Five tips for managing freelancers
Most project teams look different today than they did ten years ago. More and more companies employ freelancers, and most managers would instead hire a freelancer than a temporary employee through a staffing company. Small businesses owners are turning towards freelance marketplaces like Upwork, 99Designs, and PeoplePerHour to find help handling various aspects of their businesses. On these hiring platforms, you can find everyone from a certified attorney to a musician who will compose your youtube video theme song. If you’re considering working with freelancers or already have them in your team then here are some tips to make your working relationship successful and efficient.
1. Sign a contract
Imagine that you’ve hired a developer to implement a simple application or website for you. You pay an upfront payment and send out all requirements expecting your freelancer to start working. Weeks go by, and you don’t receive the deliverable you were expecting. Maybe you got some code written and couple links that show you the concept of the work, but it’s nowhere near the finished product you were expecting and paid for.
To prevent situations like that you better have a contract outlining terms of your agreement. In some states an email describing terms counts as a contract, but it’s always safer and more professional to have a real contract. Make sure to list all your expectations, including milestones, deadlines and a brief description of what you expect to be done. I would recommend including the non-disclosure clause so that the details of your project are kept private.
Some contracts also include non-compete statements forbidding freelancers to work with your competitors for a certain amount of time. Not only those are non-enforceable in most states, but they may also result in lost business for a freelancer, so they are likely to refuse signing contract with that clause.
2. Make your expectations clear
One of the essential steps in managing freelancers is making sure that both of you are on the same page regarding what’s expected. Because if you’re not your project won’t be successful and both you and freelancer will be unhappy about working together. You will find the product they deliver as being too far from what you expected, and they will see you as a client who’s asking for endless free work and updates.
Most important part is, of course, the project scope — defining it clearly is an art of itself and one of the biggest challenges in management. Experienced freelancer will ask you a lot of questions further clarifying the scope. He will also warn you if something is impossible to do within the desired timeframe or is beyond his skillset.
Other expectations have to be defined before the project starts — preferred communication methods, working hours, meeting times, payment schedule and methods, submission schedule. These things wouldn’t typically be included in the contract but are essential for a successful long-term working relationship.
3. Provide as much information as possible
Give your freelancer as much information as you have and don’t hesitate even if you think that it’s more than they need to get the job done. If you’re working with graphics designer tell them how graphics they’re creating will suit your overall marketing strategy, how you plan to use them and show marketing materials you already have. If you’re working with social media expert, show them campaigns that you like and that are successful in your field and the ones you don’t like. It will help them set the right goals and will save you both time on going back and forth from initial concept to final deliverable.
It applies to the feedback you are giving. Be detailed and specific about what you like and what should be improved, to allow your freelancer to get your vision and get as close as possible to the outcome you have in your head. The more detailed your feedback will be, the less time will be spent refining the project, and the less effort will be spent taking the project to a successful finish.
4. Trust a freelancer to do the job
The reason you’ve hired them in the first place is that you or your staff can’t complete the work on your own. Let the freelancer do everything themselves, don’t micromanage them. It won’t make them work any better but instead would damage their productivity and will make them feel undervalued. “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do” — Steve Jobs said.
After all, you hired a freelancer for expertise on the subject, so let them focus on their core competencies so that you can focus on yours. Your job is to provide guidance and support. When people feel trusted and empowered, they will go the extra mile for you willing to do whatever it takes to make the project successful
5. Build long-term work relationships
One of the most significant drawbacks of working with freelancers is the need to continually bring someone to the team and train them to get up to speed with the project. You can minimize that onboarding time by building a relationship with a freelancer. That way each time you work with the same person again it becomes much faster to get them rolling with the project. If you worked together before, you already know what to expect of each other and how you both like to get things done.
Freelancers value long-term clients too. The more they work with you, the less time they need to spend time looking for new clients. That means they have more time and energy to put into your project. It’s also easier for them to get started working, so they spend less time on preparation.
Freelance marketplaces are incredibly convenient and cost-effective way to find talent that will help you grow your business. Just make sure you invest time into finding the right people and build a relationship with them. Otherwise, you will miss out a lot of opportunities, and it can have an adverse effect on your business.