I did it again. Made a mistake in hiring and working with a freelancer that cost me lots of time and money. When I told a friend and colleague about my freelancer horror story, she shared one of her own.
Lessons learned, we venture forward to tell you of our experiences and give you some tips to help you make working with freelancers a better experience for everyone.
My Difficult Freelancer Story
My problem is that I would rather do it myself. But I don’t have the time to learn so I’ve been using freelancers for graphics and for some of my book tasks. In this case, I was frustrated with trying to put format my latest e-book for .epub and .pdf, so I went to Upwork to find someone to do it for me. (Upwork is a site where you can hire a freelancer or be a freelancer.)
I hired an experienced book designer and gave him what I thought were detailed instructions, figuring he knew what he was doing. All I needed was to have him add the cover to the files, which had already been formatted. He did way more work than I wanted, changing colors and fonts. In general, the book looked nothing like what I had given him. He did add the covers, but I had to re-do the files to take out all the stuff he added.
Working with a Prima Donna
Prima donna: a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance.
In another project, I worked with a book cover designer. She was truly a prima donna. When I gave her detailed instructions, she complained that she was overwhelmed and confused.
She gave me an initial book cover to critique. When I made changes (the initial cover was supposed to be a first draft), she said she would have to charge me extra for the “edits.” Every change I wanted to make, she argued with, saying it would be difficult to do and it would “mess up” her beautiful cover. It went on like this for the entire project, but you get the idea.
A VA Horror Story
My friend and colleague Kathy Hendershot-Hurd (find her online at Virtual Impax) tells her story:
I hired a Virtual Assistant (VA) who asked me to sign a three-month contract. I was to pay her $700 per month and she was to work for me for 20 hours each month. I gave her an assignment shortly after sending my first payment to her. When she received the assignment, she assured me that she could do it easily.
I had estimated that it might take her 10 hours to perform the assigned task. She checked in with me weekly. However, when it was time to make the second payment, she hadn’t completed the assignment.When I asked, she assured me that she was doing it. She apologized, said she had gotten busy but she would complete the task in a few weeks.
By the time I made the third payment to her, I was pissed. She had stopped checking in.
When the third month was up, she contacted me – and asked for me to sign another contract. I informed her that I had already paid for 60 hours of her time – and had yet to see her complete a project.
That’s when she confessed that she had never done what I had asked her to do. She cried and she begged for me to give her another chance. I told her I would give her another chance AFTER she provided me with 60 hours of work product.
The next time I heard from her was a couple of years later. She actually sent me an endorsement request!
What Kathy and I Learned From Our Experiences
1. Give clear and complete expectations.
When I hire a freelancer, I put together all the information I think they need, including copies of files, branding information, and details on what I want. In my experience with the book formatter I mentioned above, I found that the details were too much. She complained that she was overwhelmed. What’s enough detail and what’s too much varies by freelancer. Despite the objections from one person, I would still rather over-explain than under-explain.
2. Don’t assume they know what they are doing.
That’s why recommendations/reviews are so important, and why I use a service like Upwork or Fiverr, because you can read reviews. By the way, if you see that a freelancer has a lot of work but few reviews, ask why.
3. Tell them what you DON’T want.
It’s difficult to know what to say here, but maybe just, “Don’t do anything I didn’t specifically tell you to do. If you want to add something, check with me. I’m not paying you to add things.”
4. Don’t be afraid to demand that they give you what you are paying for.
In other words, they aren’t the boss; you are.
5. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Want extra? Ask for it, with the statement that you will pay extra. Sometimes (not often) the freelancer will do a little extra for you unpaid. Add deadlines!
6. Practice the principle of abundance.
Don’t be cheap. Be grateful for the help, such as it is. Be kind. Give a bonus or tip if you think it’s deserved.
7. Don’t be afraid to give lower reviews.
Not everyone deserves a 5-star review, and helping others know what a freelancer is really about is doing other business owners a service.
8. Start small.
Kathy says she should never have signed a three-month contract. She should have hired for one small project to see how the relationship worked out. That way, she says, she would have been out $350 instead of $2,100.
9. Don’t wait until it’s a crisis.
Kathy waited until she was SWAMPED to hire help. Part of the reason this happened was because at the time, she was working 16+ hour days, and she didn’t have time to train or supervise.
10. Hire by the job, not by the hour.
Figure out between you what’s a reasonable amount for the project. Build in deliverables or benchmarks, so you can both evaluate the project at different stages. For example, I usually say I will pay 50% upon delivery of a first draft, then the other 50% when the job is completed to my satisfaction. Even on a small job, that helps both of you know what to expect.
11. Decide how much supervising you should be doing.
The idea behind hiring a freelancer is they are supposed to be able to manage themselves and their time. If you find you have to supervise the freelancer, you can either (a) negotiate a lower rate for the next project, or (b) find someone else.
12. Above all, communicate as you go along, and demand that the freelancer communicate too.
I long ago learned that it’s not nice to surprise the boss. Make it clear that you want to know what’s going on and how often you want to hear from the freelancer. If you don’t get a response, keep emailing or messaging until you do.
Working with experts can be a boost to your Frugal Business, as long as you remember the lessons.
Here’s to the success of your Frugal Business!