Freelancers from Hell: How to Dispel Common Myths About Them

10/31/2018
9 min read time
Have you ever been ghosted by a freelancer? No emails, no work, no feedback. Nothing at all from a person who was at your full disposal just moments ago, and is now nowhere to be found. Your devoted project partner just turned into a ghost! The project is at a halt, the budget keeps draining down the hole, and you need to solve the problem – fast! This is just an example of the many freelance horror stories that raise unnecessary fears in clients. You must have had your own share of poor experiences with bad freelancers – those that come with a creepy feeling that your project is destined for a fail and doomsday is just around the corner. In that brief moment, you think that hell is on Earth! How come you didn’t notice those freelancer red flags on time?     freelancing myths For Halloween – myths, legends, horror stories, haunted places, and spooky characters abound. They remind us that we need to honor the scary stuff, if, for nothing else, then just to remember the lessons learned from getting too far into the unknown.   But can a handful of freelance horror stories water down the promising and fertile digital environment? Absolutely not! Digital products and risk go hand by hand. There is always some amount of fear involved.   This is a good fear, the one that gets the entrepreneurial blood pumping. Yup, freelancers from hell do exist. But if you fall for the myth that you can’t rely on a freelancer, and let fears paralyze your efforts to expand your comfort zone and collaborate with freelancers, you are missing on an untapped potential that can one day deliver products from paradise. To become confident in the mercurial freelance world, all you need is a change of perspective. Many of those myths are just scarecrows. Let’s bust some myths and help those old ghosts lay to rest!  

Myth #1. Trust

How do you trust and work with someone you never saw in person? You can be apprehensive about meeting new people. But if you remember Minnie Castevet, the friendly neighbor from the famous horror classic “Rosemary’s Baby”, she fell into the “nice old lady stereotype”. In the end, she turned out to be responsible for bringing the little baby devil to life!
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Working with freelancers can be gratifying if you learn how to build trust. In the beginning, keep tasks and project cycles short and sweet, and clearly agree on the tools and technologies you’re going to use. Communicate clearly and on time. And, unlike Rosemary, don’t forget to use your gut sense in interviews!  

Myth #2. Long-haul investment

How do you know that a freelancer won’t quit within a day or two of working with them? After all – isn’t that what the freelance lifestyle is all about? Not really! It’s time to bust the myth about the “freelance vampire” once and for all. Freelancers are not interested only in short gigs that suck the blood out of the project, leaving your wondering how to handle the aftermath of a poor casual working relationship. Most freelancers are interested in building long-term relationships with clients. Give them a boost by elaborating the larger project picture. Ask them how they can make it brighter. As we all know, vampires don’t bode well under the sun! So if you shed some light on long-term projects at the start (garlic and pointed sticks unnecessary), you’ll definitely invest in reliable freelancers.  

Myth #3. Availability

How do you know that a freelancer will show up when you need them? Don’t they just scatter time across multiple projects? Actually, freelancers are quite concerned with being available. Freelance work is a type of entrepreneurship, so if you want to have your freelance team available when you need it, set some clear boundaries and deadlines. It will help both you and the freelancer breathe a sigh of relief and set expectancies.
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There are a plethora of virtual tools that can help you get the best of the vigor, enthusiasm, and unique skills of freelancers who are into the lifestyle because they can contribute more than what you get from a conventional employee.    

Myth # 4. Power imbalance

Your career and sometimes a big part of your life depend on your project. How do you get quality work from someone whose career doesn’t depend on it? In a way, the freelancer can think the same things about you – how do I know that my client won’t ditch me after I make one tiny mistake and replace me with a colleague before I can get a chance to have a say?   There is a grain of truth to both sides of the story. As Lord Varys from the “Game of Thrones” said it: “Power resides where people believe it resides”.
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As long as you are clear about the powers you are investing in the project and expect the same from the freelancer, you will stay safe from web developer horror stories, product design gone wrong, and poorly executed applications.  

Myth #5. Inconsistency

How do you deal with inconsistent freelancers? What happens when a freelancer leaves a project and you need to find another one immediately? How do you tackle different working habits or styles, for instance, coding skills, writing, or design? Along with the liberty to choose different gigs comes the responsibility to show up consistently and provide the best work for clients. Freelance work involves a fair amount of risk on the freelancer’s behalf – finding work, chasing clients, prompting payments, and managing an office. So if you thought freelancers think projects are a child’s play, you have fallen for the myth of the unreliable bad freelancer. After all, more than 40 percent of the U.S. workforce can’t be unreliable, can it?  

Myth #6. Communication breakdowns

Now we come to the problem from the introduction – how do you deal with communication breakdowns? Freelancers acting like ghosts and disappearing. Freelancers talking in a completely different language due to cultural differences. Halloween is the time for celebrating ghosts, aliens, and weird creatures, but only if they come dressed in costumes knocking at your door for a trick-or-treat. No one likes being left in the dark, even figuratively, by leaving a mobile app team half-way through a project or a website half-done. There are plenty of reasons for your part-time gig partners to leave you and they are difficult to predict. You don’t need to own a crystal ball to unravel the mystery, but you can raise your preparedness levels by establishing the ground rules on communication platforms. Having a backup person is a clever approach, too. In today’s abundance of virtual talent, you cannot let one freelance horror story create a lasting impression. Remember  – everyone is replaceable!  

Myth #7. Lack of team culture

The lone-wolf mentality is not so rare in the freelance lifestyle, but judging the many by the few is not an objective standpoint. True, the nature of freelance work, such as long hours of coding or researching writing material can impact a member’s alignment with a team. However, that’s not always the case. You can’t let the natural negativity bias affect your decisions when you decide about the best person to work on a team. It’s a prejudice that the freelance lifestyle is antisocial. Many freelancers work in coworking spaces, organize meetups, and abundantly share on social channels. Can it be that you’re letting Halloween affect your way of thinking?    

Myth # 8. The “Doctor Who” freelancer

How do you pick up an expert when you don’t know what you are looking for? Does this person justify the skills and the education placed in their resume, profile, or portfolio? Aren’t they kind of vague? They’re not telling you anything concrete.
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The problem of “fake experts” is often the problem of “falsely communicated expertise”. To weed out bad freelancers and protect yourself from a real-life horror story, ask the expert in question to give you more details about how they will deal with your specific project. This translates skills from theory to practice and provides another assurance level that there is nothing to be afraid of.    

Myth #9. Vindictive freelancers

Although bad freelancers don’t harbor years of resentment like the most famous villains from horror movies, there are the occasional web developer horror stories, which include unethical or vengeful working practices. When things go awry between a client and provider, anything can happen. A fully functional website vanishes into the thin air. Malware is all over your platform. Years of developed source code go to your competitor. You have not only jeopardized your business, but also affected your client’s privacy and security.
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Sounds pretty horrific doesn’t it? Well – these are things that can happen in any work environment. It doesn’t have to be a freelance project. Relax – there is nothing a web developer can do that cannot be reversed. But you can still take it easy by assigning limited repository access, implementing source controls, and signing an NDA agreement.   Halloween is an incredibly appropriate time to dispel some common myths about the freelance lifestyle. Most freelancers are not the flaky, sketchy characters that could ruin your cherished project in a jiffy. They can bring fresh value to your project, only if you take the plunge and leave those unfounded fears aside.