The good news: anyone can start a business these days. The bad news: anyone can start a business these days.
Because I run Molten Universe Media with Zach Bohannon and I run my own author business, too, I must interact with and hire freelancers all the time. Being an author and a publisher means you must build a team of people who can perform work for hire because that myth of the lone wolf writer is just that.
Fortunately, over time, I have built relationships with several professionals, people I trust to get the job done. Their roles range from editors like Eve and Jennifer to cover designers like Clarissa and Kealan. But not every “professional” I’ve dealt with has been professional.
So how do you know if your freelancer, work-for-hire, paid help, or even your partner is a professional? Can you examine a CV or a resume (as if people still use those)? Maybe they can take a competency test before you hire them? Credentials, degrees, and work experience must surely be indicators, right?
I don’t know. I’m not sure any of that matters. What I can tell you is how professionals don’t act.
A sense of entitlement could be the single most difficult feeling to combat, and if you feel it in a prospective client or freelancer hire, run in the opposite direction as fast as you can. The world doesn’t owe us anything, and if you find yourself conversing with someone who is making you feel lucky that they’re going to take your money, that’s entitlement.
Good freelancers know what they’re worth and they take pride in what they do. They do not expect your praise and adulation, and they certainly don’t get upset if you don’t give it to them.
Outrage has become the fabric of the social media tapestry. Every word, every sentence is a potential minefield of insensitivity. Terms or phrases that were once deemed socially acceptable are no longer such. Hence the fires of outrage are stoked. Some anger is justified, especially when people use slurs originating from the darker times of bygone eras. But now, the language seems to change so quickly that you could go from tolerant to intolerant in the course of a few months.
Professionals don’t bring outrage to their work. Regardless of your views on politics, religion, sexual orientation—or any other hot-button topic—that should not get in the way of the job. I’m not saying that you should hire an editor who is a card-carrying Nazi. But I’m also not saying you need to hire only freelancers who conform to your worldview. In fact, those with a different view add perspective and a richness to our lives that is currently being eaten by our polarizing climate. Save the outrage for Facebook. Professionals don’t grind axes on their clients.
My personal thoughts and feelings never enter the equation when I’m working with my clients. I’m on both sides of the equation, therefore, I can see selfless professionals versus those who are selfish.
Selfless professionals always put their partner or their client first. They respect your opinions, values, and boundaries. These freelancers show up and do the work that they agreed to do. They don’t half-ass it, cancel, procrastinate, or miss deadlines. Selfless people have empathy, and therefore, they treat you the way they want to be treated.
But selfish professionals do not. They want to know what they’re going to get out of the relationship. They look to protect their own interests, feelings, thoughts, or work. Selfish people lack empathy, have no consideration for the impact their words or actions have on other people. When I’m talking to a prospective freelancer, I want to feel as if I’m their only client, even when I know I’m not. I want to be honored, respected, and treated like a professional. I want to be certain that the work will be done properly and on time.
If you find a business associate who is not entitled, outraged, or selfish, does that mean you’re in the clear, and that you’ll have no problems? Definitely not. You’ll make the wrong call, hiring a freelancer who turns out to be an incompetent jerk, despite the work you put into vetting that person. That’s the nature of the business.
Over time, you’ll dissociate from the people who call themselves professionals, but who are not. You’ll tighten your circle of hired help and go back to those professionals again and again. Unfortunately, it takes time, and you won’t always be able to screen the unprofessional people, but you will continue to learn what it means to be professional, incorporating those experiences into your own practice.
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