What happens if you don’t like a freelancer’s finished product?

Every single time I do work as a freelancer and submit it to a client, I tell them that I hope it’s what they were looking for—and to please let me know if they have any changes to make.

The thing is, when someone hires you to do something, you can’t always be entirely sure exactly what they are looking for. This is especially true if you are doing anything in the creative sphere, such as writing copy or doing graphic design. And I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that must be for the client, if the work submitted to them is totally different than what they were looking for!

So that’s what I want to talk about today: what to do if you commission work from a freelancer and it’s not how you wanted it to be.

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What happens if you don't like the work a freelancer submits? Find out how to communicate with freelancers on this blog! (Freelance tips)

Keep in mind two things: first, it depends on what your initial arrangement was as to what you should do next; and second, you deserve to get what you asked for (but make sure you know specifically what the freelancer agreed to).

If you’re in a situation where a freelancer is doing work for a set price, with the assumption that there might be a revision or two, and you end up asking them to do six revisions even though the second one was done well and you just changed your mind about what you want, then that’s your problem.

The freelancer shouldn’t have to accommodate your every whim if you change your mind or if you don’t know what you want! In that case, prepare to pay an extra fee for all those revisions if you want to keep working with that freelancer.

On the other hand, if you request a freelancer to write copy or design a poster, and it doesn’t quite line up with what you wanted, don’t be afraid to ask them to change it or go in a different direction. You don’t have to accept it as it is right away! You can ask them to make changes. The thing is, you need to be able to identify what you do and don’t like about their submission—and to clearly explain what it is that you’re looking for. Freelancers aren’t mind readers, after all.

In addition, the payment structure can give you a lot of flexibility with the amount of revisions you want done. If you are paying a flat fee, you might not be able to request as many revisions as if you agree to an hourly time-based rate, for example. Other times, flat fees will include a specification about the number of revisions.

If the freelancer submits a product that you don’t like, take a moment to assess why the work isn’t what you want. Did you not specify what you were looking for? Is the freelancer doing a poor job? Could what you asked for have been a little too vague or could your intent have been misinterpreted?

[Side note: one of my favorite requests from clients—which I hear a surprising amount—is that they want me to “jazz up” copy or make the writing more exciting. Luckily pretty much every time I’ve been asked to do that, the finished product turns out to be exactly what the client was hoping for, but you can see how a request like that could go in all kinds of different directions!]

Speak to your freelancer and see if there’s something that can be done to fix the problem. It depends on the situation, the freelancer, and the payment structure as to how it’s going to turn out, but the important thing is to communicate! The freelancer you’re working with can’t fix the issue if they don’t know there’s a problem.

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Have you been on either end of this issue? What can you do to improve your communication skills and clarify what you’re asking for, or ensure that you’ve asked the questions that you need answers to? Share in the comments section below!


  1. This has happened to me several times with graphic work done by a freelancer. What I’ve learned from this now is to communicated effectively from the start and to continue communicating throughout the process. Also, be as detailed as necessary with what you are looking for them to provide. If you do this and still find the outcome not to be what you want, it’s probably because that freelancer is not a good fit for that particular job.

  2. …one more last sentence to add: But if you thoroughly review the freelancer’s portfolio ahead of time, that should easily rule out if the freelancer is not for you. This is not typically something you should be realizing later on in the project.

    1. YES! Ideally you know ahead of time if it’s going to work out… but even if you only figure it out partway through, it’s okay to go in a different direction.

      And… ALL about the details 🙂

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