Top 9 Ways To Choose A Freelance Employer

written by aext on May 24, 2010 in Freelance & Business with 25 comments

All the focus nowadays is on the freelancer, but no-one stops to think about what to look for in an employer. I had a project recently in which I was told the web host backed up the database of a site, so I backed up the website files, as any and all web developers would, and the database mysteriously got deleted after seven weeks of manual data entry. I asked the employer about the database, to which he replied I was to back it up, and I had to redo the whole thing. Well; you can guess where I went from there.

This Employer gave out a few of the signs I will talk about here. Unfortunately, to spot some of these things, you may have to start working for them, just make sure if you sign a contract there are some ways for you to terminate the employment if you start to see the following signs.

1. No I Want This Now!

Overload Working

This is a major giveaway to the employer either not being ready to go ahead with the project, or not being organised enough to plan the project properly. Many employers hire freelancers to get the project done quickly and cheaply; I would put this down to greed 95% of the time.

With all business there is a risk / reward factor, but when greed is factored into the equation, many employers will try and get everything for free or as cheap as possible, so as to generate income quicker. This is all at the sacrifice of the freelancer so watch yourselves with this!

2. Why didn’t you contact me at 5AM this morning?!

Business Man Is Tired

Image Credit: Pixmac

I don’t know a person out there who would want no communication with their employees. How else would they be able to express their ideas? There is however a limit to this, and some newer, or over eager employers may want you to be online all hours of the day. If an employer asks why you weren’t online, give them a reason, preferably a legitimate one, and if they don’t understand or still can’t see why you weren’t talking to them, maybe you need to weigh up your options.

3. Send me a preview without a watermark. I want to look at the finished product.

Employer is putting you in a trap

Image Credit: Prozac74

This is the biggest scam I have seen on the internet when it comes to freelancers. Employers ask the freelancer to send the finished work through without a watermark. As soon as you send your work to ANYONE without a watermark, you have lost your copyright and your work, and could have lost your money! Never send work without a watermark to ANYONE.

4. Provide me with a mock-up .psd!

This relates to the above point. I’ve seen this one happen plenty of times too. I tried this scam once to see if it actually worked (I then followed through and paid the designer) and every designer falls for it. The employer acquires a .psd for the design of the site, and then pays a lot less to have this converted into xhtml. As I said before, this is another thing you should watermark. If you watermark a layer, merge it with another layer (the background is usually the best one for it) then you shouldn’t get this problem (again?).

5. I’ll pay you $0.000000000000000001 per word.

Employers are paying their freelancers so cheap

Image Credit: Rad Jose

Many employers are offering freelance writer $1 per 500 word article, or $0.00001 per word. You need to weigh this up to the amount of time you will spend on the project and how much you will make. If it is under $4 or $5 per hour, it isn’t worth you working on the project. You also need to factor into this any breaks for food, drink and… Other things that I don’t really need to go into detail with in this article. The going rate for Captcha projects is $1 per 1,000 correct images. This is not worth doing. I tried this myself once. I worked out at an average of $1.76 per hour, far below what I could earn in almost any other job, and I was one of the quickest they’d ever had.

6. Can I just use your knowledge on a completely unrelated topic for free?

Time is money

Image Credit: Socialearth

So many employers do this; they hire a freelancer for a completely unrelated project, just to ask questions that would cost them a lot more than the original project to get answered. I’ve heard of employers picking people not suited to the project at all to get information on another subject. If you are asked about another topic, kindly advise that you don’t work for free, and you will have to charge to answer any questions; remember, time is money. [I am aware of the major cliché in the last sentence but it is true!]

7. If I give you more projects in the future will you give me this one cheaper?

Business handshake

Image Credit: Dreamstime

I’ve heard of this one from fellow freelancers more than I’ve seen it. Basically, Employers offer freelancers future projects (usually ones that aren’t going to happen) to secure a lower price. If someone asks you to lower your price for future projects, refuse. If you’ve never even worked with the person, so you don’t know if this project is going to work, never mind future ones.

8. I speak not good English.

Dictionary Series - Marketing: communication

Communication problems can be the hardest thing when it comes to working on a project as I stated above, but a language gap is even worse. Neither the freelancer or the employer can explain their points, and this can make the project end up at a standstill. If you are going to work freelance jobs for someone who has a different native tongue, you need to find a common ground, or the project won’t work. It’s as simple as that.

9. Well we’re good friends, what about mate’s rates?

Image Credit: Dreamstime

This one is a no-no. Almost all employers will try anything to get a cheaper deal from promising you more jobs to trying to befriend you. Don’t let them. If you have a set price you charge for something, then charge it, and justify the price. If they ask why you’re charging $10 more than the other guy and you won’t budge, kindly explain your services and why you deserve this amount. This could also help you realise if you are charging too much for a freelance job.

They have their own tricks


When you work as a freelancer (programmer, website developer, copywrighter, photographer), you face with lots of people (your employers) with different characters and treatment to other people. They have many tricks to set up to you. Don’t make a monkey business! Do not believe in everything they tell you, it’s necessary to think and act as if he were an independent software consulting company. Try to perform all the negotiations in advance. And make your clients appreciate your work and skills, and respect you as an expert in your field, keeping relationships with an employer strict and formal.