Hiring a freelancer allows you to reap the benefits of a unique pool of talent.
By John Boitnott – Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor
If you’re a freelancer, you know all about the “gig economy” and how much it’s growing. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics from 2016, 15 million people were self-employed. That’s more than 10 percent of all U.S. workers. By 2020, that figure is expected to rise significantly.
That’s good news for entrepreneurs. It gives companies of all sizes greater access to experienced, skilled professionals at potentially more reasonable rates than full-time employment and benefits.
However, managing workflow with a freelancer can be challenging. Follow these tips to make sure you get the most out of your experience with freelance outsourcing.
1. Pick the right freelancer for the job.
Lots of websites and job boards can give you access to a wide pool of freelance talent. Upwork, Toptal, Guru and Fiverr are just a few popular choices. Exceptional freelancers can be found all over the web.
Ask the right questions of your candidates. Look for specialists. Of course, this requires a thorough understanding of the scope of the job. It may be tempting to hire the first candidate that seems suitable and turn the whole mess over to them. However, take the extra time upfront to craft the scope carefully. Locate providers with just the right skills for that scope. This will set you and your business up for greater success in outsourcing the work.
Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations and work samples. Review the freelancer’s portfolio carefully, Look specifically for samples that demonstrate the skills your job will need. If you need a social media content creator to craft images and content for a special launch or initiative, a social media manager may not the best choice. Likewise, if you need someone to revise your website’s content for better SEO, a copywriter who specializes in storytelling and brand content may be a poor fit, no matter how popular or highly rated they are.
2. Treat the freelancer as a skilled professional.
Hiring a freelancer allows you to reap the benefits of a unique pool of talent. Instead of comparing your freelancer to in-house employees or worse yet, as a disposable commodity, make sure you fully appreciate what the freelancer can bring to the table.
You’ll need to be clear about your expectations with respect to revisions, deliverables, timelines, and other aspects of the project and the freelancer’s performance.
3. Agree on the scope, fee and major deadlines.
The best way to successfully manage a project you’ve outsourced to any external provider, including a freelancer, is to agree on the essential terms of the project upfront, prior to beginning work. Preparing your scope of work is the essential first step to avoid misunderstandings and scope creep.
Detail exactly what the finished product should look like, including any necessary component elements. For example, if a company is outsourcing a white paper to me, I find it’s best when the client includes any specific topics and ideas they’s like me to address, as well as a target length (either in pages or word count, if not both).
Another critical element to negotiate is the fee. Make sure you understand the appropriate and legitimate range of fees for the work you’re outsourcing in your field and for the specified scope. As an example, fees for a 1,000 word-count blog post in the home repair field may be significantly less than the same project in the field of financial or health-care technology. Make sure you’re evaluating market fees on an “apples to apples” basis, comparing similar project scopes in your field.
You should also be specific about the deliverables you want. What do you expect your freelancer to complete in a tangible or intangible form? For example, if you’re outsourcing a new website, you’ll want the site to be delivered with full functionality, design and perhaps content. But, you’ll probably want a copy of the underlying digital files as well. Make sure to create a full list of everything you expect the freelancer to deliver at the end of the engagement.
Last but not least, don’t forget to put it all in writing. Reducing the job’s major elements to writing helps eliminate confusion and protects the essential details of your agreement against foggy future memories.
4. Respect their boundaries and independence.
Many entrepreneurs come to appreciate the attentiveness of freelancers. That’s all well and good, but keep in mind that in all likelihood, you’re not their only client. As such, it’s not always possible for the freelancer to reply to your inquiry immediately on Slack or via email. Many freelancers prefer written communications instead of telephone calls because they’re less intrusive or disruptive to their workflows. If at all possible, try to respect these boundaries.
5. Forge a long-term relationship with the right freelancer.
Establish long-term relationships with the freelancers who perform successfully for you, coming back to those providers in the future when further projects present themselves. This relationship-based approach to freelance management will help you save time and energy in the long run and help round out your team with more specialized skills and experience.