Rodney Dangerfield made a career by declaring he received no respect. More precisely, he said, “I don’t get no respect!” which, being grammatically incorrect, actually means he does get respect, but I digress. Dangerfield was not referring to freelance writers or the self employed when he performed his comedy routine, but he might as well have been because we don’t get any respect.
I have been self employed for nearly three years and in that time have read countless job ads and spoken to hundreds of clients and potential clients. Today’s post is based on my observations.
Individuals and companies hiring freelance workers often have unrealistic expectations when it comes to scheduling, pay and the types of individuals their job postings will attract. Here are some examples:
I was approached a few months ago with a job offer. The duties were straightforward and along the lines of what I have been doing. It was a position I was qualified for and could easily do. The problem? I was required to work eight hours a day in Beijing’s time zone. This person knew I was located in North America but still required I work on their time. Needless to say I turned the position down and cited unrealistic hours as the reason.
This was not the first time I had encountered strange demands on contractors’ time. Other common requests are to be available around the clock, to be able to respond to messages within minutes of receiving them and to produce 500 word articles in less than an hour.
Low pay is perhaps the most common expectation. Prospective clients routinely offer contractors pay that is not only below a living wage, but is an insult to all writers. It emphasizes cheapness over quality and harms the industry as a whole.
As copywriter Tom Tumbusch puts it, “Every writer, designer, photographer, or other solo creative who’s willing to work for peanuts makes it more difficult for talented professionals to ask for their fair value. If the creative community as a whole makes the commitment to value themselves and their work, expectations in the business community will change over time.”
Potential clients also feel the right to ask for certain qualifications that would be illegal in on-staff job postings. Some are sexist: Postings that say the position is perfect for a “housewife” or “stay-at-home mom”. Some are racist: A post once said it was looking for a candidate who is “white sounding”.
Sometimes, even once you win a client, the unrealistic expectations don’t end. They just don’t become readily apparent until you work with someone for a while.
I have, thankfully, been blessed to have worked the majority of the time with clients who provide me with reasonable deadlines, understand when I need to take time off and pay me the value of my time and talents. There is always an exception, however, that one client who emails constantly and who behaves as if she is the only client I have and that I have nothing better to do than twiddle my thumbs and wait to hear from her. It is those types of clients that make me grateful for the rest.
I am not the only freelancer who feels a lack of respect. A survey conducted by British contractor accounting specialists Crunch Accounting discovered the self employed encounter the following stereotypes:
- 35% found people think they spend all of their time in their pajamas
- 27.4% found people think freelancers are people who can’t find full-time work
- 20.5% found people believe freelancing is a stop-gap to a full-time career
- 17% found potential clients believe freelancers are not as reliable as agencies/temps
Sadly, these stereotypes make it more difficult for freelancers and the self employed to progress in their careers and make a living.
Have you experienced disrespect in your profession? Tell me about it.