A guest blog by Tanya De Grunwald of Graduate Fog - the website that helps graduates thrive in the new economy.
Staggering towards December 31st feeling bruised and battered by the previous year? You’re not alone – especially if you’re among the growing army of freelancers in the UK.
Shocking new figures reveal that on top of grappling with global political upsets, terrorist incidents, humanitarian crises and a host of celebrity deaths, the country’s freelance community is also reeling from a rollercoaster year in which clients became increasingly demanding or elusive (or both).
Hailed by politicians as the foot soldiers of the UK’s new ‘flexible’ economy, it seems we may be making our lives look a little too peachy. While there are still many up-sides to working for yourself (Hello, 4 o’clock Fridays) the bad days really kicked our butts this year, with nearly half (49%) of the UK’s freelancers admitting we’ve suffered from work-related anxiety. These were UK freelancers’ top gripes from the last 12 months…
Brexit (Part 1): Client jitters
The jury is still out on what impact Brexit will have on British business but very few freelancers at London office space Rentadesk didn’t experience at least a slight client wobble around June 23rd as countless customers put projects ‘on pause’ pending internal discussions about their post-referendum strategy. Most of us kept our cool and say things are now back on track – but for many that was one hell of a slow summer...
Brexit (Part 2) Currency wobbles
Exchange our holiday money before 23rd June, just in case? How we chuckled – as if we’d leave the EU! But – yikes – we did, and it’s already affecting our business. Exporters are quids-in, but everyone else (especially those with suppliers in the States) is now paying more for the same thanks to our newly rubbishy pound. Ouch.
Old clients suddenly asking for freebies, thanks to ‘budget cuts’? New clients demanding polished plans and pitches before even giving you the gig? Freelancers had hoped the toxic trend for unpaid work would die a death now the economy is recovering – but no such luck. According to Approve.io, 70% of all UK freelancers say they’ve been asked to work free in the last 12 months. That’s right – it seems we’re all unpaid interns now (even established professionals with years of experience under our belts). Happily, we still had just enough fight to slam new freelance-for-free website Freesist in December. Seriously? After the year we’ve had? Don’t mess.
Originating in the world of online dating (where puzzled singletons are ditched without so much as a text message) the phenomenon of vanishing into thin air has now spread to the client-freelancer relationship. One in 20 (5%*) of freelancers lists our top gripe from the last 12 months as a vanishing client who stopped all communication with no explanation, overnight. Rentadeskers report those in big firms as the worst offenders, hiding behind seemingly permanent out-of-offices and rarely answering their phone. Er… Hello??
Done the work – but still not been paid for it? Withholding payment isn’t a new client tactic – but 2016 was a particularly rotten year for stalling, according to UK freelancers. Over half of us say our top cause of anxiety this year was clients paying late or not at all (30% and 27% respectively). Next year, things change. We’ve vowed to clarify payment procedures with each client and follow every invoice through every stage. Painful, but the only way to go.
“I don’t know what I want, but it’s not this…” “I like it, but I don’t love it…” AARGH! This was not a great year for quality client feedback, according to freelancers. Eight per cent listed unclear feedback as our top gripe, while 3% said none at all had left us scratching our heads. What’s going on? A straw poll of freelancers at Rentadesk signalled two main causes. First, junior and inexperienced (ie. cheap) staff suddenly in charge of commissioning. And second, risk-averse firms deciding it’s a great idea to run projects by committee. Spoiler alert: it’s really not.
Client asking for yet another round of changes – when you fulfilled the brief three rounds ago? Demanding the work by 9am tomorrow – at 9pm the night before? Eleven per cent of freelancers listed unreasonable requests from clients as our top peeve from the last year, with six per cent saying out of hours calls drove us nuts. Our New Year’s resolution? Be braver about ditching diva clients and replacing them with easier ones. In the meantime, have a very happy and prosperous 2017!
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*Unless otherwise stated, all stats are from a new survey by the makers of freelance software tool Approve.io, who polled more than 1,000 UK adults who had engaged in freelance work (either part time, full time or on a short-term contract) in the past 5 years.