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5 Mistakes People Make when Working with Freelancers

I've been a freelance writer and graphic designer for over 28 years, and yes, I've seen it all. I’ve made mistakes. My clients have made mistakes. Hopefully, we learn from them, never repeat them, and go on to have successful business relationships.

One important thing I have noticed is that businesses tend to not think of freelancers as business owners themselves. This leads to treating them as contract workers and not as entrepreneurs. As a result of that, here are 5 mistakes that I see over and over when people work with freelancers.

1. No contract or scope of work

You are entering into a business deal just like any other and it is important that you are both on the same page. First, any freelancer worth their salt will have a contract. It will state their rate, what days and hours they work, late fees, etc. It should be signed by both of you and each of you retain a copy.

Just as important is a Scope of Work (SOW). This takes your project and breaks it down to who is responsible for what, what exactly the project includes and an agreed upon timeline.

Having both will help you not only legally but with the project as well. There it is in black and white what you both expect from each other so there is no room for confusion or a “he said, she said” scenario.

In addition, don’t be afraid to hold the freelancer accountable. Letting them slide on a deadline or come back with some supposed confusion is not helping them run their business or in any way helping you find good freelancers.

2. Not setting deadlines

I have heard horror stories of clients hiring someone to design a logo or write web content and 6 weeks later, they haven’t heard from their hire, nor do they have anything to proof. Even worse, some freelancers will disappear forever and never respond to communications.

On the very first call or email, clearly set what your deadlines are. Don’t just say “I want it done by October” be specific. For example, if doing a website, week 1 would be sourcing all materials and coming up with a home page design. Week 2 would be designing interior pages. Week 3 would be a round of edits, etc.

This also helps the designer as they know how much time a project will actually take them. They will be able to point out some things that they know will take longer or shorter. They also know their workload and how your project fits into it. All of this makes each of you accountable and the work relationship smoother.

3. Not understanding flat rate vs hourly rate

When people think of flat rates, they often think that this includes unlimited edits and/or additions. Actually, I’ve seen it in job listings that “we reserve the right to edits until we are happy”. In contrast, if they go with an hourly rate, they feel that they might get stuck with a large invoice with nothing to show for it.

The simple way around this is again a contract. If you go with flat rates, it should be clearly stated how many rounds of edits you receive. If hourly, the freelancer should give you an estimate of hours and once that amount is reached, you regroup to see where you are and what is left to finish. If each party has a clear understanding of what each expects, the project should progress nicely.

4. Not asking for native files

This happens on a consistent basis and causes you to spend more money and time on the next designer. When a design job is done, always ask for the native (the software the design was originally designed in) files including all images and fonts. This way, if you move onto another designer, they simply have to open the document and make any changes you need. If not, the new designer will have to source the fonts if they don’t have them, try and track down the original images (and you will have to pay for these images if they are not free!), adding to the time and costing you money. So before paying the invoice, ask for the work!

5. Not offering a testimonial or review

We live in a day and age where reviews are crucial. We review everything from a pizza to a haircut, and freelance design is no different. A well-placed testimonial on their website or a review on a freelance platform they are a member of goes a long way to a freelancer. It is gold! They will remember that you were thoughtful enough to offer one and next time you have a rush job come in and you need them, they will often put you in the front of the line!

Whether you contact them directly via their website or email, or use an online hiring platform like Upwork, Fiverr, and ZipRecruiter to name a few, just keep in mind these common mistakes and you’ll both be successful in working together on any current project or any in the future.


M. Page Jones is a published author and award-winning graphic designer who has been in the business for over 26 years. She runs MPJ Creative Services ( which has clients from all over the world.


Skype: melissa.jones1013


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