Article | 25 Oct 2016

Pitfalls to avoid when working with freelancers

Posted in Business, Top tips, Tools & Advice, Client,

Working with freelancers can revolutionise your business, giving you flexible and experienced professionals to complement your existing team. They are hugely professional, hard-working and flexible individuals, who always aim to exceed client expectations.

Not only do they bring vital expertise into the business, they are also great to work with, contributing fresh ideas and a flexible, can-do approach. But as with any supplier, the right planning and management are crucial, to ensure you get the most out of the relationship and the desired results. Get it wrong and things can go awry for a variety of reasons, leaving both parties dissatisfied and disappointed with the outcome. To make sure that doesn’t happen, take note of the main errors and pitfalls that we find businesses making, and how to make sure you avoid them:

• Is your brief too brief? There are numerous issues that can arise from providing a rushed, vague brief for a job. Firstly, it makes finding the right person more challenging, as you’ll either attract CVs from freelancers who aren’t right, or get so many that you can’t see the wood for the trees. Then once the project starts, if you haven’t been clear about your expectations, your chosen freelancer won’t know what you want – and that probably means you won’t get it. Drafting a decent brief doesn’t take long and it’s worth the effort. You’ll save a lot of time and hassle further down the line.

• Panic posting: One of the big selling points for using freelancers is that it gives you fast access to talent, often to plug gaps in your existing team. But that doesn’t mean you can advertise a post the day before the start date and expect to find the best person. Good freelancers usually have other commitments so you could be disappointed. Instead, advertise the post as soon as you become aware of the need and at least a week or two before the start date. It will give you more time to collect responses and conduct interviews, ensuring you find somebody who truly fits with what you’re looking for.

• The disappearing act: You advertise a role and some great freelancers apply, but then they’re left hanging, with no response for a number of weeks. This not only leaves freelancers feeling frustrated and confused, it can also damage your company brand and your ability to find the talent you need in the future. Freelancers want to work with clients who are reliable and responsive and this doesn’t send out a good message. Instead, take the time to send a quick email back to all those who responded, even if it’s just to say ‘no, thanks very much’, or ‘we’re reviewing responses’. It means the freelancer knows what is happening and doesn’t feel ignored.

• Cheap is expensive: The internet makes it easy to find cheap freelance talent and if you really want to pay £20/day, no doubt you’ll find somebody to take it on. But, we’ll warn you now that you’re likely to be disappointed! Instead, consider your brief and the level of professional you need, then do a bit of research into the going rate for somebody with that expertise. Good freelancers are in high demand, and by pushing the price down, you’ll only end up with a sub-par service.

• The bottleneck: Freelancers are great self-starters and happy to get on with the job, without too much management from you. However, they do need prompt feedback on work completed, or it can slow their progress on other aspects of the project. It is also in your best interest to provide ongoing feedback on the freelancer’s work and if it is meeting your expectations. If you’re not happy with something, it’s best to raise it sooner rather than later, so the problem can be rectified.

• Brief creep: It’s easily done. Your freelancer is so fantastic and efficient that you decide to ask them for a quick bit of help with another piece or work, even though it wasn’t in the brief. Cue awkward conversation about time and money! Remember, freelancers are a supplier like any other and their knowledge and advice is their livelihood. So if you’d like their help with something extra, don’t expect them to do it for free. Instead, ask them to provide a quote for the extra work, so they don’t need to raise the issue first.

• It pays to pay: Probably the quickest way to get on the wrong side of a freelancer – late and missed payments. As self-employed professionals, they don’t have the security of a monthly pay cheque like regular employees, instead relying on clients to pay their invoices on time. So make sure you have a discussion about payment terms at the start of the relationship and agree what works best for both parties. Also consider taking advantage of an escrow system like the one on The Work Crowd, to give both sides security; you that the freelancer won't be paid until the work is complete and the freelancer that once they’ve completed the work, the money is ready and waiting for them.

With just a little bit of planning and management, they’ll be off and away, helping you achieve your business objectives. Get it right and you’re likely to keep working with the same freelancers again and again, as your business grows and develops.

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