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I'm working as a freelancer for a long term client on a complex project. In fact, this project is so complex that I cannot do it all on my own and as such a third party (an established company) was brought in to the game to speed things up and do the project management.

Initially that worked fine, although the company has been making a lot of demands on their behalf regarding my freelance working style. There are few things that bother me the most:

  • I am not allowed to work remotely and have to be physically present in their office (6000 miles from home)

  • I have not been getting any project management from them, but they do demand to review my work to "assure they can deliver quality" to our mutual client based on my work

  • Questions that I have asked their expert employees that are in on the project were billed to our mutual client for their time spent answering

Personally I don't mind having my work reviewed if that was done on a "Hey if you need some help with anything let us know" kind of basis but they make it feel like a Spanish inquisition. (The one time I had some question marks on quality of work done on their end I virtually got the contract shoved in my face with the remark that it adheres to the contract.)

In the beginning I have mentioned to them a few things that I have difficulties with but the only strict answer I got is that they as a company protect their own interests and literally "as an external I am a risk and they should have appropriate risk management".

Currently I am on a visa run. It's my second day out and I conveniently "forgot" to hand in my work for their review while I am away. At the moment I have messages about the review in three different social media outlets (one of them being a private account) while the deal was that I would have a certain amount of work finished on my return next week.

All in all I am not sure being able to work with them any longer. Because by now I dread going to their office and a project that I used to really love has now become a burden to me. It affects me so much that only now I am away from them I realise how much it stresses me out.

I have also discussed this with the client and although he feels my frustration, he also cannot back out of the deal (which I wouldn't want him to either) for financial and contractual reasons of course. My backing out would also put the client and myself in a difficult financial position.

I'm not so sure if this is a good question or too vague and ambiguous but despair is very near and any help or guidance is appreciated at this point.

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Since no one else has answered yet, I'm going to take a stab at it, but I've never encountered this exact situation before, so please consider that when considering my advice.

I gather that:

  1. The company you normally work for directly shifted you UNDER this other company for this project. Is this other company paying your invoices?

  2. Your original client knows you are not happy with the demands, and understands, but tells you there is nothing they can do about it.

  3. If you were to beg out of this project it would put your original client in a bind, which you don't want to do to them and it could hurt your future prospects with them.

OK... Some questions:

  1. Are you sure your original client really wants you on this project?

  2. Does your original client care whether or not you work remotely or give these daily reports?

  3. Can/would this new contractor fire you? IOW, if your original company doesn't want you to leave this project, then wouldn't they also be ticked if the new contractor fired you?

  4. Is it possible your original client really does want all these demands met but they don't have the courage to tell you that so they are pretending to be sympathetic?

  5. Have you told the control-freak-contractor that these things are a problem for you and not how you do your best work?

I ask because:

If you don't even want to be on this project that bad any more and you really are doing it mostly as a favor to your original client at this point, you may have a lot more leverage than you think with the new contractor.

Unless you are afraid it will lose you a great long term client, you might just passively resist their demands. Simply don't do daily reports. OH WELL. Find a "real" reason from your life why you are simply unable to travel 6,000 miles - back spasm, a family member that needs support, other commitments you made prior to these new project requirements, health issues (the travel is stressing you out...), etc. Don't lie, find something real, but make it non-negotiable:

"I simply cannot make the trip, but I am very committed to this project, and I am will absolutely work remotely to help you out."

For things like their stupid daily updates, if you're getting paid for your time I would just do it, but I would never do a second of it on my own time/dime. And if they charge your client for that, I understand you want to protect them, but they made their bed by signing onto this. But I would never engage them on social media, and when you're off the clock, or you agreed to an update on Friday and it's only Monday, I would 100% ignore all attempts at communication from them. Simply do not respond.

And if they gripe at you later, just politely explain your working hours to them and that you do not check work email during those hours or when you're traveling. Do not be apologetic. Just be perplexed that they are wigging out over it when you clearly were not on the clock.

And when you do extra things like having your work checked, make sure they and your original client understand that you are not getting as much work done because you're spending so much time with emails, meetings, overviews, whatever...

As long as you're willing to possibly lose the job over it, and you've been upfront that you don't work well with these conditions, I would just decide what your boundaries are and don't allow (or just ignore) all their attempts to breach them.

If your original client really wants you the contractor may be afraid to fire you for fear of ticking off their new client.

If you do decide to just passively resist their demands tell yourself that you are only doing XYZ from now on so that you do not get stressed out when they keep emailing and calling you. It's their problem. They can freak out if they want, but you're done with that.

ON the other hand if getting fired from this projet is a big concern to you, then I would suck it up. But the 6,000 miles of travel in this day of remote technology is probably unnecessary and if you give a reason why you CANNOT do it anymore, they will probably discover it's workable for you to do at least most of it remotely.

Good luck.

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