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Article | 04 Jul 2016

8 secrets to working with freelancers

Posted in Top tips, Tools & Advice, Motivation & inspiration, Learning, Client,

So you’ve found your perfect freelancer and you’re all set to make a splash with your PR and marketing – high five! So, what now? If you’ve never worked with freelancers before, you could find yourself in uncharted territory.

How do you make sure you get the most out of the relationship and the results that you’re looking for? Should you bring them into the fold like a normal employee, or keep them at arm’s length? It’s true that the freelance relationship can be an unusual one, due to its flexible and relatively transitory nature.

You certainly expect a freelancer to hit the ground running faster than a permanent employee, and they’ll usually be more project and target-orientated too.

But that doesn’t mean you can be completely hands-off either, particularly with freelancers working remotely - whether at home, in another city, or even another country. The right level of contact and management is essential, to ensure full engagement with the project and the highest quality of work, despite the distance!

When you find a good freelancer you’re likely to come back to them again and again, so it’s in your best interests to foster a productive and mutually beneficial relationship. Plus, with more and more work happening on a freelance basis, it makes sense to build a strong and loyal network of support that you know you can call on, now and in the future.

So, whether you’re working with freelancers for the first time, or wondering how you can do it better, here are some pointers on how to manage freelancers with aplomb!

1. Getting off on the right foot

Freelancers work best when they have a clear brief and expectations, enabling them to get stuck in as quickly as possible, without too much background knowledge. Many clients choose to give freelancers distinct projects, with a clear beginning and end, as this makes it easier to manage their time and responsibilities, as well as say goodbye later on.

While a formal contract isn’t usually necessary, it can help to write down somewhere – if only over email – what has been agreed. This ensures you are both clear on deliverables and have a record for future. The Work Crowd makes this easy, with in-built milestones on the platform, so both parties are on the same page about what is expected and when.

2. One of the team

Freelancers usually miss out on the office camaraderie that comes with being a full-time employee, so make them feel part of your team! Keep them updated on what’s going on with the company, invite them to work drinks and include them on the office email, if they’re happy for you to do so. By taking an inclusive approach, you’ll create a stronger, more enjoyable and ultimately more productive relationship.

3. Get to know them

Make the effort to get to know your freelancer on a personal as well as a professional level. If they’re working remotely, try to meet face-to-face at the beginning of the relationship at least, and talk on the phone regularly after that, making an effort to ask how they are, about their family or any weekend plans. The freelance life can be lonely at times, so chances are they’ll be glad to have a quick chat.

4. Don’t micromanage

Freelancers are expert self-managers and are unlikely to need much input from you on a day-to-day basis, so give them the space and flexibility to get on with the job. Where you can best add value is by giving them the context of the project, the ultimate goals, as well as any company or client updates that could affect what they’re working on. They will appreciate being kept in the loop, and might even be able to offer some useful insight and ideas.

5. Continuous feedback

Don’t panic, you don’t need to worry about performance reviews with freelancers! But that doesn’t mean no feedback is necessary. The best solution is to let them know how they’re getting on as and when appropriate, whether that’s after they’ve submitted some copy, lined up journalist interviews, or sent through some coverage. Whether you’re happy or unhappy, your freelancer wants to know your views, so they can either keep doing the same or try a different approach. So don’t be shy!

6. Avoid brief creep

It’s only natural that sometimes your needs will change, evolve and expand over the course of a project. But be aware that there will be a cost involved in any extra work that wasn’t agreed in the brief. If this happens, be upfront about it and ask how much the additional work will cost. Even if it’s just a small task, it all adds up, and your freelancer will thank you for raising the issue before they have to.

7. Avoid last minute requests

In many cases, freelancers are juggling a number of projects at once, so don’t expect them to be able to drop everything for an unexpected task. If you think you’re likely to need some support in the future, give them the heads up in advance, so they can assess their hours and schedule the work in. That goes for near and longer term projects – the best freelancers are likely to be booked up a few weeks or even months in advance.

8. Pay them well… and promptly!

Last but not least, make sure you pay the going rate and don’t negotiate down to peanuts. While it might make sense to budget in the short-term, paying that bit more will ensure better expertise, quality service and better results. Meanwhile, paying promptly will ensure your freelancer can continue with their fantastic service – and pay their bills!

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