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Did you hear about the web designer who decided to teach a delinquent client a lesson and chose to vent on the client’s website? It amazes me that some people can have a completed product and feel no compulsion to pay the bill. It also surprises me that the designer yielded to the temptation that many a freelancer faces.

This is Social Media Week with events spread across nine cities around the world. Everyday there is news about increasing use of cloud computing and collaborative software. The notion that we have to be in the same place to move forward with a project seems a little arcane. There is reason to believe that many of us are going to be working with people we will never meet face-to-face.  It is not that surprising anymore to find that many businesses, big and small, use freelancers and consultants for everything from creating their annual report to handling their recruiting. I am personally grateful for the options that I have with this work pattern.

While we are leaping forward into a new working order, there is also plenty of material for Clients from Hell. It is one of my favorite sites for a few good laughs but these are not fun experiences in real life. Prospective clients who ask for free samples, those who assume that I live on air and do not need prompt payment, those who feel that because I work from home it must be a hobby – these are all fairly frustrating moments.

For every client horror story, I am sure there is a parallel freelancer nightmare that someone has experienced. I am fully aware that there are freelancers out there who abscond with a deposit or act as though they are divas who can never be corrected. While these may be problems that can come up in other professional relationships, these are exacerbated in off-site work relationships. The problem stems from the fact that both parties forget an essential principle – not meeting on a daily basis is not a free pass to suspend professional standards.

Both clients and freelancers have to understand that these relationships essentially work on an honor system. Old-fashioned words such as ethical and professional still have a place in these new platforms of engagement and it is important to not let these slide. Without those kind of markers this can be a hard landscape to navigate. I plan to revisit this topic with tips on how to keep things going smoothly and tips on how to handle tough situations.

What are your rules to live by when it comes to online work associations? Do you freelance? Do you work with freelancers? Share you ideas on what works and what doesn’t. C’mon, you know you want to!