Empowering the Freelance Economy

How to get clients on board to your workstyle

Hoxby co-founders Lizzie Penny (left) and Alex Hirst (right) help freelancers and their clients adopt a workstyle culture
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We ask Workstyle revolutionaries Lizzie Penny and Alex Hirst of Hoxby what to consider when drafting up a Workstyle freelancer contract – to ensure both freelancers and clients can reap the benefits

SPECIAL REPORT

The future of work claims to be flexible. But the thing is, many clients will likely feel anxious if the people serving their business needs are not immediately reachable during the traditional working hours of 9 am and 5 pm. “Workstylers” are claiming to have cracked the code for a better way of working, and their success stories are spreading worldwide. We dive deeper by talking to the people behind this movement.

Why is workstyle even a thing?

As the freelance economy booms, clients are increasingly turning to talented and skilled individuals who operate outside the traditional office setting. But simply hiring a freelancer isn’t enough. To truly unlock their potential, clients need to understand and embrace the concept of workstyle.

Workstyle refers to how someone chooses to approach their work, encompassing factors like working hours, communication styles, and desired environment. Research by Hoxby, a global community of self-employed professionals that provides creative communications and culture transformation services to businesses, demonstrates that when clients accommodate a freelancer’s workstyle, it leads to a significant increase in productivity and overall satisfaction.

This is particularly true for freelancers who live in rural areas, are parents or carers or all three. But it could also be someone going through cancer treatment, a long-term illness or mobility challenges. The opportunity to add such diversity of talent through engaging with freelancers in this way can provide a competitive advantage. In addition, when the workstyle philosophy extends to employees and freelancers working together, an inclusive culture of embracing individuality emerges.

Workstyle means that I work the hours that suit me. Sometimes that could be late in the evening, early in the morning, on a quiet Sunday afternoon. It means when I’ve finished my work, I can log off even if that means only working two hours in one day.

Joana Ferreira – Digital Marketing Associate

How do you get clients to embrace your workstyle?

Many of us have been raised as people pleasers. Hoxby’s Workstyle Revolution site suggests that “having the courage to prioritise your workstyle over the constant notifications and deadlines of others can be a good thing.”

But how do you pitch your workstyle to existing and prospective clients? Joana Ferreira, a digital marketing associate working within Hoxby’s workstyle community tells The Freelance Informer, “I don’t think I’ve ever had to ‘pitch it’. I just communicate when I’m available, if I’m taking time off, I communicate well in advance and draw up a plan to make sure everything is taken care of during my absence. I’ve never come across a situation where I had to actively ‘pitch’ a workstyle way of working to a client – I’m not their employee so I don’t feel the need to be available to them on a 9 to 5 basis.”

Lisa Ichane, an HR Associate and fellow workstyler, offers some pointers about broaching the subject of workstyle with clients:

I start any conversation with a new client from the angle of the work that needs delivering and deadlines. Perhaps I have been very fortunate in the clients I have worked for, but there has never been a need to explicitly state or explain my workstyle, nor have they questioned when I am working. I simply deliver the work when requested and keep the client regularly updated on progress.


As in all relationships, expectations can be hard to meet at the best of times, so we asked Lisa what she has found to be the common challenges when it comes to meeting client expectations alongside your individualised workstyle.

“The biggest challenge can be clients and their organisations still operating with a very ‘meeting’ culture,” says Lisa. “Albeit virtual video calls, not in person, I often find they can be disruptive to the day, or not within my workstyle, and usually the same information could be much quicker and more effectively explained in a message rather than a lengthy meeting call anyway,” she adds.

Take control of your tech, not the other way around

Most industries demand constant communication. Lizzie offers some guidance to address this, “The key is to take control of your technology rather than letting it control you.”

Lizzie suggests freelancers should set expectations about communication from the onset. She says a freelancer can say to a client, “I might be on WhatsApp, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll hear from me instantly. When I do get back to you, though, you can trust that the work will be done well. Judge me on my outputs, not my availability.”


How has workstyle improved your life, health and livelihood? 

Joana Ferreira – Digital Marketing Associate

Workstyle hasn’t just improved my life; it has completely changed it! Working 9 to 5, with a 3-hour daily commute was restricting, to say the least. Having time for a life outside of work, time with family, travelling etc. was impossible. I was using up all my holiday allowance just to stay sane. I then experienced severe burnout and had to take 3 months off to recover.

Workstyle means that I work the hours that suit me. Sometimes that could be late in the evening, early in the morning, on a quiet Sunday afternoon. It means when I’ve finished my work, I can log off even if that means only working two hours in one day.

It means I can take time out to work out, meditate, have a long lunch with a friend, go for a walk to get inspiration, take time off to see my family… the list goes on.

For example, right now my sister is getting surgery, and she needs support. It would have been impossible for me to be here for her with my previous work commitment. Workstyle means I can hop on a plane, and be here to support her, while still getting my work done.

Lisa Ichane – HR Associate

When I worked a traditional 9 to 5 office-based job in London (8 am to 7 pm in reality so I could ‘beat’ everyone else),  I frequently suffered from attacks of extreme and painful heart palpitations. At the time I didn’t know what it was and had a number of tests done.

When I became a mother and started working freelance in a workstyle way, they stopped, instantly, and have only come on again during periods of extreme stress, so I realise they were anxiety and stress-led all along. On top of that, I LOVE what I do, and can be at every drop-off, pick up and school show for my kids.


