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Toronto, Canada

Why Freelancers and Clients Struggle with Ineffective Communication

Vytas Butke
Vytas Butke
June 16, 20224 min read

We've identified some of the most common communication pitfalls that both freelancers and clients often fall into and how to avoid them

Why Freelancers and Clients Struggle with Ineffective Communication


There are innumerable stories of clients and freelancers caught in an unpleasant relationship. Often, these conflicts stem from a misalignment of expectations, a scenario that can almost always be traced back to poor communication. Even with the creation of beautiful, usable designs, if the lines of communication are blurred or nonexistent, the UX suffers instantly. As a result, the final designs might not be what the company truly needs or envisioned. Drawing from years of experience, we've identified some of the most common communication pitfalls that both freelancers and clients often fall into. In this article, we'll also share how we approach communication differently to foster effective and efficient collaborations.

1. Misunderstanding of Budget and Timelines

A typical point of contention between freelancers and clients is the misunderstanding of budget and timelines. A well-defined scope of work, budget, and project timeline should be established from the get-go. This clarity prevents potential disputes down the line and ensures everyone is on the same page. At Outframe, we prioritize these discussions early on, ensuring both parties reach an agreement before any work commences.

2. Saying 'Yes' to Every Project

There's a pervasive notion that freelancers should grab every project opportunity that comes their way. However, design professionals should feel empowered to decline a project if they sense a lack of synergy or if their skills don't align with the project needs. Prioritizing fit over quantity often leads to better results and a more enjoyable work process.

3. Difficulty in Accepting Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback is a crucial element of growth and improvement in any profession, more so in creative fields like design. Freelancers should be open to and embrace feedback, viewing it as a means to refine their work rather than as a personal critique. We strive on feedback and are encourage an open dialogue, fostering a culture that nurtures growth and enhances output.

4. Failure to Say 'No' to Unfavorable Client Ideas

Freelancers, especially designers, must be able to tactfully decline certain client ideas and suggest better alternatives. If a client insists on a larger logo, understanding their rationale and explaining why this might not be beneficial—or suggesting an alternative that meets their objective—is key. This way, we ensure that design principles aren't compromised, while also catering to the client's needs.


5. Lack of Clarity about the Process

Clients may not always be familiar with the intricacies of the design process. A clear explanation of how the project will progress, the tools used, the stages involved, and the estimated timeline can alleviate client anxieties and create a smoother working relationship. What about our process? You can read it in our article here.

6. Not Setting Communication Guidelines

Communication chaos can be avoided by setting clear rules—what tools will be used (Trello, Google Drive, Figma comments, Slack/Teams, etc.), frequency and mode of updates, and feedback cycles. This way, both parties know what to expect and when, facilitating efficient communication.

7. Interruptions

Unscheduled interruptions can disrupt a freelancer's workflow and potentially delay project timelines. By establishing clear boundaries regarding when and how to communicate, both parties can respect each other's time and maintain productivity. We rely mainly on real-time communication, Loom videos for presentations and group video calls so we're not distracted as much.

8. Perception of Rudeness/Cold Messages

Digital communication can often be misconstrued as cold or rude. It's important to maintain a professional yet warm tone in all interactions, to prevent misunderstandings and foster a positive working relationship.

9. Insufficient Information Sharing

It's always better to overshare than to leave gaps in communication, especially when it comes to project-related information. Annotations, regular updates, and proactive sharing of necessary details/files can keep everyone on the same page, reducing the chances of misunderstanding and confusion.

10. Poor Handoff to Developers

A common oversight in the freelancer-client relationship is the handoff to developers. Without clear annotations, usage explanations, edge cases, and error state provisions, the development team can struggle to bring the design to life accurately. At Outframe, we ensure a smooth transition by providing comprehensive documentation, anticipating potential issues, and offering clear instructions for implementation. You can read more about our handoff process here.


The root of many freelancer-client conflicts lies in ineffective communication. Misunderstandings can arise from unclear budget and timeline expectations, difficulty accepting feedback, the inability to decline unsuitable projects or ideas, lack of process clarity, poor communication rules, unscheduled interruptions, cold messaging, inadequate information sharing, and poor handoff practices. By addressing these issues proactively, we can enhance the freelancer-client relationship, leading to more successful collaborations and superior design outcomes.

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