You’d think freelance accountability wasn’t a thing by the amount of people running businesses off great intentions and no idea. You’d be surprised at how many toddlers and teenagers seemed to have adult coatings. Or maybe you wouldn’t. There is a lot of it going around. This pandemic business is making it super easy to hurl toys out of the pram. And then throw the pram after it. Like pram curling post toy hurling, I suppose.
Getting back to the main point: freelance accountability
Being accountable seems to be a little patchy. I am not sure if it was always this way or if it’s because we’ve been trained to expect less consequences due to our lives online.
But you, me and every other freelancer has to be accountable. We have to be accountable for our business, how we treat clients and how we portray our industry.
The problem is, we often forget freelance accountability the most when the chips are down.
How to be accountable (with clients)
Yes, clients can be maddening, obtuse, rude and downright mean at times. But not all the time. And not without any input from us whatsoever. The truly villainous client may exist, but they’re not riding around in coaches to their secret lairs and arsehole conventions.
Freelance accountability with your client means:
· Having a work scope (or statement of work or proposal) and fulfilling the requirements
· Manage your clients appropriately. Don’t confuse being in service for servitude. Don’t wait for the client to organise you or call all the shots. You have a role called project manager underneath the other job title you give yourself. Use it
· Being proactive about issues. Highlight problems as soon as you know about them. That’s instead of the dodgy fix or ducking it, hoping it may go away with time
· Always follow up. If you don’t know the answer, ask. Or if the assets haven’t arrived, chase them. If the invoice remains unpaid, chase that too
· Own your mistakes. We all make mistakes from time to time. We shouldn’t hold ourselves to such unreasonable standards that we internalise mistakes.
· Accept feedback on the chin. Perfectionism is recognised on the neuroticism scale for a very good reason. Because it’s unhealthy. We shouldn’t set the bar so high that we don’t allow for drafts, revisions and feedback
· Communicate well and often. The fear of not knowing is powerful. Don’t invite it by avoiding communication. Get ahead of the client asking for updates and let them know what’s going on
· Set goals. Make sure you are accountable to yourself and what you want to get out of freelancing by having specific goals you want to meet
Freelance accountability within your industry means:
· Having boundaries. Have a terms and conditions document – and enforce it. Say no to unreasonable requests
· Knowing your limits. There’s a difference between stretching yourself with a project and being out of your depth. Don’t do work you really, really don’t know how to do
· Charging appropriately. You don’t have to accept late payment, low payment or no payment as the usual deal with freelancing. Stop investing in the idea that not being remunerated appropriately is our lot in life
· Applying critical thinking. There’s a little too much “oh hell no- kick them to the curb! <insert finger snap and bobbly head motion here>” reactions to the minute something goes wrong with a client. We don’t understand or untangle shitty situations by moving straight into blame
· Respecting your peers. Treating your peers and even your competitors the way you want to be treated (e.g. without gossip, with support and without damaging their reputation). So, what if you don’t like someone? Nobody made you Queen or King of the world
· Acting ethically. Don’t ghost clients, overcharge them simply because you can, sell your client’s secrets to their competitors, outsource work without their knowledge, undermine the work of others or engage in practices that put your clients at risk
· Walking the talk. Don’t be the freelancer that advocates for your rights and then take advantage of others
· Being a role model. We’re all setting the standard for other freelancers in the way we act and the things we say. Consider that when your emotions take over, especially on social media
· Not engaging in name and shame. Not only is it a precarious legal situation to put yourself in, it looks combative and like you’ve lost your composure. Even if you have a good reason to be angry with a client or another person, it often tags you as a person to avoid
· Meeting your deadlines. That means getting better at your time estimation and project management (not pulling all-nighters and scraping in by the skin of your teeth)
· Being consistent. Nobody wants you to promise the earth. They want you to deliver what you promise
· Not stealing clients or ruining reputations. We have no right to assume that because we failed to work with someone means they are a working failure
· Knowing the law and best practice. Freelance accountability means taking ownership of knowing the law, ATO expectations, best practice within the industry, relevant guidelines and so on. Especially if we’re selling that expertise to our clients!
What does freelance accountability look like for you?