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October 3, 2016Meek freelancers are bad freelancers

I recently read about a conversation that said ‘creative directors love hiring freelancers because they’re non-confrontational’.

In other words, people see us as yes men who don’t rock the boat.

If you’ve ever met me, you’ll know that I’m an argumentative little shit and once I’m convinced that something is right for your business, I won’t give up until you’ve convinced me I’m wrong.

But most freelancers aren’t that way.

My longest ever booking was for a year and a half. But my average booking is just a month, and I’m frequently booked for just one week.

If you’re somewhere for a year, you get to know the people and the project and feel personally invested in it.

If you’re only somewhere for a week… or less… well, what do you do?
  • Do you fight for what you think is right?
  • Do you risk getting a reputation for being difficult?
  • Do you worry about getting your card marked as “too difficult to work with, don’t hire again”
  • Do you care about the quality of the work when it won’t go live until six months after you’re gone (if it goes live at all?)

Or…

  • Do you just say “Fuck it, we’re only here for the week”
  • Do you just say “Yes, sir, that sounds like a great idea” …to anything?
  • Do you say “Well, our idea wasn’t that good anyway. Let’s go with the other one, we get paid either way.”
  • Do you say “I can’t see that being a problem down the line” (even when you can see the problem approaching like an oncoming juggernaut).

When you put it that way, of course most freelancers become non-confrontational yes-men. The few who don’t get a reputation for being bolshy and difficult to work with in a way that full-timers don’t.

For me, the ability to say no, to be confrontational (in a polite but direct manner of course, we’re not talking about getting into a punch-up in the office!) when defending your work is the mark of a good creative.

(Another mark is knowing when to take direction and when to admit that you’re completely wrong!).

But fighting for your work is the single most important mark of being a good freelancer. It shows that you still care.

Actually caring enough to fight for your work is a good thing.

Saying “well fuck it, we’re only here for a week, let’s just not argue for our best work, cash our pay check, and get the hell out of here” is the worst thing you can do.

It worries me that people might hire freelancers because they don’t like conflict.

Not just because, being a fairly confrontational type, I’m probably missing out on a fair bit of work.

It worries me because as more and more agencies rely on freelancers to get time-critical projects done, agencies won’t be able to do their best work.

Because it’s not just the freelancers who are choosing the path of least resistance. Saying “fuck it, it’s good enough”.

The agencies are too.

They’re saying “I don’t want to spend time fighting with my creatives over doing our best work.”
They’re saying “I just want to get the work out there, get it done.”

They’re choosing the path of least resistance. But they’re also choosing the path of doing poor quality work.

Maybe I’m in a minority, but I love working with argumentative bastards. Because they’re the passionate ones. The crazy ones. The ones who actually love what they do.

I’ve occasionally been hired by people who are outright shocked that I’m willing to fight for my work – they expect freelancers to be meek and to know their place.

If you hire a meek, timid freelancer – someone who isn’t prepared to fight for their work – don’t be surprised if the work is mediocre.

Us argumentative types may not be the easiest to work with – but we always give you our best work.

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