Top List Tuesday: Top 10 Pet Peeves for Freelancers/Independent Contractors



Welcome to Top List Tuesday! Today’s list is about my Top 10 Pet Peeves regarding situations I often face as a freelancer or independent contractor. I’m sure some of you readers who also work from home can relate!



 You want me to do WHAT?


Seriously, some clients expect you to be mind readers! They provide some vague idea of the project and their expectations–you do the best you can with the limited information they gave you–and then they come back with complaints and “this is not what I had in mind.” Well, umm, you should have expressed your expectations more clearly! In writing or with an example would be even better!

In addition, even when you’re doing similar work (such as writing assessment questions or creating storyboards for instructional design purposes), each client is different and uses different templates and includes variable details. Providing the template with instructions and a completed sample would go a LONG way toward ensuring the EXPECTED outcome!


 High expectations – low pay


Seriously, some clients have high expectations while offering low pay rates! They express high expectations for the scope of the work and the deadlines, but offer pay rates that are ridiculous and even insulting in comparison. The laughable part is when their job ads say “competitive pay” and you have to wonder, compared to WHAT, exactly?

For example, I often see ads for professional writers who can write clearly, with no errors, and can do good research to ensure a quality article — paying $1 for 500 words!! Are you KIDDING me??

Even worse are the ads offering NO pay, but stating “this is a great opportunity to get exposure and have a byline.” No, it’s a great opportunity for the client to get FREE content!

I like the slogan used by the Freelancers Union: “Freelance isn’t FREE!”


 Changing terms with no changes in compensation


Seriously, changing terms of work without changes in compensation is NOT right!  This is happening to me right now, and it’s not the first time! The independent contractor statement of work agreement describes, among other things, the scope of the work, the designated pay for that work, the general timeline or at least final completion date, and often states that any changes will be attached in an addendum. Unfortunately, the client doesn’t always follow those terms and just piles on additional work. It’s usually understood that revisions are part of the writing process, but there should be a limit – like 2 or no more than 3.

However, when the client changes the template, and wants things done differently, and wants MORE work than originally described–but offers no additional compensation–that’s just WRONG!

For example, I’m currently working to complete a particular project and be done with it (and perhaps with the client, as well  — as the opening quote states, sometimes it’s necessary to LEAVE the situation, or the client, in this case). I had completed writing assessment questions for two chapters — nearly 100 questions — when suddenly the project manager told me the client had requested changes in the template AND wanted additional information included in each set (question, answers, and rationales).

The editor for the project had made the easy fixes in the template (removing extraneous verbiage), and had written the additional information–BUT…she had just copied and pasted from my question and correct answer in each case. The client didn’t like that and said the rationale needed to expand on the answer, not just repeat it. So they told ME to fix the editor’s mess… for no additional compensation–which was about 10 hours of time. NOT happy! This situation has made me very reluctant to finish out the contract with the remaining six chapters of assessment questions.


 Taking  F  O  R  E  V  E  R   to pay!!!  $$$


Seriously, going back to the mission of the Freelancers Union: to ensure freelancers and independent  contractors not only get paid, but get paid well and in a timely manner. Another slogan of theirs is, “Your 90-day payout doesn’t coincide with my 30-day bill payments!”

I worked for one client, twice (because they assured me they had changed the payout structure), who STILL (from what I have heard from other freelancers) takes 60 to 90 days or more to pay their contractors after work is completed! Yet other clients have no problem paying weekly, bi-weekly, or at the most, within 30 days. Expecting independent contractors to wait 60 to 90 days (or MORE) to get paid is just asinine. It’s no wonder this particular company is constantly hiring — they can’t keep good contractors once they find out they won’t be paid in a timely manner!

In two other cases, the people in charge of processing invoices simply didn’t do their jobs and kept coming up with excuses for why payment was delayed. This ineptitude required going over their heads to get paid and receiving apologies from those higher up (the CEO, in one case!) for the unprofessional handling of the compensation processing.

