By Jon Clark, managing partner at Moving Traffic Mediaa New York digital agency offering SEO, PPC and Amazon marketing services.
Outsourcing to freelancers can give your business a huge boost. It’s a cost-effective way to reach the endless goals and activities you’d like to accomplish, especially when you can’t commit to hiring part- or full-time employees.
Whether it’s your first time engaging freelancers or you’re wondering how you can make your current relationship more productive, you can’t go wrong with the following tips.
1. Get Off On The Right Foot
The first thing you must do is ensure that the freelancer you hire has the skills and ability to work in your particular field. Looking at a freelancer’s past jobs will give you an idea of what they’ve done and what they’re capable of. If you’re sourcing your freelancer from an online marketplace, such as Fiverr or Upwork, a list of jobs they’ve handled will usually be available on their profile.
Don’t just hire a freelancer because they’re available. Hire them because they’re a great fit. You can determine whether a freelancer is a good fit for a job by sharing your big picture with them. Their response will show you whether or not they:
• Understand your expectations
• Have the skills and tools needed for your project
• Have any interesting questions about your project
• Can provide work samples and references
• Can meet the deadline of your project
A golden rule to keep in mind is that qualifications trump availability.
2. Clearly Outline What You Need
Once you’ve identified a freelancer who’s an excellent fit for your needs, provide them with a clear brief so they know what your expectations are. While it’s not always necessary for them to sign an iron-clad contract, it’s a great help to have something written down outlining your agreement. This can even occur over email.
Having a brief ensures that you’re both clear on the agreed-upon deliverables and that you have a record for future reference. Examples are a great way to save time, and they also help you avoid situations where work has to be redone later—which can negatively impact tight deadlines.
Expert tip: Make sure you’re both aligned on the final deliverable before getting started on the project. Don’t set up your freelancer to fail—it’ll cost you time and money. Freelancers need to completely understand what the end project will look like on day one.
3. Share Your Values, Style And Approach
What core values guide how you promote or fire your employees? These are your organization’s real core values. They don’t have to be posted on your website, but they do need to be shared with your freelancers.
It’s important that you consciously take steps to share your core values rather than assume that others will automatically adhere to them. For example, you might place a premium on presentations that are colorful or aesthetically pleasing. Alternatively, you might prefer data that are presented in a simplified format—or perhaps you’re bent toward more technical formats.
This, along with sharing your core values, will allow your freelancer to put their best foot forward.
4. Prioritize Open Communication And Feedback
When you hire a brilliant freelancer, it can be very tempting to imagine that all you need do is:
• Whip out project requirements
• Sit back
• Wait for incredible results
But it’s more likely that your project will require some back and forth. This can happen when your freelancer requests clarification. It can also happen when you need to ask for revisions or tweaks.
Don’t settle for the first result if it doesn’t fulfill your needs. Instead, give your freelancer both the feedback they need and the opportunity to make the necessary changes so you get a result that meets your expectations.
Agree on regular check-ins. Productive meetings will enable you to keep the lines of communication open, avoid delays and track your freelancer’s progress.
Expert tip: Talk to your freelancer about their style of working. Are there any resources you can provide them? Do they need frequent check-ins after they’ve gotten their brief, or do they like to be left alone?
5. Avoid Brief Creep—And Pay Promptly
However, keep in mind that requiring your freelancer to do extra work that wasn’t agreed upon in the brief will translate to an additional cost. Be sure to be up-front about any extra work you might require of your freelancer, and ask how much it’ll cost.
It’s also a good practice to avoid making last-minute requests. Since freelancers typically handle several projects at once, you can’t always expect they’ll drop everything for your unexpected task.
If you find that you’ll be needing a freelancer’s help in the future, give them a heads up so they can assess their schedule and fit you in. The best freelancers are, after all, likely to be booked weeks or even months in advance.
Budget well so you can pay your freelancers the going rate on time, then watch as they deliver better expertise, quality of service and results. You’ll also have more success retaining your best freelancers for future projects.
Treat Your Freelancers As Partners
When you treat your freelancers with respect and as experts in their fields, you’ll find them to be enthusiastic partners in your success.
• Check for the skills and abilities you need
• Have a clear brief and deliverables
• Share your real core values, desired approach and preferred style
• Keep the lines of communication and feedback open
• Pay well and pay promptly
• Hire them simply because they’re available
• Come up with extra, last-minute deliverables without fair warning or consideration
• Assume your values are obvious
• Leave your freelancer without support and to their own devices
• Pay peanuts or unduly delay payments
Sometimes, you can take all these measures and still end up with a work product that’s not quite up to par. If this happens, give your freelancer a chance to fix their mistake. A little breathing room might be all that’s needed to help your freelancer update their work in a way that meets your needs.