It occurs to me many clients think freelancers are subhuman, somehow not worthy of being treated like other people. I think they think we’re just packed away in a box, waiting for a call to do a job, when in reality we’re just as frantically busy as anyone else.
I have come to the opinion that few clients appreciate that it takes a lot of effort to turn around a piece of work in a heartbeat, which is often what’s required of freelancers, and that doing so often comes at a cost to ourselves and our families.
I learnt a long time ago that the only praise you’ll ever get as a freelancer is your invoice paid.
All too often I hear stories from my freelance colleagues about clients who demand a job gets done yesterday, then put the work in the drawer and don’t look at it for weeks on end.
Never mind the person has probably had to jump through hoops to get the job done, organise extra babysitters for the kids and basically turn their back on their family to do what the client wants.
Then there’s that old chestnut of asking a freelancer to prepare a proposal, only for the client to steal the ideas and get the work done internally. Or even just organise a meeting to “pick your brains” and then plagiarise your ideas and never contact you again.
But I’m not really complaining. The freelance lifestyle means you can choose which clients you work for and if you don’t like a client, you don’t have to work for them again.
Actually, I have been pleasantly surprised – completely taken aback, really – a couple of times lately when clients have gone out of their way to acknowledge my work. Recently one of my clients left such a lovely message on my phone after I had finished a job it brought me to tears.
I turn myself inside out for my clients to do the best job I possibly can. I was so blown away that this client thanked me for my work, and recognised the lengths I had gone to to do a good job, it left me speechless.
I played the message over and over and then I played it to everyone around me – all my family and friends – I even sent it to some people – because I just could not believe that all my hard work was appreciated. It happens all too rarely – although I learnt a long time ago that the only praise you’ll ever get as a freelancer is your invoice paid.
Then recently the chairman of one of Australia’s largest businesses rang me to thank me for a story I wrote that mentioned his business. On a Saturday afternoon. He didn’t need to do that, he was an absolute delight to work with and I would have jumped through all sorts of hoops to do my best for him anyway; he was the epitome of a gentleman. Old-fashioned manners get you a long way.
These experiences are a real lesson to me to thank everyone around me for what they do for me. Saying thank-you does not cost anything, or take a long time. But it’s very powerful and people really appreciate it.
If you run a small business, I urge you to look around you and appreciate the service providers that go out of their way do to the right thing by you. Most people I know are exactly like me and move mountains to do the right thing for their boss or their client. But often what they do is taken for granted.
Business is business, but we’re also human, and it pays to remember that, even in the cut and thrust of the commercial world.