Expat Freelancer: The intelligence of clients

Being a freelance worker means that you have ‘clients’. If you are not a freelance worker, then in your job you may still deal with clients, but more importantly, you will deal with your Boss. Your Boss will be the one to (usually) manage your projects, tell you if your work is good, or tell you what you need change.

As a freelance worker you, and only you, work directly with your client. This means that all of the potential downsides (annoyances) of a client are amplified. Not always, of course. Some clients ‘get it’ – they are smart and do not want to waste their own time.

Yet, you will always have some clients that follow the exact same patterns.

What happens first is that you have a meeting (or several) to discuss the initial part of the project – the idea – and what to do with it. In any creative field, you want to try something new. You don’t want to show the world what it has already seen, unless you are lazy, lack talent, or have no pride in your work.

In these initial discussions, it seems that the client is right on board with you; they want to be new, trend-setting, avant-garde, and any other such thing beside that could possibly set them apart from their competitors.

What basically then happens is that you will show them the first draft, and they crap themselves. Trying something new? Setting trends? Being avant-garde? No, all of this (especially here) is suddenly very scary to them. You’ve taken them out of their comfort zone of simply doing what everyone else does and what has been done before.

So you send them draft after draft after draft, and to each one they say that they like it but that you need to change it a bit, and a bit, and a bit —– until finally you end up with exactly what they say they didn’t want in the first place.

Then they say they like it and they pay you.

Another of just one of the dull-thinking things that a client may do is tell you what you have been telling them, again and again.

For example – they send you some photos for any use – a webpage, a brochure, a video or such. You tell them it’s not really suitable for the purpose. They tell you ‘but I like it’. Time goes on. You still tell them that you need something else and are waiting for X, Y and Z from them. Time goes on. They then come back to you and say ‘you know, I don’t really think that photo is suitable. Can you please use something else?’

They then completely fail to realize that you have been telling them this for a month.

Or similarly, despite your received email (that they replied to) asking them for a list of things, they keep calling you and asking meaningless questions like ‘what are the milestones for this project? My Boss feels unclear on it? What are the milestones?’

‘You know that email I sent you weeks ago? Well that’s what I’m waiting on’


The meaningless conversation continues in their head for a while, they mess around their office, and, as usual here, everyone is too afraid to make an actual decision, so time goes on, and on…


Categories: Work


Foreigner in Shanghai


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5 Comments on “Expat Freelancer: The intelligence of clients”

  1. October 19, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    What kind of freelance work do you do?

    • October 19, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

      A secretive one 😉

    • October 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

      I knew it! I need to find something else besides this whole teaching thing. It’ll be good for a while but I can’t do it forever.

    • October 19, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

      No ‘S’ word here, please 🙂

      Well, you can only freelance at something that you can do. So it depends what you have to offer this great World!

    • October 19, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

      Ooop , I’ll keep it on the down low. 😉 . Anyone need a freelance bike rider? I can do that!

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