Laura Thomas is many things. She’s a writer, performer, mindfulness instructor, entrepreneur, and some days, a fairy princess. After the tragic loss of her older brother in 2011, Laura decided the one guideline she’d use to orient the rest of her life was this: only do things that make the world a more compassionate place (like this guide to working with freelancers). Keep an eye out for her upcoming memoir, and follow her journey on her website, on Instagram (@laura.thomas.life), and—of course—on Fiverr Pro: laurathomasj.
I often spend my work day at my local bakery. Tucked in a corner, perched on my favorite antique tractor-chair-turned-stool, I glance up every once in a while to observe the patrons weaving in and out of the shop. Scones are slipped into brown paper bags and passed across the stainless steel counter. The scent of freshly baked bread permeates the air, tempting customers to give in when a sample of blueberry muffin appears before them.
The atmosphere reminds me of sunflowers rotating throughout the day, following the trajectory of the sun: warm, seeking, grounded.
And yet, even this sunny place is invariably punctuated by clouds. People come in, some already in a bad mood, some seemingly trapped in the circumference of their own heads. “Give me,” they say. “No, I don’t want that,” they snap. Phrases like “thank you” or “please” never cross their lips. They don’t look at the employees helping them. They’re part of the furniture. They’re there to serve.
It never ceases to startle me, noticing how quickly we disregard someone’s humanity in exchange for getting what we want when we want it. How quickly we toss aside the notion of “equal” for the somehow more familiar dynamic of “better than.”
This isn’t unique to our bakery. It exists at all levels of society – schools, workplaces, communities, driving, even freelancing.
There are a few things you should know about working with freelancers. They’re fairly basic things, likely not surprising, but they might be helpful to know. We’re not always aware of how we move through the world. That’s okay. The people around us can help point things out. I’d like to share a few with you.
First and foremost, we’re people, just like you. We have good days and bad days. We try our best to be agreeable, timely, and flawless. We may not always succeed, but we try. We want the best for you. We’re on your side.
We appreciate it if you communicate with us like we’re humans. It sounds obvious, hopefully not patronizing, but like the example above, it’s amazing how quickly this simple courtesy dissolves. We’re not looking for special attention or handholding, just a level of awareness that there’s a person sitting on the other side of the screen. Kindness and courtesy go a long way, and we look to extend the same back to you. Truly, we’re excited to hear from you.
Our workloads fluctuate.
When we sign up for freelancing, we’re agreeing to ride the waves. Work is never consistent. There might be times where we’re slammed, turning away great projects, using an auto-response more than we’d like because we don’t have time to type a unique message for every inquiry.
After cresting the wave, we fall down its backside, wondering what shifted to mask our gigs. Did we accidentally turn on vacation mode? Has someone else come along, shinier, sexier, and is now fielding all the responses?
There is no explanation. It’s everything. It’s freelancing. What does this mean for buyers?
Firstly, we might play with our rates, adjusting alongside the fluctuations, or offering different packages to try and fill a more desired space in our profession. With this knowledge, you can always see if a freelancer is willing to negotiate. If we suggest a price for your project, and it’s out of your budget, see if we’re willing to counter. Depending on where a freelancer is on their wave – and how they decide to run their business – they might agree. If not, they’ll tell you. It’s always worth a try.
Secondly, even if we don’t have a specific package for your project, pitch it to us anyway. We love being creative, and we’ll do our best to give you an accurate rate based on the project scope and what we have to offer. I almost always prefer projects that require a customized offer. They challenge me, and help me deviate from my predictable skillset.
Lastly, even when we’re slammed and give you a brief notice that we won’t be able to work with you, we want your project to be successful. We know first-hand how much work goes into creating something that didn’t previously exist. We know what it’s like to pour your passion into what you’re doing. Even if we’re not the ones to help you bring your project to fruition, we genuinely hope you’ll find another one of our community members to help you make something spectacular.
3. This is our profession.
Pro freelancers make their living doing their craft. They’re professionals, with varying years of experience, but skilled nonetheless.
Our rates are higher. The number of hours we spend actually making money isn’t that much. A good deal of our time goes into finding work, communicating with clients, and sometimes doing “spec” work. (Some freelancers don’t do spec work. It is, after all, time and energy they’re putting towards a sample, and it’s taking time away from their other clients.)
We make our living in a profession that’s unstable, never the same two days in a row. Freelancing is full of successes and failures, and, like any job, doing things we both like and don’t like. That’s life. It’s what we signed up for, and even though it isn’t always easy, we can’t imagine doing anything else.
We’re each running a small business. We’re loyal to our clients, we’re hard workers, and ultimately, we want you to have the best experience possible. If you don’t like something we create, we want you to tell us so we can rectify the situation, making edits and improvements until you’re satisfied.
In return for our professionalism and quality work, we have higher rates. You’re not only paying for our services, but for an experience. We want you to know you’re taken care of, and that there’s someone committed to creating a final product you deserve.
We also ask for your participation. Our transaction can’t happen if we don’t hear from you. In order for this to be successful, we need you to share all the appropriate materials in the beginning and provide feedback in a timely manner before the contract ends. When you start a contract, it’s a two-way street. We’re managing multiple clients and want to be fair to everyone. When you sign up for a higher level of work, it also means you need to bring yourself to the table at a higher level.
4. We can’t read your mind.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve worked with a client who told me, “Create whatever you want!” and when I share what I created, they respond, “That’s not exactly what I had in mind.”
We’re freelancers, not mind readers. Communicating with your freelancer is of the utmost importance. It doesn’t matter if you think your ideas are stupid, incomplete, or impractical. If you have an idea lurking in your brain, and you’ve become somewhat attached to it, you need to share it. It’s an expectation you’re carrying, and it’s going to affect your satisfaction with our work. Our reputations are built on creating satisfactory work.
Have you chatted with your team about a slight change in direction? Let your freelancer know. Do you have an idea for what kind of tone of voice you’re after, or what kind of experience you want your customers to have? Let your freelancer know. Do you have ideas of what you DON’T want? Let your freelancer know.
It can be really challenging creating a project that feels like it came from inside your team, capturing everything you hoped and dreamed it would be. You’ve been immersed in this project; you know it like a parent knows their child. We’re outsiders. We need every point of entry you can give us, no matter how trivial.
When in doubt, communicate. I promise you, not only will we feel much more prepared to do a good job, we’ll be far more likely to create what you’re looking for. Hopefully something that exceeds your expectations.
5. We love what you love.
There’s nothing better than working with a client who’s passionate about what they’re creating. Even if it’s a personal essay or bio, the more excited you are about your project, the more excited we’ll be. There’s nothing better than working with a client who’s passionate about what they’re creating. Even if it’s a personal essay or bio, the more excited you are about your project, the more excited we’ll be.
You’ve decided to pay for a service. Your project must mean something to you, even if it’s the end outcome you care about (i.e. getting into college, having your bio stand out on your company’s website, etc.).
Don’t be afraid to share your passion, or why this is important to you. Again, we’re people. When someone is doing exciting things in the world (“exciting” as defined by you, and no one else), we’re excited to help. Tell me a little about your start-up, what drives you, how this project will help move your goals forward.
It’s not necessary for booking a gig. It’s just nice to hear. It makes me even more alert and attentive. You want me to care about your project. That starts with you caring first.
With a bit of attention, care, and passion, we go from a buyer and a seller to two people working towards the same goal. We become partners. We become a mini team looking to shift the world, even infinitesimally, towards greater cooperation, greater passion, and greater care.
Really, I can’t imagine having a better job.
What else do you think customers need to know about working with freelancers? Tell us in the comments below!