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Help! My Freelance Client Keeps Treating Me Like an Employee

Help! My Freelance Client Keeps Treating Me Like an Employee

We've been there - the client who keeps treating us like an employee instead of an independent freelancer. In the early days of freelancing, it can feel familiar and even comforting to be "part of a team", but as many seasoned freelancers have come to know, being treated like an employee can have major repercussions in their businesses. Remember: you didn't leave a 9-to-5 to work a 24/7 for your clients. While employees often work within the confines of set office hours and company structures, freelancers twirl in the exhilarating embrace of autonomy. 

A freelancer's dream can turn into a nightmare when a client starts treating them like an employee. Unreasonable demands, expectations, and restrictive requirements can inhibit our freedom lifestyle and business growth because of a client's confusion about the difference between a freelancer and an employee.  This situation can lead to frustration, reduced motivation, and even compromised work-life balance. Broaching this subject with a client can be daunting, with fears of losing the contract or insulting the client. 

Here are 3 ways that your client may be treating you like an employee, and solutions to overcome these situations:

They're Dictating Your Work Schedule

Freelancers dance to the beat of their own drums, designing their schedules with more creativity than a painter's palette. While employees might be locked into a 9-to-5 routine, freelancers craft their workdays to match their personal rhythms. Whether you're a night owl or an early bird, you have the power to determine when your genius flows best. It can be hard when a client wants you to adhere to a strict work schedule that doesn't speak to your new-found freedom. 

Solution: While regular updates are necessary, it's a good idea to establish clear boundaries around your working hours, response times, and the extent to which you're willing to be involved in tasks outside the project scope. Use project management tools or email for work-related discussions, and reserve platforms like instant messaging for urgent matters, if at all. By compartmentalizing communication, you can regain a sense of control over your time and focus.


Be sure to add a line in your service agreement that states that you will set your own general hours of work with the consideration of the timely completion of tasks assigned.

They're Restricting Creativity

From choosing our brand colors to defining our unique voice, freelancers revel in the joy of freedom of creativity. Working with a client who wants creative control can be difficult for freelancers who want to contribute using their own skills and talents. Some clients can be demanding of their needs instead of collaborative in nature. 

Solution: Elevate your role from a mere service provider to a problem solver. By proactively identifying and addressing pain points in the project, you demonstrate your commitment to the client's success. This shift can help reshape the client-freelancer dynamic, positioning you as a strategic partner rather than a subordinate.

They Want You to Work from Their Office

Picture this: you're sipping a piña colada on a tropical beach while working on a creative project. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, for freelancers, it's not just a dream – it's a way of life! We have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world, whether it's a cozy cafe in Paris or a hammock in Bali. No more commuter woes or office politics. Our office is wherever our laptops take us, and the world is our playground. But what if a client wants you to work from their office, squashing your freedom-seeking dreams? Some clients may feel that "it's just part of the commitment" or "it's necessary to work with their team".

Solution: If the client's request is due to collaboration needs, explore the possibility of a hybrid approach. Propose a schedule where you spend certain days or hours in the office for collaborative work and work remotely for other tasks. This can provide the best of both worlds, enabling you to maintain some level of flexibility while still meeting the client's requirements. If working from the client's office isn't feasible or attractive to you, explore alternative ways to achieve the client's goals. This might include using project management tools for remote collaboration, scheduling regular check-in meetings, or finding other creative solutions that facilitate effective communication and teamwork without requiring your physical presence.

If you notice your client's behavior evolving towards a more employer-employee dynamic, it may be time to address the issue head-on. Schedule a conversation where you can discuss your concerns and propose changes to the working relationship. This might involve revisiting the project scope, adjusting deadlines, or renegotiating your terms of engagement. Approach the conversation with a solution-oriented mindset, emphasizing the mutual benefits of a balanced and respectful partnership.

Despite your best efforts, some clients may persist in treating you like an employee. In such cases, it's crucial to recognize when it's in your best interest to terminate the relationship. Remember, your mental well-being, professional dignity, and long-term career prospects should never be compromised.

In the world of freelancing, maintaining a healthy client-freelancer relationship requires a delicate balance of professionalism, assertiveness, and mutual respect. By setting clear expectations, defining boundaries, and effectively communicating your needs, you can transform a client who treats you like an employee into a partner who values your expertise and contributions. Your freelancing journey should be empowering and fulfilling, so don't hesitate to advocate for yourself and take control of your professional destiny.

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Help! My Freelance Client Keeps Treating Me Like an Employee