Seven Tips for Getting the Best Out of Your Freelancers

Hiring freelancers can be an ideal way to bring expertise and different skills into your small business when they’re required. Freelancers save you the worry and expense of trying to create a regular-hours job, recruiting a suitable employee and setting up a workstation.

But once you’ve hired your freelancers, what can you do to make sure you get the best from them?

Let them see the bigger picture

As a freelancer, some of my best work has been done not on initial tasks for clients but later ones, when I’ve had a glimpse of the bigger picture: everything their company is involved in, where they have branches, how my task fits into their plans and how my work will be used.

Context is everything. Ensure you give freelancers an overview of your company, its aims, and the intended purpose, audience, presentation and outcome of their work.

Give a great brief

No freelancer likes a woolly brief. Now I know what you’re thinking: surely many do, because then they can just run with it and use their creativity.

Hmm. You would be surprised how all those stipulations you didn’t make and those things you didn’t say can result in an end product a million miles away from what you had in mind and a very frustrated freelancer. Depending on your agreement, this can cost one or both of you money and time.

That’s why it’s vital to give a clear, detailed brief. List the must-haves and the do-nots. Talk about the purpose of what they’re doing and its intended audience. Ensure they know how and where it will be published, presented or constructed. Only then can they do their best work for you – and let their creativity flourish within the correct parameters.

Make your expectations clear

It’s important to be clear about when and how your freelancer will get paid for their work, and if that pay is intended (or not) to cover any specific expenses they incur while working on the project (travel, access to materials or places that incur a fee etc.).

Will you pay on completion or in stages; by the hour or by progress? What will you do if you’re not happy with the work; how many alterations are included in the original fee? These are all things to consider – and then put in writing.

Listen to their opinions

Make it clear that you’re open to suggestions and feedback (but that you want to hear and approve them before your freelancer goes ahead with any changes). Your freelancer may be far more experienced than you in this particular area, and their feedback and suggested improvements could be invaluable – so keep your ears and mind open and put aside your pride!

Make them feel part of a team

How you go about this will largely depend on where your freelancer is working and how long they’re going to be working for you (either continually or recurrently).

If they work remotely but don’t live too far away, inviting them into the office now and then or to a social event can give them the chance to meet co-workers and feel part of the team. If they live some distance away, bringing them into the office may be impossible, but you could still include them in relevant meetings via Skype or video conferencing.

If they will be working on your premises, then ensure you and your staff treat them just like anyone else working there and include them in formal and informal events.

There’s also value in friendly communications. Asking them what they’re up to at the weekend at the tail-end of an email can get a friendlier dialogue going alongside the work-based discussions.

Pay fairly

When it comes to pay, bear in mind that freelancers have nothing and nobody to fall back on besides their own savings and themselves.

If they’re working from home, an office they rent or a co-working space, there will be expenses involved. In some form, they will be paying for heating, lighting, their equipment and the power required to use it. The phone you contact them on and the data and wi-fi they use? They pay for it. The stationery they make notes on and the coffee they drink? Paid for out of their pocket.

Annual leave, sick leave, income protection, pension, redundancy pay? Non-existent. Freelancers have to earn enough to cover all their workday expenses, any equipment they need and those times when they can’t work or need a break.

So, don’t be horrified when freelancers expect a higher hourly rate than employees; it’s a myth that working from home universally saves freelancers money. Pay them a reasonable rate as freelancers with expertise that you need.

Communicate clearly

Bad communication can be the death of the freelancer/client relationship and a major obstacle in the progress of your project.

We’ve already talked about how important it is to deliver a thorough brief, and to outline your expectations on when and how work is delivered and paid for. This should all be detailed in a written contract to safeguard both parties.

But you should also come to an agreement on how – and how often – you will communicate. If you want a daily or weekly progress update, say so upfront. Also specify whether you want a text, phone call, email or message. Make sure your freelancer knows where, when and how they can reach you or any other relevant staff if they have a query.

Ensure that when you communicate, you do so clearly. Always try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t know anything about this project or your business and start from there. Your idea may be crystal clear in your head, but you need to convey it to your freelancer in a detailed but understandable way.

Some businesses have formal guidelines for their dealings with freelancers. Why not consider developing some of your own – using these tips as your starting point?