It’s amazing how reality and your perceptions rarely line up. No matter if you did all your research beforehand, when you’re actually in the middle of the situation, it’s an entirely different story. What’s worse, your head can understand, but your heart may refuse to listen. And so when you finally arrive at your destination, instead of excitement, you’re left with a sick stomach and wondering if you made the wrong decision.
I’ve arrived, and I have a stomach ache. I find this especially ironic considering that, according to the Huffington Post, over one-third of the U.S. workforce consists of freelancers. You would think with such a large reference pool I would have no surprises, but that’s not the case.
One of the areas with the biggest learning curve has been client interaction. At my previous position, I worked with a multitude of clients and thought that I had developed an excellent mindset and work ethic. Let me tell you, Freelance is an entirely new beast. There are no other employees who I can bring into discussions with my client. A second listening-ear doesn’t exist. It’s all on me. While going solo is incredibly freeing, it’s also terrifying.
It’s completely on my shoulders to make my client happy. There is no one else on my team that can make up for poor work, lack of direction, or confusion. If I submit a poorly written assignment to a client, I then need to figure out where I messed up and how I can improve. I hate messing up.
I know, no one enjoys making mistakes, but when it comes to my writing, it kills me a little inside. I say, “I love feedback” and in a sense, I do. I never want someone to accept work they consider sub-par. But, in my heart, I want my writing to be perfect from step one. Irrational and unrealistic? Of course! It doesn’t change the fact that it’s a constant struggle to listen honestly to the feedback and then implement it.
So, what do I do? Every day, sometimes multiple times a day, I remind myself that I am providing a service. Yes, I am the expert writer, that’s why they hired me in the first place, but I don’t exist if I can’t satisfy my clients. It doesn’t matter if I consider myself an exceptional writer, my clients have to feel that way about me. So, no matter how frustrated I get, if I continually remind myself that it’s not a product but a service, it makes it easier.
Secondly, I fire clients who are impossible to please. There will always be clients who you cannot make happy. Their idea may be so specific and their feedback so abstract that it’s impossible to complete the job to their satisfaction. Save yourself the impossibility and fire them. Or, you might have a client who continually increases his/her requirements. So that what started out as a simple five-hundred-word blog for $50, transforms into a seven-part blog series for the same price. Once again, if you can’t reign them in, you should let them go.
In the end, the best part of being a freelancer is also the worst—working with clients. However, always remember that if you have clients, you should be grateful. It’s far worse to have no clients than to experience the struggle of working with clients. At least with clients, you actually have a job.