What do I do if my freelancer is not right for me?

If you hire a freelancer that turns out to be not right for you, it might feel like the only way out of this mess is to fire them. Don’t jump the gun and fire them straight away though. Firing a freelancer and hiring a new one is a massive upheaval and could delay your project even further. Depending on what went wrong, your relationship with your freelancer could still be salvaged. We talk through the main reasons why your freelancer is not right for you, and what to do, including how to tell when the right decision is to fire them.

Remember to take into account different time zones when setting your deadlines.
Remember to take into account different time zones when setting your deadlines.

Missing deadlines:

Often the most important part of the project is delivering work on time. So when your freelancer fails to do this, everyone can end up in hot soup. If your freelancer doesn’t stick to their promise of working to a deadline this can lead to a breakdown in trust. You need to resolve this situation fast.

What you can do:

Find out why your work was delayed. This needn’t be an instant firing situation if your freelancer has a good reason, and can provide the finished work quickly. There are genuine unforeseeable reasons for lateness. Sickness, family emergency, internet cut off etc. But, there are also excuses for lateness that can definitely be avoided. Keep track of freelancers who give poor excuses for lateness, and if they repeat offend – fire them.


Does your freelancer need a dictionary?
Does your freelancer need a dictionary?

Sloppy work:

Typos, bad proofreading, rushed work, mistakes, poor work that took a fraction of the time you were quoted, bad spelling and grammar … these are all signs of sloppy work. Sloppy work can be a sign that your freelancer is not excited by your project and is just going through the motions in order to get paid. It can also be a symptom of the freelancer taking on too much work from lots of different clients, and struggling to meet deadlines. Either way, they’re not right for you.

What you can do:

Talk to your freelancer about the mistakes in their work. If there was a genuine reason why they needed to rush through your project, you can give them a second chance. But, they should have been open and honest about not having enough time to complete your project to the highest standard. The freelancer should correct the mistakes in their work free of charge. If you find your freelancer does this time and again, even after your warnings – fire them.


The finished work is wrong:

Finding that the finished work just isn’t what you asked for is a very frustrating situation indeed. This is usually down to communication. Either you didn’t give the freelancer a clear brief/didn’t explain your brief very well, or they didn’t listen to what you were asking for. If it’s the latter, you might be in with a problem.

What you can do:

You should pay the freelancer for the work they’ve completed so far. In this situation, both parties are at fault for not communicating with each other often and clearly enough. You should be checking in with your freelancer REGULARLY, so that you can catch work that’s wrong before it’s too late and give guidance on the project. Try giving a clearer brief and asking your freelancer to explain the project back to you. If they can demonstrate a clear understanding of your project, you can give them another chance. If not, they’re not right for you, and you should probably think about finding someone else.


Yes, that cake looks lovely but I asked for a website?
Yes, that cake looks lovely but I asked for a website.

Don’t have the skills you need:

If your freelancer doesn’t have the skills you need to complete your project, they’re not right for you. You need to find someone who is.

What you can do:

Let them go and find someone else who has the skills you need. In future, make sure to double check the people you hire genuinely have the skills they say they do. Check their portfolios for past work and testimonials from previous clients.


Has your freelance packed their bags and disappeared?
Has your freelance packed their bags and disappeared?

Gone off grid:

If your freelancer suddenly disappears without a trace and can’t be contacted you could be left in a panic. You instantly assume the worst – they’ve ditched you and your project and the finished work will never see the light of day. Whilst this is definitely a possibility, there are genuine reasons why a freelancer might not contact you for a while. Family emergency. Power cut. Or, they could simply be so busy working on your project that they simply failed to realise you were trying to contact them.

What you can do:

Tell your freelancer that this is not cool. This kind of behaviour causes mass hysteria among clients, and is highly unprofessional. Establish expectations. If you send an email, tell them you expect a reply within a certain timeframe. Set up frequent check in sessions to maintain regular communication with your freelancer. You should both be doing your best to keep the lines of communication open. If they don’t adhere to these rules, politely let them go.

Become rude:

Because freelancers generally operate outside the corporate office environment, they can sometimes appear more informal and less professional in their manner than their corporate counterparts. However, this is no excuse for rudeness. It obviously depends on the context, but rudeness could be a sign that your freelancer doesn’t really care for your business.

What you can do:

Any uncalled for rudeness should not be tolerated. Let your freelancer know what is acceptable and what is not. If they fail to comply with your request, you can think about firing them. This situation can be difficult though. If they’re doing great work, but they’re a rude person, it might be worth sticking it out until the end of the project. Once you’ve received your work, let them know in a professional manner why you won’t be working with them again. Be sure to leave a testimonial so that other clients can be wary of them.


Get your feet off the sofa, it's unprofessional.
Get your feet off the sofa, it’s unprofessional.

Become unprofessional:

The life of a freelancer is less rigid than that of a company employee. They make up their own rules and become their own bosses. So you’ll probably find they’re more informal than the average office worker. They don’t need to dress smartly, arrive at work on time, stick to an hour lunch break or answer to any managers. But this doesn’t mean they can be unprofessional. That’s just not right. If you find your freelancer behaves unprofessionally, this could be a red flag that leads to further problems. It could be a sign that they don’t care about your project. Or, it could just be a miscommunication. Is there a clash of cultures at play?

What you can do:

Raise the issue with them. If they comply, it shows their willingness to do a good job for you and you’ve nothing to worry about. If they don’t rein in their unprofessional attitude, you should think about firing them. They’re not right for you and will only create greater problems further down the line.


Mo' work, mo' problems.
Mo’ work, mo’ problems.

They make your life harder:

You hired a professional freelancer to do a job for you. They should be able to carry out that job with minimal fuss and maximum professionalism. If you find that your freelancer has constant queries, needs a lot of direction or hand holding, and is very demanding of your time, they sound like they could be making your life harder rather than easier. It could be a sign that the person you hired is a novice. In which case, if you’re paying a cheaper rate, this could make up for the extra hand-holding you’re having to do. If they’re a seasoned professional, you need to ask yourself why they’re displaying this behaviour.

What you can do:

If your freelancer is a junior, there’s little you can do. They’ll need extra guidance and will have a lot of questions, which you should help with. If your freelancer is a more experienced professional, there could be two reasons why they’re hogging all your time.

Number 1 – They don’t know what they’re doing. A freelancer who has lied about their experience will make your life harder. Instead of just being able to get on with the job, they’ll nag and get stuck. You can try setting boundaries, but if they genuinely need your help you’ll be forced to spend time helping them out. If they become too much of a problem, you should consider finding someone else with more experience.

Number 2 – They want some human contact. Freelancing can be an isolating profession. Often, freelancers just want to speak to another person and have some interaction. Don’t deny them this, but set clear boundaries about when it’s acceptable to contact you, or other sources they could go to for assistance. Try inviting them to your team meetings, or if possible, to a team lunch, to make them feel included.




After studying English Literature at university, Vicky decided she didn’t want to be either a teacher or whoever it is that writes those interminable mash-up novels about Jane Austen and pirates, so sensibly moved into graphic design.

She worked freelance for some time on various projects before starting at Twine and giving the site its unique, colourful look.

Despite having studied in Manchester and spent some years in Cheshire, she’s originally from Cumbria and stubbornly refuses to pick up a Mancunian accent. A keen hiker, Vicky also shows her geographic preferences by preferring the Cumbrian landscape to anything more local.

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