Deadly Jargon: Common Phrases Freelancers Hear that Jam up Creativity

Posted by Alexa Audet on Aug 27, 2019 9:00:00 AM


For a freelancer, there are some days when they feel the true greatness of what it is they get to do for a living. Sitting down to work makes them feel like a regular Hemingway or Picasso. They’re enlightened by the realization of their living and invigorated by a dedication to their work.

And as lovely as these days are, the truth is they’re often more few and far between than they are abundant. The reality is that freelancers spend most of their time working on projects with parameters set by those who either don’t fully understand their world or their processes. And that’s ok! If we all knew each other’s worlds through and through, there’d be no such thing as a specialty.

That being said, we thought it would be a worthwhile (and maybe even a little entertaining) to do a quick exercise in some of the most common phrases freelancers hear, and how to avoid them for the best project results possible.

Language Affects Creativity

The fact is, what you say matters. And a phrase that may seem completely arbitrary to you may crush your creative. It’s not that your freelancer isn’t a professional that will get the job done. However, creativity is a fragile thing. If you want the best results from your creative hire, it’s important to communicate with them in a way that fuels their desire to make brilliant things happen, not stifles it.

Here are a few examples…


The Revolving Rush Project

What You Say:

“This one’s a rush project.”

What Your Freelancer Hears:

“Here comes another one. This will have extremely tight deadlines that don’t allow for a creative process to take hold. But we’ll still need a great end result from you, even though you have no time to set yourself or us up for success.”

What You Should Say:

We’re the first to understand that stuff happens. Sometimes projects really are needed in a rush, and your hands are tied. But if every project is a fire drill, it’s time to reevaluate your process and make a change. When you do run into the occasional rush project, try this instead.

“We know the timeline on this one is tight, and we don’t want to ask you for more than what’s attainable. What do you feel is a realistic timeline for something like this to be done?” If the freelancer’s proposed timeline won’t cut it, consider doing a smaller workload that will get you a higher-quality deliverable, or be ok with the fact that finished may be better than perfect in this instance.


The Sweet Talker

What You Say:

It shouldn't take too long for someone like you.”

What Your Freelancer Hears:

I’m expecting you to whip up something brilliant in a quarter of the time it realistically calls for. Oh, and you don’t have any other clients who need things done for them, do you?

What You Should Say:

While you may really intend this to be a compliment, it feels like false flattery to get what you want. Think about it—this phrase puts your freelancer in an impossible position. To contradict you is now to contradict your trust in their being talented. To say anything that disagrees is to trash talk their own abilities.

However, you really may be setting them up for failure by expecting whatever you need with a tight turnaround time. Not to mention, this assumes you’re the only priority on your freelancer’s list. And while a good freelancer should make any client feel this way, it’s also good to respect that they likely have other clients with equally tight timelines and expectations.

Even just acknowledging this alone may motivate your freelancer to go above and beyond to get the impossible done for you. You’d be shocked how rare these nuggets are for freelancers, and they carry a lot of power. For a better outcome, try:

“We seriously appreciate the time and work you’ve been pouring into everything so far—it really shows!


The Exposure Entrapment

What You Say:

“We can’t exactly pay you, but we can offer you exposure.”

What Your Freelancer Hears:

“We’re totally going to exploit your time and energy. We also think you’re kind of a sucker.”

What You Should Say:

Look, we’re not saying we assume your intentions aren’t pure. You may have such confidence in your company that you truly believe that the exposure you bring could change this freelancer’s life.

It doesn’t matter.

Your freelancer is a professional, not a street performer. Just as you would never give your products away for free, a freelancer shouldn’t either. Instead of expecting them to go all-in, try this approach instead:

“Unfortunately, we can’t pay you in full right now. To mitigate risk on each side, how do you feel about doing work in preestablished increments that allow us to pay you in installments over the timeline of the project?”

Note: If you can’t do this, you can’t hire a freelancer. Period. It seems silly to explain that if you can’t pay to hire someone you shouldn’t try to hire them, but hey, we’ve seen it all.

Freelancers, what are some of the craziest comments your clients have made? Clients, what are some dilemmas you’ve run into when hiring creatives we can help you talk through? Tell us in the comments!


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Topics: product marketing, Marketing Methodology, Digital Strategy

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