September 19, 2014

7 Rules to Follow When Working With Freelancers

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Small Biz Technology

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Freelancers are awesome professionals who can help your business grow, before you need to hire employees. I’ve used freelancers for years and they’ve helped my business, quite a bit.

Chris Byers, CEO of Formstack has some thoughts on how to do this and he’s shared his top tips for working with freelancers below.

Learn From Past Mistakes

Identify the problems you have had with freelancers in the past. Was there conflict about rate or scope of the project? Establish a written contract. Have you hired freelancers who didn’t deliver? Create a new hiring process.

You get the idea. Once you pinpoint the underlying issues, determine what you need to do differently. Take the mentality that you’re not just hiring a freelancer. In many ways, you’re hiring a remote employee.

Vet Your Freelancers

Hiring is one of the most important elements to a business, but many people will take on a freelancer with little consideration. Even though you don’t have the same commitment to a freelancer as a full-time employee, you are still counting on them to deliver an important service.

Require references and ask about the freelancer’s turnaround time, dependability, and attitude. Were the references happy with the quality of work they received? Did they hire the freelancer for multiple projects? Always ask for work samples to evaluate their skill level.

Over Communicate Goals and Deadlines

Be clear about your project schedule. Some freelancers juggle multiple clients and may not have total availability. As the project goes on, touch base with their progress. Give deadlines for rough drafts or mockups. You want to be able to stop your freelancer from going too far down the wrong path. (After all, you’re paying for the work.)

Video chats with screen-sharing can reassure you that your freelancer is producing what you had in mind. According to the Formstack “Managing Remote Teams” infographic, 83% of remote workers report their project statuses online. Ask your freelancers to update you at least weekly.

Make the Connection

Your freelancers are working on a project that probably includes several other employees. How well do they fit with the rest of the team? Help them feel connected to the team so they can catch the vision for your project. Introduce them to people via video chat or have them sit in on a meeting.

Connecting with your freelancer results in less isolation and a better sense of what your project’s goals are. This is especially helpful if you want to build a long-term relationship with a freelancer.

Create Cheat Sheets

Freelancers need to know about your brand guidelines. They should clearly understand your company’s style, design, and voice. Style guides can save you lots of time correcting things that aren’t quite right with freelancers.

Because brand guidelines usually change over time, create a living document that can be shared internally. Your freelancer may even offer suggestions on how to improve it, which is an added bonus.

Evaluate Your Freelance Experience

Too often, small businesses have to run headlong into the next project without taking a moment to reflect. Evaluate your freelancers along the way. Did they meet the goals of the project? Were they available to you? Did work have to be sent back repeatedly for revision?

For example, if the deliverables were great but you could never get ahold of your freelancer, you might not want to work with them again. If you decide not to rehire someone, give them feedback to help them improve.

Managing Freelancers Like Remote Workers

The same rules apply to freelancers and remote employees. Hire well, communicate your objectives, report on progress, and offer feedback.

Additionally, if you’re like the 66% of employers who offer occasional telecommuting, you’ll become more skilled as a remote manager.

Taking a new approach can help you find the freelancers who will help your company reach its goals.

Freelancer Photo via Shutterstock

4 Comments ▼

Small Biz Technology


Small Biz Technology SmallBizTechnology.com is part of the Small Business Trends Publisher Channel, and is all about helping “regular” small business owners – those who are not technically savvy – know what technology they need to boost productivity, save time, save money, increase revenue and boost customer service in their business.

4 Reactions

  1. I would add that these are the same principles that should guide internal hires and management as well. Basically, treat freelancers more like employees and you’ll get better results.

  2. I agree with Robert. I’m a freelance writer and just finished a project where I sent emails and made phone calls to supervisors and presidents for a month and a half trying to get the information I needed to complete the project. I did not feel part of the team at all.

    I like the idea of cheat sheets. Having them would save time on both the client’s and freelancer’s time.

  3. After a few years of working with freelancers and outsourcing my own platform for freelancing services, I would say communication is the most important issue. I have had to sent back work for revision because the person I hired didn’t understand what I was tring to do or they didn’t convey the correct message to their developers. It was usually a matter of literally not understanding the language of communication.

    I have also learnt that monitoring is very important at the beginning of a project. If the right technology, solutions or tools are not used at the very beginning, things are bound to go wrong in the future. Be especially vigilant and make sure you are building on a solid foundation.

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