responses I get when I am sittign on the other side of the desk. In some ways, however, I think being on the one doing the hiring has helped me do a better job of creating my emails to potential clients.

  2. says

    With so many writers vying for work, it must be difficult to weed through all of the responses. Not to mention, you open yourself up for all kinds of weird reactions, like chastisement. (Which I totally don’t get, by the way.)

    I don’t envy that job, although I’m sure I’ll be there at one point or another.

  3. Joanne says

    Hi Jodee,

    What you’ve said here has been running through my head all day. I just got let go from a freelancing job (I found it here actually). I contacted the editor to find out why, and he said that there were other writers on the team who simply never turned in their work.

    He hired new freelancers at the last minute, and the new members changed the tone of the publication, so he couldn’t use my article. Needless to say, I was a bit pissed. Why should I have to suffer for other people’s mistakes?

    I wanted to ask you if this is a coming thing that happens.

  4. Tim says

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when clients don’t check references. I’ve dealt with it in the professional world before I started freelancing, and even more so in the world of freelancing. They ask for your resume, and you do so. You give them a cover letter (you take the time to sell yourself). Sometimes you give samples if they are required. Nothing torques me off more than putting all that effort in and having the potential client skim-read your references without bothering to verify, and then telling you something along the lines of “we want to start you off with something small” or “we don’t think you are worth the pay rate you are asking.”

    I disagree that it’s like a box of chocolates. If people take the time to verify references you will know–in advance–exactly what quality of a writer you are getting. Call the references…talk to them. Ask about the writer. Ask if they are on-time more often than not. Ask about the quality of their work. Take the time to look at some of their published materiel. Do your homework and things won’t be like a box of chocolates…they will be exactly how you expected.

  5. Ann G. says

    It works both ways. Everyone has faults. Hiring reviewers for my book review site, I’ve had some fantastic writers and others who simply wanted the free books and then disappeared. Reading directions is always an issue because I always post saying that my site makes no money so I can’t pay reviewers with more than the free books. Every time I post an ad, 90% of the responses will ask how much do I pay. When I send back the posting and then highlight where it says No Pay, I’ll get responses along the lines of, “Well, I didn’t think you were serious.”

    As a writer, I’ve had employers change the rules as we go for everything from formatting to content. Some fixes are easy, but others like “Oh can you make that single spaces after the periods instead” are more time consuming, especially in an article that runs 1000 to 2000 words.

    I’ve also had employers who start out paying on time and then eventually “forget” to pay at all. In fact, I have one who owes me $80 and has since February. Her first excuse was valid, but now she’s blocked my email, so I keep looking to see if she uses the two articles because I’ll go right to the Web host to make sure they are taken down.

  6. says

    Ann G.

    To make the single spaces after the period, just go to the replace function in word, type in two spaces in the top box, and “replace with” a single space, then hit replace all as many times as it takes to get down to 0 replacements. It takes just a few seconds.

  7. Jodee says

    @ Joanne: I’ve heard of writers agreeing to take on assignments and then disappearing, yes. (I signed a contract yesterday for a new gig that came available because the person who originally took the job vanished.)

  8. Scribette says

    Joanne – yes that can be frustrating! A way to minimize this type of situation is to work with more reputable and to sign a contract – with a “kill fee” clause.


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