The Human Freelancer

Happy and honest self-employment for conscientious newcomers

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Most, if not all, conflict between humans arises out of poor communication. Whether it’s pork-starved firebrands in the tinderbox of the Middle East, or European neighbours living in deprived inner city England.

On a more politically insensitive level, just talk to anyone who’s tried to hire a plumber, electrician, builder or roofer who turns up when they say they will. It’s as if they’re taught how to be deliberate arseholes at tradesperson school. (Sorry if you’re a tradesperson who takes a pride in keeping your word – sadly, in my experience, you’re a rarity.)

This isn’t just about stereotyping impetuous tradespeople though. Self-employed people and freelancers like you and I are hired on our personal aptitude for keeping promises and delivering things on time.

And success all comes down to how you communicate with people and manage their expectations.

This is VERY simple to fix

Misunderstandings happen when one reality inside someone’s head isn’t articulated clearly enough, so that other people can understand, or at the very least, respect it. It’s also the square root of ignorance and prejudice and why people start blowing each other up.

Yet this is avoidable.

Only make commitments you can realistically accomplish in the first place. Or if you’re not sure you can do something, admit it and ask for more time to make your mind up.

If it later turns out that a commitment is in jeopardy, just tell whoever needs to know as soon as you can so they can get on with their lives. There’s a whole chapter dedicated to this called ‘The Tactful Let-down’ in The Human Freelancer book.

There seems to be a prevailing attitude in Britain that delivering the bad news is worse than its consequences. But for anyone who’s wasted hours waiting around for someone who hasn’t turned up and won’t respond to calls: the consequences are always more frustrating than a timely and respectful “sorry to let you down but I’ve had a problem.”

It might sound obvious but so many people get this wrong

It makes so much more sense to tell a client if you’re going to miss a deadline or that you’ve made a mistake, than to let them discover it without an explanation.

Yet it’s brave and honourable to be upfront about your shortcomings, better still to come up with ideas about how you’ll fix what went wrong and when you’ll put it right.

This shouldn’t just happen when bumshake trickles down your leg either. Honest communication should be ongoing, throughout a relationship.

Like, for example, when you get an email that needs you to take action. Instead of ignoring the message, or getting around to it in your own time, just reply quickly and say:

“Just to let you know – I’ve seen this and I’ll get around to it soon. I’m just busy with something else right now.”

These two sentences don’t take very long to type but your client will appreciate it, because now they know where they stand, able to adjust their reality with information from yours. The alternative is a silent, black vacuum which rapidly fills with frustration and inaccurate conclusions.

Promising the earth won’t make you a decent, human freelancer

It just sets you, and your clients, up for disappointment and conditions you into shying away from inevitable bad news.

Instead, just be realistic and honest about what you’re capable of doing.

Clients deeply value a freelancer who keeps their word, one who knows how to relate to people by sharing what’s on their mind, honestly. It’s the secret to earning people’s trust and respect, as well as gaining more fruitful, fulfilling work.

So don’t be an arsehole – I wrote a whole chapter about that.

The Human Freelancer book

LOOK! There's a book full of this shit and more!

Self-help business books perpetuate the myth that success is relentless growth and more of everything means progress. They preach about bookkeeping and market research: things you might need to do of course. But let’s face it they’re fucking boring.

The Human Freelancer book is your antidote: stuffed full of emotional support and insightful advice for vulnerable newbies to self-employment like you.

Buy it now