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How to Set Clear Expectations & 5 Tips for Success

Community Manager
Lena E Community Manager Member Since: Apr 7, 2015
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How to Set Clear Expectations & 5 Tips for Success

Written by Krista Bruun


Before starting any project, it’s essential to make sure you and your freelancer are on the same page about the work that’s needed, timelines, and deliverables. In some categories like SEO, lead gen, social media marketing, and telemarketing, for instance, the deliverables may not be as simple to define as other categories.


Here are a few tips to help you keep your project on the path to success.

1. Be realistic

Make sure your expectations are both clear and realistic. It’s important to work with your freelancer to understand what can and can’t be done and what time frame it can be done in.

This is even more critical when it comes to projects that don’t have one specific deliverable like a logo design or a blog post. It can also take a longer period of time to see results.

As a result, it’s essential that you and your freelancer work out realistic and achievable deliverables or milestones that can be accomplished in a reasonable time frame. For example, it’s unreasonable to expect a freelancer to get you the #1 ranking in Google search results or 20,000 Facebook fans overnight, if at all. These types of results just aren’t possible.

Set achievable and clear expectations. Here are a few project description examples:

  • For SEO: Research and establish a list of 100 keywords that are relevant to the business and will generate the most traffic.

  • For social media marketing: Post new content, such as quotes, videos, photos, and articles, once a day, 7 days a week, to the company’s Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube pages.

  • For telemarketing: Call a list of 500 people between 9am-5pm U.S. Pacific Time this week, invite them to register for a seminar, and track the results (called, spoke with, and left voicemail).

Setting expectations is a two-way street. You should be able to rely on your freelancer’s expertise to establish what deliverables will achieve the result you need and what deliverables are possible for your budget and time frame. Freelancers also shouldn’t over promise and commit to something they won’t be able to deliver. If someone promises something that seems too good to be true, consider asking for more details before getting started or at least ask how the freelancer will drive these results.

2. Kick it off

A kickoff meeting is a great way to talk about your expectations and reach an agreement on them. You may want to discuss what you want out of the project, what the freelancer is going to accomplish, and when you can expect to have it completed. If the project is long-term or ongoing, you should also talk about how often you’ll have check-ins, and be sure to establish clear—and achievable—milestones along the way.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate

The Upwork marketplace is an earth-sized talent pool, so keep in mind that your freelancer may not speak English as their first language. Whether you’re communicating by email, chat, or phone, be very clear and try to avoid using idioms or slang. Communication can help foster a good working relationship. It’s a good practice to clearly communicate your needs throughout the project to ensure everyone is on the same page.

4. Test things out

Rather than giving a new freelancer a large, business-critical project, it can be a good idea to start on a smaller test project and see how it goes. A test project or a few hours of work can be a great way to make sure it’s a good fit for both of you. Just make sure you pay the freelancer either on an hourly or fixed-price basis. Free test work is strictly against our Terms of Service.

5. Be open to feedback

Feedback should flow both ways. At the end of a project with your freelancer, consider asking them for their feedback and suggestions. They might have ideas for ways to improve the process, streamline communication, or work together more efficiently.