Who’s the boss? Responsibility and accountability in the freelance economy

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Like every other freelancer, I’ve had my share of bad clients. Clients who don’t have even a vague idea of what they want, clients who don’t show up for meetings, and perhaps the worst of the lot, clients who don’t pay. But as a professional who often works with other freelancers, I’ve seen the flip side too: Freelancers who are not engaged, freelancers who don’t communicate and those who lack time-management skills.

“A freelance designer didn’t show up to meetings and didn’t respect the deadlines I set. He didn’t let me know about the possible delays which in turn plunged the project into chaos. His lack of output blocked the whole project. This resulted in a huge waste of money because the unreliable designer made it impossible to work for the front-end and back-end developers as well as for the QA specialist.” — Radek Zaleski

Gone are the days when freelancing was considered an “unsteady job”. With the rise of the gig economy and with access to the right connections, freelancing can be just as profitable as full time role, with additional benefits such as the opportunity to choose jobs and the ability to work flexible hours. And with the record numbers of young people starting their own businesses, the freelance economy is bigger than ever.

“Flexible working hours, choosing your own projects, no income ceiling, and being your own boss, are just some of the reasons why many people decide to go off on their own.” — Jacob Morgan

But what does it mean to be your own boss?

While no two freelancers are the same, the really successful ones often share a set of personal traits. Often, I see people take the leap into freelance in the hopes that it would be the miracle escape from a 9–5 job. But freelancing is no different from running a business. It takes self-discipline, persistence, hard-work and passion among other things.

“If you’re not prepared to do the job come rain, sun, snow or shine — you’re not ready to freelance.” — Rikke Dam

As a freelancer and as your own boss you need to take initiative, take responsibility and take charge of the task you’ve been assigned to. You are expected to have excellent communication skills and be able to present yourself well. Dress appropriately for client meetings and conduct yourself professionally and ethically. You are responsible, or rather, accountable for managing your time to deliver results as promised.

The other side of the coin: What are the client’s responsibilities?

All productive relationships have both give and take elements. If, as a client you expect the timely delivery of results, then do your part to ensure the project is completed on time. Understand what you really want from your freelancer, give clear, complete instructions, and most importantly, set realistic deadlines. Understand that a freelancer is an extension of your team. Respond to calls and messages and attend scheduled meetings. Be open to taking advice from your freelancer. After all, you hired them because you thought they were the right person for the job!

What points would you add to the responsibilities of freelancers and clients? How can we collectively create a strong, positive culture within the freelance economy?

A design professional with 5+ years of diverse experience in creative direction, illustration, graphic design, branding, content strategy & UI/UX

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