Outsourcing can save companies a small fortune, but only when it’s done correctly. Here are 9 must-know tips for hiring and working with freelancers.
Here's what you need to know:
- When working with freelance workers, make sure the project has a defined scope and schedule and negotiate the ownership of projects
- Don’t micromanage or treat them like standard employees
- Create a relationship based on open communication and hire for expertise rather than rates
- Make sure their skills and experience match your company’s needs and have a support structure in place for freelancers
- Be clear about deadlines and expectations and always put contracts and agreements in writing
There comes a point in business where you may find yourself in need of additional help and support. However, you may not need all that comes with hiring a new employee, including the thousands of dollars you’ll invest in onboarding and training a single person. One option that many businesses are embracing in today’s global, digital workforce is working with freelancers.
According to studies, there are over 56 million Americans alone that are freelancing regularly. They provide more than 72 million hours of freelance work every week. That’s an impressively deep pool of labor, but it’s also one that needs to be managed properly.
Of course, the secret to success with freelance workers is understanding their different needs and roles in the talent pool, as well as what you can do to ensure that your freelance workers end up delivering everything that you need and building their career at the same time.
Outsourcing can save companies a small fortune, but only when it’s done correctly. Here are 9 must-know tips to help your freelancer workers succeed, no matter what their specialty or your line of business.
1. Make sure the project has a defined scope and schedule
When hiring freelancers, what you want to avoid is any miscommunication or misunderstanding from the very start.
That means instead of just posting an ad looking for a freelancer, you need to create a project that comes with a scope, schedule, timeline, and other elements so that the freelancer knows what they’re signing up for and that they can deliver.
2. Negotiate the ownership of projects upfront
This is another critical part of working with freelancers. You cannot just assume that they’re working “for you” so it’s your content or property when they’re done with a project.
For starters, it defaults to being the property of the person who did the project. Secondly, you might want to get a freelancer to do a project and transfer the ownership to you once it’s complete — they need to know that those are the terms they’re working under.
If you don’t handle this upfront, you could run into issues with your freelancers.
3. Don’t micromanage or treat them like standard employees
If you want freelancers to succeed, you have to give them the space and means to do so. That includes not micromanaging or treating them like “any other employee.” They’re not just any employee. They’re a person that you chose to outsource work to so that you didn’t have to do it in-house. Therefore, you have to trust that they can manage themselves.
One of the things that many freelancers report is that employers don’t know how to treat them, so they default to the way they handle regular employees.
4. Create a relationship based on open communication and feedback
As we mentioned, communication is a critical part of success in working with freelancers. It’s important to build a foundation that is based on feedback, mutual trust, and open communication. That way, everyone can feel like they are truly valued by the organization, even if they only work on a freelance basis.
Make sure that they’re open to feedback and, just as importantly, that you are open to feedback they may provide.
5. Hire for expertise rather than rates
This is 1 of the biggest tips for companies today. Often, freelancers get lowballed or even asked to do their job for free by people who don’t realize there’s value to be had.
You’re paying for a service — how much quality do you expect to see in that service? If you hire the cheapest freelancers around, that’s exactly what you’ll get: cheap work.
If, however, you start your search by looking for qualified freelancers, regardless of cost, you’ll have a much better chance of finding the right people at the right price.
Hourly rates are great, but they don’t tell you much about a person. Take the time to consider all the freelancers that are available and their levels of expertise and skills.
The worst thing that employers do is to hire an individual or freelance agency just because they have a low rate. Sometimes, that’s a good sign. Sometimes, it’s a bad sign. In every situation, you need to know more about your freelancers than just what they expect to earn. It’s important to find the balance.
Some of the best freelancers might have rates that seem “too low” for some. Some of the worst may charge a small fortune, which makes people think they provide a boutique-level service and erroneously invest in them.
6. Make sure their skills and experience match your company’s needs
Freelancers are great because, in addition to being more affordable, they also offer the benefit of providing a necessary service for a specific amount of time, or on an as-needed basis.
When you are hiring freelancers, make sure that they have the experience and skills to deliver what your organization needs specifically.
When you are hiring freelancers, make sure that they have the experience and skills to deliver what your organization needs specifically. If you need a freelance writer with technical writing expertise, you wouldn’t hire a creative writer, for example.
7. Have the right support structure in place
While you’re embracing your new freelance help, you can’t forget to make sure that they also get support while they’re on the job when they need it. This could include someone (besides you) to manage and maintain the freelance workforce, people to review freelancers’ projects, and so forth.
If your freelancers are completely detached from the organization, they’re not going to be able to fit into the workflow and make the most of building a solid relationship with your team.
8. Be clear about deadlines and expectations
This is another part of having proper communications. You need to make sure that expectations and deadlines are explicitly clear and agreed upon even before any work starts.
The biggest complaints and disagreements between companies and freelancers often relate to work deadlines, expectations of a project, or another related issue that could have been resolved by having an open discussion about the project without the fear of what the other party might think or anticipate.
Let them know what you expect to make sure both of your expectations are aligned.
9. Always put contracts and agreements in writing
A contract is a must for any freelancer-employer relationship. Gone are the days when people can work on a promise and a handshake.
Take the time to create a freelancer contract that will clearly outline all of the duties of the role, the expectations and deliverables, deadlines, payment for services, and other terms. This way, you can guarantee that everyone is on the same page and there will be fewer miscommunications or disagreements.
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Setting freelancers up for success benefits your company
Preparation goes a long way in business, and that includes preparing your company and the freelancers that you hire to have the most success possible in their duties.
Many freelancers feel underappreciated and misunderstood, so being prepared will set you apart from the rest right out of the gate. Make sure that you offer recognition and appreciation just as you would for standard employees.
With these tips, you’ll be giving freelancers the best experience and work environment possible and reaping the rewards as a result.