Top Ten Tips for Working with Freelancers

12 Sep

As a freelancer, I come across all sorts of clients and all sorts of behaviour. If you want to get the best out of the freelancers you use, whether you’re a tiny company outsourcing to an accountant and a copywriter or part of a huge tech company with hundreds of freelance programmers on your books, these tips will help you get the most out of the relationship.

1. Communicate

This is tip number one, and feeds into so many others of the top ten. Be clear in your initial communications. Express your requirements clearly. If anything changes: the project, the deadline, the date you can deliver the project to them, your expectations – tell your freelancer. They’re not a mind reader: you need to tell them.

2. Manage expectations

If you commission a chatty, friendly blog post and you get a piece of corporate spin, did you really express what it was that you wanted? Again, freelancers are not mind-readers. A good writer can write in whatever style you want – but they do need guidance. Like a computer, a freelancer will absorb your instructions and produce output to the brief given.

A good freelancer will check what you want, and in some cases will send you over a questionnaire to fill in or have a chat with you over the phone. Use this opportunity.

3. Keep to deadlines

If you promise to deliver a project specification, a document, a set of keys, whatever, to your freelancer, on a particular day at a particular time, then either keep to that agreement or, if you can’t, let them know as far in advance as you possibly can. Everyone has sudden last-minute issues and no one minds that, but freelancers do mind booking in a job, possibly turning away other clients because that time is booked, then no work arriving.

Similarly, if your end deadline changes, keep your freelancer informed, give them the chance to adjust their schedule, and understand if they can’t. Perhaps you’re a journalist and your editor changes when they need that interview write-up – let your transcriber know as soon as possible and show willing to pay an urgent fee or make the deadline as flexible as possible.

This applies to payments, too. Make your company’s payment schedule clear in advance (no – “oh, yes, it’s a 60 day payment schedule; didn’t I tell you?” please) and make sure you pay on time or let the freelancer know if you can’t.

4. Treat your freelancer as a human being

This seems to apply especially in office-type services, such as editing and virtual secretarial services. Several colleagues have commented privately that they feel like some of their clients think of them as a piece of office machinery, like a printer or network cable, and are then scandalised when real life – an emergency, a holiday – intervenes. Just because you can’t see your freelancer doesn’t mean they don’t have a face and a life! (I’m lucky, pretty well all of my clients treat me well and even let me go on holiday occasionally!)

5. Inform your freelancer about your availability

If you’re going on holiday, or you don’t work Mondays, let the person you’ve commissioned know. They might have a question and not be able to get in touch with you. Leading on to …

6. Have backup

Is there someone else in your organisation who could pick up the reins with your freelancer(s) if you were to go off sick or go on holiday? I’ve had situations where my contact at a client’s office has gone out sick, and no one’s been told about the projects I’m working on or when I should be paid.

7. Respect your freelancer

Professionally and personally. They’re the expert in what they do, just like you’re the expert in what you do. You’ve hired them to do a job, so let them do that job. If you feel you know how to do whatever you’re asking them to do, remember that it might be a part of your job, but it’s their speciality. Of course it’s fine to ask questions, but if you’ve chosen right, from a recommendation or by checking out the freelancer’s references and experience, let them get on with their job.

Having said that, I’m pretty sure I’ve typed some terrible mis-hearings into transcriptions I’ve done for clients, but I’ve never (thankfully) seen them laughing about it in public. Don’t make assumptions about their private life – it’s polite to ask if they mind working through the weekend on your project, even if they’ve done so before. I don’t mind working odd hours for my clients, as I make up for it with long lunch breaks with gym sessions and a sit in the garden, but I appreciate it when they realise that I have a life, too!

8. Work with your freelancer’s working methods

Although a good freelancer will adapt the way they work to suit you to a certain extent, there are times when you need to fit in with how they work. For example, if a client needs to comment on a text I’ve produced for them, I request them to do so in Track Changes, rather than colouring in bits of text and writing comments in the text. It’s easier for me to work my way through the comments, saving the client time and money if they are on an hourly rate, and I will always take a moment to explain how to do it.

9. Share the joy

If someone does a good job for you, offer them a reference or testimonial. Tell other people about their services. I get most of my work through recommendations, and it’s a great way for clients to get freelancers they know will be good, and freelancers to get clients who are likely to go with them because their friend or colleague has recommended them.

A freelancer who knows you’ve recommended them on to your friends and colleagues will be more loyal to you. They’ll want to do a good job for you, so you recommend them again!

10. Say thank you

On the day I wrote this post, I’d been up since 5.30 am to turn around a very urgent project for a client. What really did make that worthwhile? The client coming back to me to say a big thank you. It really does matter; it doesn’t take a moment, and it cheers everyone up.

I hope you’ve found these top ten tips for working with freelancers helpful. If one has struck you as particularly useful, or you have others to suggest, please comment. And you might be interested in my top ten tips for freelancers, too!

Why not have a look at my other tips for freelancers, small businesses, etc. – roam around the right-hand sidebar or click on the links!


Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Business, Organisation


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