The Etiquette Guide to Gifts for Freelancers and Freelance Clients
Freelancing can feel like the Wild Wild West of employment. Work remotely! Make your own hours! Get paid by project, by hour, or by some other unclear algorithm! The rules for freelancers, or lack thereof, makes it tricky during the gifting season when you've hired freelancers. And maybe one freelancer is even a friend! What's the proper etiquette for giving gifts to freelancers or freelance clients? And how can you find clues as to what freelancers might like? We've reigned in some answers.
If you just started working together:
As you might guess, there are no hard-and-fast rules for clients giving gifts to hired freelancers. Probably the best Christmas gift you could give would be to hire the freelancer for another project! But a note of praise for all their hard work — in the form of a holiday card — would be a way to sweeten their holiday, too.
If you've contracted them for a long time:
Another way to think about freelancers — like consultants you’ve hired or virtual assistants — is they are providing a service to you. Much like you’d give a small gift to your hair stylist, you can choose a gift card or small gift to give a freelancer who went above and beyond for a project (and has worked with you through many pay cycles.)
If you're just sending out cards:
Should you do paper or email holiday cards? You’ve probably shared a million emails through the project, and digital holiday cards are faster. But if you’ve worked closely with someone, it’s better to opt for a paper greeting. (Mail out 2- 3 weeks before Christmas so it gets there on time.) If you’re a freelancer sending holiday cards to thank clients, make sure it’s a “professional” or neutral holiday card. You don’t want to mail your boss the family portrait of you and your kids in matching pajamas.
If you're a collaborator:
With freelance work, there’s often more people involved than the one-in-charge. Think about the team of people you’ve worked with. Send a thank you to fellow freelancers who worked with you on a big project, as well as someone who referred you for a job. Either a small gift or a holiday card with a note of thanks will make a good impression.
If you're the freelancer:
For freelancers, the etiquette of gifting is also unclear. Do you send a holiday card with a small gift card as a way of saying thanks, or does that look like you’re desperately trying to get more work from a client? Extravagant gifts are definitely out — but even a small gift is unnecessary. There’s a fine line with giving gifts to someone who’s hired you. Stick to a holiday card with a personal note.
If you're looking for another reason to give:
You can likely take a tax deduction (up to $25 per recipient) for business gifts that are a way of professional networking or thanking a freelance business team member. Even more incentive to give some holiday cheer!
If you're friends or family:
Think about practical gifts that will help your freelancer friend or relative in what they do. It’s tough to make the bacon when you’re self-employed! Beyond gadget gifts and accessories for their home office, find out how they backup their work — you could gift a subscription to a cloud service as a gift that gives peace of mind.
What about gift ideas for people who work in an office?