April 11, 2017

6 tips for managing freelancers

Growing your business? Freelance support can bring you expertise, skill and an extra pair of hands, right when you need them – check out our 6 tips for a smooth and successful time.

By 2020, freelancers will account for 50% of the U.S. workforce, and it’s easier than ever to find and employ them – but what’s the best way to find and work with people who are engaged in you, your business and our clients? Here are 6 tips to guide you through.

1. Get the culture fit right

Culture is critical to entrepreneurial success. In a study by Adam Grant, author of Originals, a book about culture and non-conformity, he found that companies who prioritized culture fit in their hiring practices had a zero-percent failure rate over a 3-year period compared to companies that prioritized talent or skills. In sum, culture is critical when you’re small because it’s the glue that binds your business together.

It’s important to hire freelancers that reflect your brand in the same way your employees do. If they’re late for calls, meetings or turn up with a messy response to a brief, it reflects on you. You want to find someone who is going to be a good fit for your business, culturally. They should believe in the values and goals of your business and should want to be part of the journey – just as much as you do.

During the hiring process, find out more about them and ask questions such as: What’s their own vision for their future? Would they ever start a company and what would it stand for? And of course, what are they hoping that you stand for?

For them to be able to invest in you, you need to invest in them too as you would if they were a permanent employee. Give them the same tech, stationery and business cards that you treat yourself to. This will help them to feel empowered and will enable them to interact with clients and customers in the same way the rest of your workforce do.

2. Set standards for quality assurance

The projects your freelancers work on, and the work they produce are just as much theirs as they are yours – their output reflects on your company. Of course, hiring well is the first step.

Spend the time clearly defining what good looks like so that your freelancers have a model to work off of. Share your brand guidelines, assets and tone of voice documents etc. so that they feel immersed in your business and brand. That way, they will have a better understanding of your visual identity and this will be reflected in their output.

You could also put a lightweight review process in place – you might well find you get a better quality of work from your team by them just knowing you have the process in place.

3. Be clear with your expectations up front

It’s important to set your expectations up front – just as you would with your employees. It will not only help you, but it will also help the person you’re managing. Set project time frames and meeting agendas along with a clear reporting structure.

Share and discuss your values and culture, too. Set up meetings with your freelancers’ peers and have them working closely next to you and the team. This will really help your freelancers to understand how you do things. You’ll find work is completed faster and questions and concerns can be addressed upfront, quickly.

Then, trust them. “Modern leadership is gardening, not chess,” says Ret. Gen. Stanley McChrystal in his business management book Team of Teams.

4. Respect, understanding and praise breeds loyalty

Trust is the foundation upon which all good relationships are built, so whether your freelancer is going to be with you for 2 months, or 12 months, treat them in the same way you would your other employees. Give praise where it’s due and make time to do regular appraisals – nothing motivates quite like knowing that your work is appreciated. As Dale Carnegie, author of the business classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, said “shout your praise from the rooftops!”

It builds goodwill that’ll help you weather harder times, like when you need a favor on a last-minute project. And, you’ll find that people are eager to live up to your expectations, so there’ll be no need to micromanage.

5. Pay your freelancers by project – and on time

Not only will this allow you to manage your budget, but it will also reflect well on your business – everyone likes to be paid on time. Good freelancers appreciate the certainty, and your good reputation will echo through the freelance community. In fact, 50% of freelancers report that income stability is their number-one concern when it comes to going self-employed, according to the Freelancers Union.

Plus, project pay is far more simpler than trying to track hourly work which can be hard to estimate and impossible to keep track of! Freelancing platforms like UpWork and Fiverr have developed time-tracking software solutions to help make both yours, and your freelancers’ lives easier. Phew!

6. Value their careers

Just because someone’s a freelancer, doesn’t mean they don’t have a career path or goal. According to the Freelancers Union just 27% are moonlighting to supplement their income or experience while at a full-time position. The rest see this as a stepping stone to building their own business or attaining their next position.

Treat your freelancers as you would your own employees. By respecting and helping them along their path, you’ll forge a bond that’ll deepen their investment in your company and your customers.

Play to their strengths and give them a good mix of work. Freelancers are just as talented as the rest of your workforce so don’t just give them the projects that no one else wants to do.

Managing freelancers sounds easier than you thought, huh? A relationship with your freelancer is like any relationship – they take work. If you invest in them, they’ll invest in you, they’ll stick around, and they’ll help you scale your business efficiently.

Make sure your freelancers have their business cards at the ready

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