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Ethics Of Hiring A Freelancer

Written by Prachi Gangwani


When I was growing up, the word 'freelancer' had a rather derogatory connotation. A freelancer was someone who was too lazy to get a job, too directionless to build a career, and generally not interested in working. A freelancer was looked down upon as someone who flagged the title as a way of escaping accountability.

At 32, I am a freelancer... a proud freelancer, if I may add. Six odd months in, I can vouch for the fact that the opposite of the above is true. As a freelancer, you can't afford to be lax about your work. Without direction and focus, you set yourself up for failure. And accountability is key, because you are your own boss, and there's nobody else holding you accountable.

The challenges of being a freelancer don't stem from this mythical laziness. Quite the contrary, in fact. They stem from the lack of accountability among those who contract freelancers. If I were to describe the last six months of my career in a nutshell, here's what I'd say: Waiting. It's been a long time of waiting. Waiting for reverts to my proposals. Waiting for feedback. Waiting for paycheques. I have spent exponentially more time waiting, than I have producing the work.

It's rather easy to get demotivated when those who commission you seem to regard you as some invisible douchebag who volunteered for a lifetime of free work. No! We need to feed ourselves, too! But, after repeated non-payments, a part of you dies. You begin to surrender to this fate that everybody warned you about, and become your own worst nightmare - the cliched archetype of a lazy, broke freelancer.

I would know. I've faced multiple non-payments and ignored e-mails, and am close to declaring bankruptcy not because I haven't been working my ass off (honestly, I'm working harder than I ever did in my previous job), but because my mighty contractors refuse to clear my payments. But, before I lose all hope and either go back to the daily grind of manifesting someone else's dreams, or becoming a professional homemaker, I decided to use the power bestowed upon me as a writer, and write code of conduct for those who work with freelancers.

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Pay them: Unless, of course, they have agreed to work for you pro bono (in which case, buy them a meal every now and then just because it's a kind gesture). Most freelancers demand 50% payment in advance. Many freelancers have to chase their contractor for the remainder. A significant number (and yes, in this case, one is significant) never get their due. This is cruel, inhuman, unethical... just plain wrong!

Set clear deliverables: When you have a full-time employee, you can, once in a while, have them do a little extra, or take on some task that isn't a part of their profile. It doesn't work the same way with freelancers. They juggle multiple projects at the same time, are not a part of your microcosm, and don't owe you that small favour. There's a reason why they are freelancers - because they want their work to be streamlined. Don't assume that task A includes task B, and C because the team in the office does all of it! If you want all of it done, discuss it with them beforehand. Be clear, and precise about your expectations!

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Set clear timelines: In a similar vein, don't expect them to spend a year on a project that is worth only a month simply because it doesn't fit with your schedule. That's unfair. Think about it this way: Say, I get contracted to create content for a website. For me, writing the drafts for submission takes two weeks. The next step is for me to send them across and wait for feedback. Ideally, the feedback should come to me in a week, so that I can make the necessary changes and close the project. And, in an ideal scenario, get paid the remaining 50% of my fee. But, if you, as my contractor, take a month to send the feedback to me, it pushes my schedule off by another three weeks. That means, among other things, not getting paid when I thought I would. How the hell am I supposed to budget and plan my life?

Reply to emails in a timely manner: And no, a month and a half later is not a timely manner. With email now easily accessible on your phone, how difficult is it to draft and send? If you don't have time, then let the other person know that. Just hit 'Reply,' write, 'Hey! Caught up for the next few days, but let me get back to you on this by DD/MM/YY. Bye,' and click on 'Send'. How hard is that?

Don't expect a freelancer to be available at your beck and call: Like I said, freelancers have multiple projects to juggle and lives to live. Yours may or may not be the only work they have at the moment, and even if it is, that doesn't mean they will be up for meeting you for a lunch meeting at a one hour notice.


Image Source: Pexels



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