At some point, those of us who work on Upwork eventually work with someone who is brand new to the platform. They also have little to no experience working with a freelancer. There are some new clients who are very open to learning. There are others who have some unrealistic expectations about working with a freelancer and working on Upwork. The good news is that as a freelancer on Upwork, there are some things you can do to help new clients learn the process while also not feeling as if you’re responsible for babysitting them.
Be Ready to Explain the Main Difference Between a Freelancer and Employee
One of the most common new client experiences I’ve had on Upwork during the last six years is working with new clients who do not understand that there is a difference between hiring a freelancer and hiring an employee. Some people genuinely don’t know the difference. Some don’t care. As a freelancer the onus is on you to pay close attention to what they say and don’t say in messenger, in email, on the phone, or however you choose to communicate.
As a freelancer, you may or may not choose to accept a position that requires you to work certain hours, in a certain time zone, and certain days of the week. There are some clients who want a freelancer available during certain hours. If you know this in the beginning and accept the job, you need to honor it or give proper notice before ending the contract. It is your responsibility to clarify the new client’s needs during the “interview” process that takes place through Upwork’s messaging platform. Most new clients will be very up front about whether they need specific days and hours.
Sometimes new clients won’t mention this or they’ll tell you it doesn’t matter. Of course, you should strive to ensure that you answer all messages from them within a reasonable time frame. My personal time frame is within 24 business hours. Why 24 business hours? Well, I’ve always set that standard for myself for returning phone calls, voicemails, and emails when I worked in more traditional capacities. Also, one of Upwork’s ranking factors is how often freelancers return messages within 24 hours. I’ve been Top Rated since before it was actually announced and launched several years ago. And I strive to keep it that way.
Sometimes those new clients who said they don’t need specific hours or days get really pissy if you don’t work when they think you should. This is where it becomes your responsibility to train the new client. When someone is an employee, they are generally required to work whatever hours they are contracted to work or whatever hours they are assigned by their employer. As a freelancer we are not required to do so according to the IRS. In fact, requiring certain hours is one of those thin lines (when it comes to taxes) that determine whether someone is a freelancer / independent contractor or an employee. The IRS’ website also states that the payer (in this case, the client) has the right to control the or direct the type of work, but not how or when it is done.
When this happens, I gently remind new clients that I am a freelancer and that according to the IRS, one of the differentiating factors between what I can do as a freelancer and what I could do if I were an employee is how and when the work is done. To be fair, I tend to do the work in the way that client believes it should be done. If I don’t think they have the right plan or that it’s missing something, I’ll bring it up in a professional conversation, but if they want to stick to their plan, that’s what we do. It’s their project and they leave feedback. On Upwork, you live and die by the feedback left for you.
Related: How to Handle Firing a Client
Point New Clients to the Right Resources
I have a lot of love and respect for Upwork. In my opinion, Upwork is the best platform for freelancers. There are major corporations, including Fortune 500 companies, on the platform who regularly hire freelancers. There are also small businesses, medium size businesses, bigger (but not Fortune 500 size) businesses, and everything in between.
When clients are brand new to Upwork, there can be a learning curve. I’ve never hired on Upwork. However, over the past six years, I’ve worked with lots of people who are brand new…and I’ve read help files for those hiring. Why? So that I can point new clients in the right direction.
The most common concern hourly clients have is whether you will provide them with some kind of summary of your work for the week. They don’t realize that the hourly timer takes screenshots of what you’re doing every so often and that you can notate it. Instead of making more work for yourself, politely explain that Upwork provides them with a weekly time log summary (and to my understanding, clients receive it via email on Monday morning since the end of the week for those of us in the North America is Sunday evening). They can check their email for that. You can create a list of helpful links from Upwork’s help files that you can send to clients so that they can find what they need. You can give them information on how they can contact Upwork to get help if you’re not sure how to answer their question.
Much like you felt lost when you first started freelancing, new clients often feel lost on Upwork when they first start out. Be patient as they learn. Answer questions in a way that is both authoritative and kind. Always ask yourself if how you’re answering them would be something you’d feel comfortable being shared on a public forum in a screenshot.
Don’t be afraid to tell them you don’t have the answer. You can always give them Upwork’s information so that they can get the help they need if it is something that is outside of your direct control. But…be kind.