Posted on Feb 6, 2015
The following freelancer archetypes are based on personal experience working with other freelancers, stories told to me by clients and other business owners, and other sources. I’m being a bit harsh about my profession, but it’s all in good fun and not meant to disparage anyone.
Named after the great magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini, the Houdini is a freelancer who starts off great, being productive, responsive to inquiries, providing updates, etc. Then, inexplicably, the Houdini just disappears. Regardless of the means or the effort used to contact him, the Houdini can’t be found, and the client is left with an unfinished product.
Although many freelancers get their start while working full time and picking up work on the side, most are able to keep straight what they’re supposed to be working on; the Spli7 P3rs0n@li7y freelancer can’t. This freelancer will likely get her client’s work done, but it may be at the expense of her employer, because she has a difficult time remembering where and when it’s appropriate to perform client work. The Spli7 P3rs0n@li7y also has a hard time understanding with whom it’s appropriate to talk to about client work (her manager may not be the best choice).
We all know a Jack. This is the guy who knows a little bit about everything and makes it seem like he’s a master of it all, but he’s not. Jack knows a little bit about programming, a little bit about design, a bit about copywriting, and a smidge about marketing. He might be able to eventually get your project up and running, but you’d have an easier job untangling Gordian’s knot than the mess Jack creates.
Life is hard for the Diva. She can scarcely believe businesses actually expect her to work on site occasionally let alone in that cube. And can you believe they didn’t provide her with her own complet? Some clients even expect her to meet deadlines, and worse still, track her progress in their project management tool. She sometimes wonders if her clients still live in caves.
If you want something done, the Grinder is your man. He’s super reliable and ready to work, and he’s on a mission to check his todos off, one by one. While he may be passionate about many things, your project is not one of them. He’s there to get it done, get it off his plate, and move on to the next todo item.
Similar in many ways to the Diva, the Elitist can hardly believe your company is still in business. Rather than fainting at the uncivilised manner in which his clients work and have kept their business afloat, he just mocks them and explains slowly and in small words how he would have done things so much better.
The Liar is, as you would expect, and bald-faced liar. When asked if he can do something, the answer is always, “Yes”. When asked for a status update, it will always be, “I’m almost done”. There are two types of liars, however. There is one Liar who, after saying he can do something, will then bust his butt to learn it and get things done. Then there is the other Liar: he’ll just take the money and run.
Some freelancers work night and day trying to handle as many obligations as they have on their plate. The Orchestrator does this too, only she arranges for everything to be done by someone else. Whether it’s outsourcing programming to India, finding cheap copywriters on a freelancing board, or hiring highschool students to build websites, the Orchestrator pulls the strings to get her work done. Always able to find work and talent, she will eventually evolve into an agency.
Nothing is ever good enough for the perfectionist. Not that font, color, wording, line of code, or even that email. She just needs a little more time to get things right. You will never see your project completed.
None of Matt’s versions of this archetype were good enough
He’s a mystery man, quiet, cool, and collected. He works alone. He can get the job done … for a price. After learning what the job is all about, he just walks away, promising to return one day. After three months, he walks into your office with your completed project: none of it’s correct because he didn’t bother to communicate with you during that three months.
Some people experiement on animals, and some on people, and then there are those who choose to experiment on their clients. “What’s this new framework/methodology/style/technique do? Let’s find out!” To find out, of course, this freelancer needs a project to experiment upon, and what better project than one of his client’s. The project will end up with the latest and greatest, but will go over budget because of the extra time it took him to finish his experiements.
Named after Herman Melville’s character, Bartleby the Scrivener, this freelancer begins her work at a frantic pace, but slowly over time her pace slackens. As further requests come in, she merely responds with, “I would prefer not to.” She eventually cannot be roused to do anything; life itself becoming something she’d “prefer not to.”
I live in the greater Kansas City area with my beautiful wife, our two great kids, and our dog. I've been programming using Open Source technologies since '97 and I'm currently an independent software developer specializing in Ruby on Rails and iOS. I am for hire.