In our connected world, there are ever increasing opportunities to make the most of freelance talent. Play it right and your business might be richly rewarded. Play it wrong and you may have to pick up a few pieces or worse, do it all over again; that’s a potentially expensive and damaging road that you do not want to go down. The key to getting the best from a freelance talent involves only the basics of good management, nothing you wouldn’t do in any other area of the business. Here’s how to get the best out of your freelance talent every single time.
Integrate properly. How is any new employee inducted into your company? They are made aware of the ‘dos and don’ts’ and the company hierarchy, they would be introduced to their team mates and made to feel welcome. A freelance expert is no longer an outsider, create the relationship.
Set clear goals. Employers can be guilty of assuming that freelance experts are psychic and then be left wondering why things are not going according to plan. If you have an important job to be done in any area, the words “nobody told me” are not ones you want to hear. Remember that a freelancer’s performance is a reflection on you too.
Share. If you have created SOPs and other materials, benchmarks and deadlines, make sure that everything pertinent is communicated to your freelancer. Many companies have been guilty of communicating tasks to a freelancer on an ad-hoc basis. This is ripe for creating confusion and also displays a general lack of trust to the freelancer. Share all relevant information regardless of the size or price of the job; it’s a good habit to nurture in yourself and in your team.
As well as this, you are not just hiring a freelancer; you are hiring an expert in their field, probably because they have a skill set that you do not have in-house or can’t afford. Make the most of this situation, they may spot a few things you have not, or even think of ‘roads’ that you would otherwise not have thought to go down.
Set clear benchmarks and make timely payment. We have seen this become a problem all too often. Benchmarks are created that are mainly of benefit to the employer, with the freelance talent having to turn in quite an amount of work before they see a cent in payment. This is a sure-fire way to tell a freelancer that you are wary of them and to almost guarantee that they are going to lose interest long before the task is completed; because they are going to prioritize other, better or faster paying jobs over yours. Create trust and show respect and faith; an appropriate and timely reward for your freelance expert will likely reward you too.
A wise company offers rewards other than payment. This can take the form of a good reference or referrals within your own network – small but valuable thoughts. In the long term, if your company grows, there may be future work or a position within the company.
Payment and other freelancing matters are discussed in this excellent interview with Steli Efti & Hiten Shah on The Startup Chat. It’s very insightful and well worth watching. Hiten Shah started two SaaS companies, Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics.
Communicate Constantly and Properly. Speaking of losing interest, your freelance expert is an employee for whatever period of time you have them for. Would you fail to communicate with any employee under your authority for a week or more? How would you want them to perform if you did?
Make it a point to check in frequently and have a few questions specific to the task prepared.
Prepare your questions because if chats are mostly aimless you’ll soon stop making them; and that’s not good people management. These conversations will give you a good indicator of progress, give you an opportunity to offer and receive feedback and gain the insight of an expert. It also shows that you respect them. Proper oversight is a must for all employees; a freelancer should be no different. On top of that – we all love to talk about our work!
In general, all any of this means is that good business and good people management practices apply when working with freelance experts, the same as with any of your employees. Your strength is in your people; and you are only as strong as your weakest link…