Unfortunately, hiring a talented handpicked freelancer doesn’t mean your needs will automatically be met. There are certain actions you need to take (or avoid) in order to ensure a productive working relationship. As with your full-time employees, you need to manage your freelancers, and you need to manage them effectively.
Managing handpicked freelancers can be challenging for people or agencies who are new to employing outside talent. Here are a few things to avoid when managing on demand freelancers, and what to do instead:
1. Do not be afraid of constant communication. A lack of communication is a surefire way to prevent productive collaboration. If you don’t communicate frequently and effectively with your freelancer, both sides will end up frustrated. Why? You will be frustrated because the freelancer won’t have met your implicit expectations and your handpicked freelancer will be frustrated because he or she will have put in a lot of time and effort on a project that may never leave your desk and see the light of day.
What you should do: If you or your team’s project manager cannot spend the time to communicate clearly with your freelancers, how can you expect an on demand freelancer to anticipate what you want? Take the proper time to onboard the freelancer with a training program that explains the communication systems such as Asana, Trello, Coworks or any other platforms you will use to stay on the same page during your project. If they are unfamiliar with the platform, provide a guide of best practices so that they know how to best communicate with you and your team. After you have a solid system in place, communicate very clearly what your expectations are for the project, including deadlines, creative direction and all essential information. Always err on the side of over communicating.
2. Do not treat freelancers as subcontractors.
A handpicked freelancer should be your ace in the hole; your all-star in the bullpen waiting to be called upon to win the game for your team. So why, if they are a huge value add to your business, would you treat them as a third-party contractor? After all, they are working on project for your team that will be delivered to your clients!
What you should do: Treat your handpicked freelancer like a valued team member. This one seems obvious, but managers often slip into the out of sight out of mind, way of thinking which is detrimental to the freelancer relationship. Patrick O’Brien, a former McCann Product Manager turned freelance copywriter says that his best work is “produced when I have the access and full support of the agency.” If your handpicked freelancer feels alienated from your team, you run the risk of them not being completely dedicated to your project and using their most valuable assets to benefit your project – their creativity and outsider’s point-of-view.
3. Do not set unreasonable project timelines.
If a project takes 40 hours to complete, allow for 40 hours in your budget — don’t expect a contractor to be able to finish it in 30 hours, just so you can save on the hourly rate. By doing this, you sacrifice getting the project done well, in which case the money you’ve spent on the 30 billable hours has potentially gone to waste. Also, consider that the freelancer you’re working with might have other projects they’re working on: this means that unlike a regular employee, they might not be able to devote eight hours a day for the next five days to completing this project.
What you should do: Calculate how many hours a project will take, taking into account the time a freelancer will need to understand the necessary context and background information. Then, check in with the freelancer in regards to their schedule in the upcoming days, to see if they can allocate the necessary time to complete it (as opposed to assuming that they can work on your project fully and immediately). According to Chris Kelly, a former marketing lead at CreativeLive gone freelance copywriter says that, “the most common and unfortunate misunderstanding I have with my clients is the amount of time it takes to complete a project…which is usually a result of the client not taking the proper time to assess the size of the portion of the project they are outsourcing to me.”
If you can set reasonable expectations, you can alleviate stress on for both the handpicked freelancer and your team.
Need to know more about hiring freelancers? Check out this blog post.