I have also NOT been paid at all a couple times. The clients just never sent the promised compensation and never replied to multiple emails and phone messages.


 No consideration of time


Seriously, we work from home for a reason. We like the flexibility and convenience of setting our own schedules, and working those schedules around our lives, not our lives around someone else’s schedule. Yes, it’s understood there are deadlines and those are fine within reason.

What is unreasonable is the expectation that freelancers working from home should be available 24-7, across multiple time zones, regardless of prior obligations, family demands, and other things that require our time, including time OFF. It is difficult enough to leave “work at work” when you work from home, but it’s even worse when clients have so little respect for the situation and expect you will just work through the night or the weekend to meet THEIR schedules just because you are working from home.


 Ignoring the line between independent contractor and employee


Seriously, independent contractors and freelancers are typically NOT employees! There are some exceptions when great companies offer remote employee positions, with benefits and all (just had an interview today for one such job!), but in most cases, those of us who work from home usually operate as independent contractors on a 1099 basis. Yes, we still need to meet terms of work such as how the client wants it completed, and meet deadlines or milestones as described in a contract or agreement. Yes, sometimes there’s the request to be generally available during normal work hours in some specific time zone. BUT … clients are not free to tell us when, where, and how much to complete in the sense of, “You will be at your desk from 8am to 4pm every weekday and complete ‘x’ each day.”

This article on Entrepreneur about helping companies determine the status of independent contractors states it this way:

“Employees are told what to do, but freelancers are told what needs to be done….You should avoid having freelancers working from your location or give them specific arrival and departure times. Freelancers should be able to work where and when they want.”


Bait and switch


Seriously, this happens way too often. You think you’re applying for a specific position and pay rate, based on the job description, but after you accept the position and start working… BAM!!Oh, and you need to do this and this and this … but for the same pay.”

This has happened on multiple occasions on short-lived projects (because I said ‘no thank you’ when the truth was revealed). In one case, I was hired as an editor/proofreader at a certain pay rate…except it was really an editor/proofreader/rewriter/writer position of existing content or “barely there” content that needed several hundred words added to it – for NO additional compensation! In addition to that, the project manager/senior editor had very specific ideas about what she wanted included in each article, so it was in effect her dictating how and what to write.

In another case, the client was hiring resume writers “for an easy copy/paste into new templates” resume-writing job. Shouldn’t take more than a half hour per resume, for a certain price. NOT! It was actually a job requiring a completely rewritten resume entered into the new template, with 80% NEW content, which obviously took much longer than 30 minutes – with NO additional compensation! Oh, and multiple revisions, AND the client took a percentage off the top, so the actual pay was about half of the stated pay, for much more work.


 Drop everything – urgent!


Seriously, we are not at a client’s beck and call!  This one reflects many of the same situations mentioned in previous pet peeves here. Independent contractors are usually NOT employees punching a time clock. Many of us have more than one gig going at a time, and have to prioritize them. Those clients who are excellent communicators, organized, reasonable, and pay decently are going to naturally have higher priority over the client who fits none of those criteria and calls/emails out of the blue saying, “This is urgent! Do it now!” Such was the case with the resume-writing dude in #7 and the long-delayed payment client in #4. They literally thought I was waiting around to hear from them and could/would just drop everything to handle their “urgent” projects!


  No explanation…


Seriously, what is up with NOT adequately explaining things?   Closely related to #10, this pet peeve is true for responses to inquiries, applications, and interviews, as well as completing work, submitting it, and then … waiting and waiting…only to be disappointed.

Many clients or companies simply never bother to even acknowledge an inquiry or application. Even an auto-response email would be better than nothing at all. Sometimes after making it to and through the interview phase, the same thing happens. You never hear back, or you get a canned response (“Your qualifications and experience are impressive, BUT…”) with no REAL explanation about why you weren’t offered the position. This is especially frustrating when an interview seemed to go well, was very upbeat, those interviewing seemed pleased with your responses…and then the rather curt decision email and no further explanation, even upon replying and asking, “What areas can I improve for potential future opportunities?