What to consider in a workstyle contract

Getting a client to accept your way of working verbally is one thing, but should you get your workstyle conditions put into writing? And where would you even begin to find a workstyle contract?

“The Workstyle Revolution can provide tools, templates, and guidance for people looking to work with their clients in a workstyle way,” says Alex.

These resources are currently accessible through the Workstyle Revolution community, a free online space for anyone to join, access resources, request new ones, and even co-create them.

Alex says there are three key principles that make a successful workstyle agreement possible: being digital-first, asynchronous, and trust-based.

“These principles prioritise the online world and asynchronous communication (written or recorded communication that doesn’t require everyone to be available at the same time) over physical presence and synchronous meetings,” he says. “Finally, trust is paramount – we focus on results and outputs rather than the number of hours someone appears to be working.”

“These three elements – digital-first, asynchronous, and trust-based – are really the foundation for a successful workstyle relationship,” says Alex. “They allow collaboration to happen in a way that includes everyone, from freelancers to traditional employees, no matter their circumstances and within any organisation. What matters is that people have a choice.”

Hoxby has found through its research that the business case for workstyle rests on how autonomy increases productivity. 

“By enabling autonomy through digital-first approaches, asynchronous work, and trust, research shows that productivity soars due to a heightened state of well-being,” says Alex.

However, other benefits also shine through.

Mutual benefits of workstyling

Reduced stress, enhanced creativity

Juggling work and family life can be a constant source of stress. A culture of workstyle allows parents to manage childcare or school schedules without sacrificing professional commitments, safe in the knowledge that they have permission to fit work around life however they need to. Reduced stress translates to a happier, more creative freelancer, ultimately benefiting the client with fresh ideas and high-quality work.

Improved communication and collaboration

Clear communication is vital for any successful project. When clients understand a freelancer’s preferred communication style (email v. instant messaging, for example), collaboration becomes smoother. This leads to less wasted time and frustration, allowing everyone to focus on delivering results.

Workstyle and collaborative teams across the globe

The majority of Hoxby’s clients are not based in the UK but across the globe reflecting Hoxby’s community of freelancers spread in multiple continents. This community can therefore “work around the sun” and in their own workstyles, providing a 24/7 design studio.

“What matters to our clients is the service and the outputs, not the methodology,” says Alex. “So, clients actually have little interest in how we do it. What matters to them is that we can provide high quality teams of diverse talent.”

Therefore, some freelancers may be perfectly happy to meet a client deadline over a weekend because that fits their workstyle, while others may not.

“We always curate a team to deliver an output,” says Alex. “This ensures there’s clarity on who within the team is accountable for which deliverables and the timeframes for completion. “

He continues, “That accountability is pre-calculated based on how long we think the task will take. But ultimately, it’s agreed upon as a fixed fee predefined out front.”

Highlighting the benefits, Alex says, “So that’s the key upfront investment of effort. We probably spend more time at the start of a project, distributing tasks and calculating the cost per task. But then, once we’re able to start, we’re incredibly efficient in the way we go about it, because accountabilities and timelines are clearly defined.”

The future of work is personalised

Embracing workstyle isn’t just about being accommodating; it’s about recognising the value it brings. By allowing freelancers to work within their natural rhythm, clients tap into a pool of highly motivated and productive talent. For parents, a workstyle-friendly environment fosters a healthy balance that benefits both their families and their clients.

Alex says not all companies will embrace workstyle, which could be rooted in that market’s business culture. Lizzie adds that workstyle can be adopted across an entire company’s culture or just within one department based on the type of work being carried out.

The future of work should not just be flexible, but personalised. By embracing workstyle, businesses can unlock the full potential of their employed and freelance workforce, leading to a more productive, successful, and ultimately, happier work environment for everyone.

How to develop your own workstyle

If you are inspired by this way of working, but unsure how to develop and articulate your personal workstyle, then one of your first steps should be to take more control of your time.

You can do that by reclaiming your schedule and prioritising what matters most. You can do that by taking on board these workstyle-inspired tips:

Pursue your passions

Identify something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done yet. Grant yourself permission to pursue it. This will fuel your motivation and empower you to defend your ideal work style.

Master the art of saying “no” the nice way

Lizzie and Alex’s message is refreshing: “Self-sacrifice is not necessarily kindness. Find the good versions of selfishness that allow you to prioritise your workstyle and life goals. Learn the art of saying no.”

Saying no is a valuable skill. Practice using polite phrases like “let me get back to you” or “I need to check my schedule.” When faced with requests that disrupt your work style, use what Lizzie and Alex call the “positive no” technique.

Acknowledge a priority you need to focus on instead – this is showing the client you are being proactive about your priorities.

Decline politely but firmly

Offer an alternative, like suggesting someone else who might help or sharing a relevant resource. Remember, successful people prioritise ruthlessly. So, why shouldn’t you?

Establish boundaries

Like you, your clients aren’t mind readers. That’s why you should define your non-negotiables. Sometimes, temporary sacrifices are necessary, like studying late for a career change.

However, a fulfilling life encompasses more than just career and finances. Consider health, learning and relationships as pillars you need to thrive. Those are your non-negotiables.

You will probably witness that by setting clear boundaries to safeguard important aspects of your life you will be even more respected by clients. That’s because your healthy values will likely reflect in your work.

Want access to workstyle revolution contract templates and tips? Check out the Workstyle Revolution Toolkit

JOIN — Workstyle Revolution

Hoxby Case Studies are here: https://hoxby.com/case-studies

Workstyle Stories are here: https://www.workstylerevolution.com/community

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