Have you ever had a prospective client ask you to outline your availability? Have you ever responded to a freelance job ad that asked about you to provide information about your existing clients?
Did those seem like normal questions to you?
I came across a freelance job ad for a software company looking for writers to produce blogs, web pages, and email copy.
After laying out the details and requirements, the ad said, “You will be asked the following questions when submitting a proposal:”
One of said, “What are your daily and weekly hours of availability? And are you committed to any other positions?”
When you see questions like this, it’s cause for pause.
Questions About Availability
If a prospective client asks you to outline when you’re available, and you give the wrong answer, it can easily send the wrong message and get you caught up in a situation you weren’t bargaining for.
If you say you have open availability, that sounds like:
a) you don’t have any other work, which equals desperate, or
b) you’re a freelancer who will give a new client priority over your existing clients.
Saying you have open availability can also give the prospective client the impression that they have free reign to your schedule.
That could result in you getting bombarded with rush jobs, requests for weekend or holiday work, or last-minute changes. Because, after all, you’re the one who made it seem like you don’t have anything else to do.
On the other hand, outlining specific days and hours could blow your chances of getting hired because the times you provide may not be what the client is looking for.
Asking freelancers to blindly provide all of their availability is a loaded, over-arching question. If a company is looking for services at specific times, they should say so.
But clearly, that won’t always happen. So, in a case like this, if I still wanted to apply, I would probably say something like:
As a freelancer, my schedule is fluid, which allows me to offer my clients flexibility. If you’re looking for availability on specific days or during certain hours, please let me know.
Or, I know some writers have office hours (Although I always wonder if they stick to them.) So you could just say, My normal business hours are…
Commitments to Other Clients
When a prospective client wants to know about your commitments to other clients, that’s a redder red flag.
Telling a potential client that you have other commitments, by itself, doesn’t provide them enough information to make a decision about anything.
They don’t know what type of work you’re doing, how often you do it, or how much of your time it takes. But you can bet those are the questions they’re really looking to answer.
That’s too much information, for a potential client, or even an existing client.
You don’t call a stylist, mechanic, or internet provider and say, Yes, I’m thinking about using your service. But first I want to discuss any commitments you may have to other customers.
That sounds insane.
When a company is considering you for freelance work, their concerns should be whether you are capable of getting the job done and whether you can get it done on time.
Companies get too comfortable in their dealings with freelancers. I think some of it may be unintentional. A lot of companies understand freelancers aren’t employees, but they don’t understand the difference in dealing with a freelancer and an employee.
Other companies intentionally strong-arm freelancers.
If a company has an idea of the type and volume of work you have, then they have an idea of how essential their work is to you.
They have an idea of how essential their money is to you.
And, in many cases, it also makes them feel comfortable coming up with plans for your time, such as asking you to take on rush projects.
So what do you say, if a prospective client wants to talk about your other commitments?
Redirect the conversation back to their needs and your ability to fulfill them.
I understand you need two blogs and an email campaign each week, and that you’ll have occasional projects that require a 48-hour turnaround. I assure you other commitments will not affect my ability to cover these tasks as agreed. I strictly adhere to deadlines.
Freelancing, for the most part, is a business-to-business arrangement. And businesses don’t generally provide other businesses with unnecessary information about operations. Freelancers shouldn’t either.