Freelancers vs Clients: Freelancers are also at the receiving end

The other side of the story: Problems offshore freelancers experience with clients

Offshore freelancing is often a hit and miss affair. If successful, clients can reap highly cost effective and brilliant results. If, on the other hand, it is a failure, then clients are quick to vent their frustrations and lay blame with the offshore freelancer. In this entire exercise, clients are often oblivious to the fact that freelancers also often find the outsourcing process frustrating and they, in turn, feel the fault lies with the client when freelancing fails.

So, let's take a look at some of the common problems freelancers encounter with clients:

1. Going beyond the initially agreed project requirements

Many clients post a 4-line project requirement on freelancing sites only for the project specifications to become four pages long when the freelancer actually starts work.

The Lesson;It is not the fault of the freelancer if the client was unable to envisage in the initial stages the full requirements of the project. Vague project specifications are likely to be a source of problem later down the line.

2. No knowledge of market conditions

Clients often feel that any figure they pluck out of the air is the right budget that will meet all the specifications in their project. Often this budget has been decided upon with little or no calculation of existing rates or local market conditions. Perhaps, due to not being technically proficient in the subject field or having the belief that countries like India, China or the Philippines are poor, clients often behave as though a freelancer should gratefully accept whatever amount they decide.

The Lesson; Clients should not be so arrogant as to think that what they decide is necessarily fair remuneration. Clients are well advised to research into local compensation packages in the field in which they are outsourcing.

3. An idea backed with limited funds

Often clients using freelancing sites are not established businesses but individuals who have an 'idea' and a few dollars to spare. With freelancers from Third World countries commanding low salaries, many such people believe that their idea can very quickly be transformed into reality despite limited funds. When an already restricted budget begins to very quickly deplete, requires more investment and the idea is far from fruition, clients often unfairly start to vent frustration on the freelancer.

The Lesson; Like in any business or even an entrepreneurial idea, there are a lot of hidden costs that also need to be factored into the calculations. For any idea to make it past the drawing board it will most likely require serious financial backing. Don't have unrealistic expectations from your freelancer based on the few hundred dollars you are paying them.

4. Not technically proficient

Clients who are not technically proficient in the work they are outsourcing to a freelancer often have unrealistic targets and expectations and often fail to understand the complexities of the work the freelancer has to do.

The Lesson; You have to have a certain amount of trust and faith in the freelancer you are working with. For instance, with software programming, there is often a lot of testing and bugging that has to be done. A non-technical IT person may be quick to start criticising when, in reality, this is just a typical (and crucial) phase that is expected during any software development.

5. Mistakes can happen

Clients expect their project to be completed smoothly, quickly and perfectly. But mistakes can and do happen. Most provide rather sketchy project outlines to their freelancer, making the project easily go off track. Secondly, there is practically no collaboration with the freelancer or regular communication and feedback. Mistakes happen because the client has erroneously judged the full demands of the project.

The Lesson; In areas such as software development and web designing, often errors and delays do occur; that is just the nature of the work. Clients need to be more flexible and understand that from a brief project specification it is difficult to sometimes predict the demands of the project and that problems can sometimes occur.

6. Poor Ratings

A client may have unrealistic expectations, a vague project specification and a limited budget. The client may have significantly, if not mainly, contributed to the failure of a project. But, the irony is that ultimately it is the client who can leave a poor rating, unflattering remarks on the freelancer's performance, thereby unfairly tarnishing a freelancer's reputation.

The Lesson; The client should keep in mind that no freelancer, no matter how qualified and experienced, can fulfil unrealistic expectations. It is unfair to lash out at a freelancer based on a performance in which the client has also actively played a debilitating role. Giving poor ratings to a freelancer will lower his market value and all through no real fault of theirs.


It is prudent to take into consideration the constraints and demands under which a freelancer is working and try and understand and appreciate their perspective too. If a client does this, they will understand that by no means do freelancers have an easy job. The more planning and research that goes into your project specifications; actively discussing your work expectations with freelancers before awarding the project; understanding the market conditions; and learning about the intricacies of your project area of work will all go a long way to help make your freelancing experience a success.