This isn’t what I asked for! Resolving conflict between freelancers and clients

You had some doubts about outsourcing your writing work, but you’re just too busy to do it yourself. So you took the plunge anyway and now things are feeling awkward.

For some reason, things aren’t going well and now your project has a feeling of impending doom.

Outsourcing work has many benefits, you don’t have the extra expenses that are involved when hiring an employee, they deal with their own taxes and insurance and you don’t need to give them sick pay.

You only pay them for the work they do, not the long lunches or tea breaks. You both agree a price for the work, the freelancer does the work, and you pay them. Simple.

So why do things sometimes go wrong?

When you have an employee you are usually working with them, in the same space. You are both available to talk to each other anytime during your working day. Even if you hire home workers you are likely to have the same working hours and can spend time managing them to ensure everything is fine.

Freelancers are different. They work on different projects at the same time and may not be contactable at certain times of the day. This doesn’t mean to say that they don’t care about your project any less than your employees. If anything, they care more.


Well, just like you, they are running their own business. They rely on happy clients to pay them on time, give them testimonials or referrals and expand their portfolio. Freelancers have a lot to lose and it’s in their best interests to keep their clients happy.

So why do things go wrong?


Sometimes things go wrong because the freelancer didn’t ask the right questions at the beginning. They need to know who your audience is and what you want their writing to achieve. If there is a certain tone of voice you prefer, this needs to be discussed as well.

Make it clear from the start what is expected by having a written agreement. This is better for both the freelance writer and client as it clarifies the details of the job as well as payment terms. If you are bulk ordering articles to fill your content calendar, ask to see a draft of the first one before they continue so that you can give feedback.

Lost in translation

If you are working with a freelancer whose first language isn’t yours, you both need to make sure you are understood. If you are asking them for content in their own language, it’s important to trust them with sentence structure and punctuation. If something doesn’t seem right, talk to them about it. They may have more ideas about page layout and wording, and they will know what works best in their own culture.

Long distance relationships.

Long distance relationships can be hard. You want to know how your freelancer is getting on with your project, it’s your investment after all. But they are not always available when you want them. You email them and don’t get a response for hours or they don’t answer the phone. This doesn’t mean the work isn’t getting done, it usually means that it is.

Many home workers turn off their email or phone whilst they are working to avoid distractions. Having the perfect paragraph in your head and losing it because of a sales call is a writers nightmare. It’s much more productive to turn everything else off when working.

Freelancers often work on more than one project at once and if they responded to every email and phone call immediately, they wouldn’t get much done at all.

This doesn’t mean that they should be completely unavailable. If they seem unwilling to keep in touch, alarm bells should start ringing. Ask for a weekly email update to see how things are going. Arrange regular phone calls or online chats in advance, so that you can stay up to date with progress at a time with suits you both.

Giving feedback.

Not everyone can get things perfect the first time. That’s why it’s called a first draft.  Perhaps you aren’t happy with the tone of voice or there are certain points you want in more detail. It’s important to discuss this as soon as possible so that the mistakes can be corrected and the more specific you can be with your feedback the better.

Things can easily get tense via email.  It’s sometimes hard to get your points across. A phone call or face to face meeting via Skype makes discussion easier and you can both see where it’s all going wrong. Arrange a chat to talk about how it’s going and how you can get things back on track.

Dealing with criticism is hard and many freelancers are protective about their work especially if they have put their heart and soul into it. However criticism is also part of growing as a writer. Giving someone feedback that they can act on can help them  become a better writer, improve their skills and make their business successful.

Any good working relationship relies on good communication.  A professional freelancer will be prepared to take the steps to make things work.

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