In the case of actually doing work for a client — going back to the #1 pet peeve — if the explanation was clearer to begin with, we would more likely complete the work correctly the FIRST time, which would save everybody a lot of time and effort (and relieve frustration).


  No response…


Seriously, why do some clients go silent?  This is closely related to #9. Working remotely is challenging enough in the communication department, because you have to rely on the phone or emails to stay in touch. But when clients just seem to … disappear … into virtual space, it is equally puzzling, alarming, and frustrating–especially when it involves review of work in order to get paid, AND getting paid in and of itself.

This has happened more than once, as well, but the most frustrating one was with a client who had hired a seemingly inexperienced and/or inept project manager (who is no longer with them now). The job initially had all the earmarks of being an exceptional opportunity with great pay; in fact, I made the mistake of the proverbial “putting all the eggs in one basket” as I turned down other work to do ONLY this one job. Then it took several weeks just to get the first milestone reviewed!

The project manager simply didn’t respond to multiple emails and voice messages. When she finally sent out a group email to all the writers (so it wasn’t just me), there were a lot of excuses, but not many legitimate reasons for the lack of response. It was over two months before I finally got something approved so I could move on to doing more of this work. This also means I went about three months with no income!

This was a continual pattern of behavior, however, with this project manager, and any time any of us writers went over her head, we would get terse emails from her reminding us that SHE was in charge and we shouldn’t be talking to anyone else! She was also one of those mentioned in pet peeve #4 who mishandled invoices to the point that someone else took over to process batches of invoices she hadn’t bothered to submit, to get all of us independent contractors paid.

Bottom line: clients and independent contractors MUST keep in touch consistently when you’re working remotely, because you can’t just drop by someone’s office to discuss things.




So What About YOU?


Can you relate to any of these pet peeves, if you’re a freelancer or independent contractor?


Do you have other pet peeves I haven’t mentioned?












16 thoughts on “Top List Tuesday: Top 10 Pet Peeves for Freelancers/Independent Contractors”
  1. This is why I write my contracts very clearly. This product, with 2 revisions, will cost $X. This project includes X amount of hours of phone consulting time. I also never begin a project until after I’ve received payment.

    I had a potential client once ask for a proposal. I knew she wanted a lot of phone time, so I included 5 hours in the proposal. She then asked if I would charge for additional phone calls. When I said yes, she didn’t respond to me…but she did submit a new job request to a group I belonged to, stating that she wanted someone to work for a fixed price with unlimited phone calls. Then she was upset that no one applied!

    I also love the “I have no budget, but can you help me?” I offer a free 30-minute call, then I usually direct them to my free resources (which I have a lot of!) and let them know what my lowest-cost offers are. Then I never hear back…like they’re insulted that I won’t help them for free. Here’s what I want to say in these situations: “Yes, I’ll gladly work for free! Just let me speak with my landlord and see if it’s okay if I don’t pay rent this month. I’m sure they’ll understand.”
    Kate recently posted..Teaching An Online Course: 3 Ways to Create A Community

  2. High expectations and NO pay are my biggest pet peeves! We all work for a reason. You can’t expect to get something for free, when they know you are being paid!

  3. I can relate to so many of these. They certainly are annoying too. I hate those that want to pay you nothing or very little.

  4. The “Drop Everything Urgent” is the one that gets me most often. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to say … “You need to prioritize these jobs for me because they can’t all get done yesterday!” LOL

  5. I have been here so many times. Just a few days ago had someone tell me that I needed to change a story line to reflect a different season. There was nothing to the affect in the contract, it made for hours of more work.

  6. Oh gosh I have experienced all of this. I ended a contract because they expected me to read their minds.

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