Client Guide: How to Buy the Perfect Gift for Your Freelancer During the Holidays

Most of us know what it’s like to work a traditional (meaning not working from home) job. There are a lot of drawbacks, but there are also a few perks. And you may not see the perks right now if you’re reading this and you’re interested in working from home.

I miss a traditional work environment around the holidays. I always moved work potlucks and gifts of appreciation, which was anything from a paid lunch to a small gift card to a bonus. When you work from home, there are no more holiday gatherings…unless you’re working from home for a business in your area and they invite you to attend.

Last year, several of my clients held an online “holiday party.” They used Skype, Slack, or Zoom to hold a video call and we all joined. It’s no the same, but it was a very nice gesture.

I am often asked by people who are hiring a freelancer for the first time whether it is appropriate to buy them a gift during the holidays. And, if so, what makes a good gift?

Related: 10 Invaluable Freelancing for Beginner Tips

Can Clients Give Freelancers a Gift During the Holidays?

The answer is: it depends. In most instances, it’s fine to do so. If, however, you’ve hired a lawyer from a freelancing platform, you may need to do some research to determine if there are limitations on gift giving. In some jurisdictions, giving a gift to a lawyer is a no no for ethical reasons. In other jurisdictions, gifts are fine as long as they are small, for example you opt to give then a $50 gift card to a restaurant instead of $10,000. So, first consider their profession and learn whether there are ethics guidelines that must be followed. You certainly don’t want to inadvertently cause a problem.

For most professionals, such as writers, editors, SEO experts, web developers, virtual assistants, etc., it’s almost always acceptable to give them a small token of appreciation around the holiday. However, you are under NO obligation to do so.

How to Buy the Right Gift for Your Freelancer

So, I’m sure you noticed I said it is almost always acceptable if you want to give a gift. Why almost always? Well, everyone has preferences about whether they would enjoy receiving a gift or if it would make them feel awkward or indebted. Before you do anything else, get to know your freelancer, their likes, and their dislikes. This isn’t just about favorite coffee shops, favorite colors, or favorite activities. This is getting to know them as humans and whether they’d appreciate a gift or if they may find that to be an awkward situation. However, most would probably still appreciate a very nominal gift.

Consider What You Know about Them

I know some clients who hire for short term reasons and they may hire them for other projects in the future. There are others who hire freelancers for long term projects or keep them on retainer. Just like you would do with an employee, you get to know them a little during the time that you work together. If, during the course of your interactions, they tell you a fact from a book they recently read, perhaps consider buying a gift card from a bookstore; make sure it can also be used online in the event that the chain isn’t in their area. Perhaps during video conferences, you see that they always drink coffee, tea, or a certain brand of sparkling water. A gift card to a coffee place, a website that sells coffee or tea, or sparkling water. Last year, a client sent me a Starbucks gift card in the mail. I can’t drink coffee because it raises my blood pressure. I didn’t expect them to know that. I went and bought some muffins with it.

If you know that are vegetarian, vegan, low carb, kosher, or have a special eating regimen, keep that in mind. You don’t have to go overboard in research. You can just use common sense.

If they’re into fitness or have another hobby you know about, buy some resistance bands or something they can use when they’re engaging in their hobby.

How to Learn What Your Freelancer Likes

You have a couple of options to learn what your freelancer likes so that you can find the right gift (should you choose to give one; again, you are NOT obligated).

  1. Pay attention when the two of you talk. Many of us are very open because we work from home for a reason. I have CPTSD. I have a special needs son. I like working alone because I am extremely introverted. Most of my clients know that I crochet, build dollhouses, quilt, and love to cook…because I am a real person and so are they and building personal (yet professional) relationships is part of the freelancing process.
  2. Look them up on social media. I am not talking about getting overly nosy. I am not talking about sending them a friend request. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are three great places where you can learn more about their likes and dislikes. If you see them on Goodreads and they update their list a lot, you can choose a book from their “want to read” list. If you pictures on their Instagram of their latest completed blanket, you could send sewing, crochet, or knitting notions (depending on how the blanket was made) or a gift card to an online website that sells those things.

You Can Even Keep It Practical

Here’s the truth about freelancing or small business / fledgling business in general (and also the truth for many people who work a traditional job). There can be times when business slows down. If freelancers aren’t working (which is common for some at the end of the year because the industries they serve are wrapping up loose ends), they aren’t getting paid. So, it’s like living paycheck to paycheck.

Related: The Truth about Why So Many Women Fail When They Start a Business

Consider a prepaid debit card or a gift card for a grocery store in their area. With a prepaid debit card, the freelancer could use for groceries, to help with a monthly bill, or whatever they need to do. A gift card for a grocery store can be awesome because it is a way to show them you appreciate them and they can choose things that fit into their chosen diet.

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