How to work with freelancers successfully
Working with freelancers can seem like an exciting but also daunting prospect. Freelancers can bring all kinds of magic to your workplace. From extending your expertise through to carrying the load during busy times, freelancers can make all the difference to your organisation.
As a client, how well you set up a freelancer can have a direct impact on the success of your working relationship. Taking the time to get to know them, make them feel welcome and support their needs, is vitally important.
Here are some ways you can work with freelancers successfully without having to break your brain or the bank!
Brief them well
Briefing is a really important part of ensuring that a freelancer knows what work they need to complete. Yet so many clients skip the briefing part and believe an email will do. Or they don’t provide enough information to make a brief functional.
For the sake of brevity, let’s accept all work as a ‘project’, whether that’s additional works, a campaign, retainer or a revamp of existing work.
A good brief covers information about the:
- Company the project is for
- Customers the project aims to attract
- The objective of the project overall
A strong briefing format is BOER or Background, Objective, Execution, Results.
This is a paragraph of information that includes information about your company, the audience and what led you to consider the project in the first place, such as the problem you’ve encountered or competitive edge you’re attempting to gain.
What do you aim to achieve with this project? How will this project set a higher standard, improve your working conditions, beat the competition or make life easier for your customers?
Usually, three or four bullet points suffice.
This is the centre of the project and essentially, the work order or the execution.
The aim is to keep it high level but give enough detail to ensure the project doesn’t fall flat or have any glaring holes.
But don’t worry, this is the bit a seasoned freelancer can direct for you.
This is where you put the expected results for the project and how you will measure them. This can help inform everything from reporting choices to the type of tech chosen.
A strong brief benefits client and freelance alike. It can help you design the rest of your work around the project such as the marketing, internal education, and customer training. All while keeping the freelancer focussed on the end goal.
Answer the questions
Most freelancers will attempt to gain further insight to your project by asking questions. These questions might come via email before or during the project. They may also come in the shape of forms before the project kicks off or feedback forms once the first draft is submitted.
Freelancers are not asking you questions or trying to clarify what you mean or want for tickles and giggles. We’re trying to make sure the project you want is the project you get. Being vague, not thinking the answers through or expecting us to read your mind makes it really difficult to create great work.
Common questions include:
- What are your customers like? What are their likes, dislikes, joys and pains?
- Who are your competitors and what makes them competitive?
- What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- How much budget do you have to complete this project?
- Have you launched this kind of project before? How did it go?
- What is your working timeline?
- How much time do you have to devote to the project?
Work with us to fill in the knowledge gaps and help your project thrive.
Assign a point of contact
No single person can take on the voices of six bosses and eighteen other workers that have an opinion and turn that into a cohesive piece of work. A centralised point of contact, one who sifts through the voices and information supplied by all the team members and creates a unified perspective, is essential.
How your staff communicate on a project reflects on your organisation. Too many times, freelancers are asked to ignore internal disagreements, contradicting advice and then produce something that everyone feels like they have had their say. And they’re also placed in the awkward situation of refereeing between warring parties, facing angry managers who reject the project work at too late a stage because expectations haven’t been managed internally and so on.
That’s not how projects should be.
Every freelancer needs that one person who will protect the brief at your company as much as they do during the creative process. They should also be:
- Briefing the team to set their expectations
- Collating the feedback into one document (rather than forwarding on 14 different opinions)
- Responsible for sorting out internal disagreements, big personalities and people putting their career ahead of the project’s best interests
- Protecting the freelancer from seagull managers (i.e. the ones who fly in, poop all over the work, and then fly off again)
- The person who makes a case for the approach and the final product
Your projects deserve to be managed well and efficiently. That won’t happen if you aren’t brave enough to give someone autonomy and control over the decision-making process in real terms.
Stick to the scope
The brief and the forms we use to get a sense of your business are not there for no reason. After you’ve written the brief and agreed on the work scope, stick to it. While it might be exciting to think of new ideas along the way, freelancers operate off that brief to create what you need. Changing it often derails the project quality and creates frustration for the freelancer.
New ideas don’t have to be lost. Always remember that you can stage a project and come back to them later with more budget and time.
Impart your wisdom
The funny thing about business is the more you work on it, the more your knowledge grows. But the more your knowledge grows, the less you remember about what it was like before you had a handle on things.
Your freelancer knows their job well. They may even have extensive experience in your industry. However, you can’t expect them to know your culture or how you do things differently right from the get go. That’s where imparting your wisdom comes in.
The best and easiest ways to help a freelancer get up to speed quickly are to:
- Offer a style guide that explains the tone, look and feel of the company’s branding, design and marketing
- Provide your guidelines and industry best practice in formats like online intranet or accessible PDF
- Give examples of the work you want emulated
Encourage their best work
Sometimes, clients can treat freelancers like genies in bottles. They’re expected to have a little touch and transform the smallest wish into the biggest idea.
But as magical as they are, freelancers are mere mortals. Expecting a first draft to be perfect is an unrealistic expectation, especially if the quality of your brief is lacking. By giving your freelancer a chance to experiment – and even fail, you’re allowing them to take risks, test limits and see where the best interests of the work lie. This also shows that you have trust in their abilities.
Freelancers have a vested interest in your project’s success and want to help! They are hired for a fresh perspective and unique skill set. Encouraging your chosen freelancer to think outside the box can lead to innovative solutions that you may not have considered before.
No one is perfect, and mistakes are bound to happen. But micromanaging the experience won’t allow for their best work, either. Do what you can to find a balance!
Show professional respect
Most freelancers are seasoned professionals with a wealth of experience behind them. They are business owners in their own right who are proactive, helpful, and creative individuals. All project work is a process of collaboration, not dictation. While you may have a clear idea of what you want, listen to your freelancer’s ideas and insights. By working together, you can create something truly unique and impactful.
And respect freelancers as equals and peers. This includes paying them on time, having a clear timetable and plan for the project, and not demanding unnecessary meetings. It also means not engaging in bullying, shaming or taking out emotions on freelancers during the project works. Remember, freelancers are professionals and should be treated as such.
Want to work with professional freelancers that have your organisation’s best interests at heart? Check out the Freelance Jungle now!
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