Commonly known around here as “The Other James”, today’s guest poster James Hipkins brings you six ways to squeeze your freelancer for better work and the extra mile. And as a freelancer myself, I approve! Enjoy.
Businesses hire freelance talent to absorb ebbs and flows in activity or to fill talent gaps that are essential but not required every day. For example, hiring a creative consultant can bring fresh ideas and the alternative perspective you need to get your business from good to great.
Businesses are all about returns on investments, though, so the big question becomes, how can you get the most from your investment in freelance talent? Here are 5 best practices (and a bonus!) that have helped me be more successful in reaching my goals each time I worked with a freelancer.
1) Write a brief.
Freelancers are talented, but being talented doesn’t make them mind readers. Writing a brief has a number of benefits. By taking the time to write down exactly what you want to accomplish, you’re much more likely to get a good product and avoid expensive rework because of miscommunications.
And for the freelancer, a clear statement of the project that includes understandable objectives, requirements and specific deliverables, helps focus his time and resources on the task at hand, instead of trying to figure out what you need.
A solid, thought-out brief is as close to a guarantee of success as you’re likely to find.
2) Treat them with respect.
Freelancers are professionals. They’re also people running micro businesses with multiple priorities and limited resources. Respect them as the business people they are and listen carefully to their advice and feedback throughout the process.
Their ideas may take you to areas you hadn’t considered, which may make you uncomfortable – but consider their perspective carefully. It comes from experience and knowledge, gained from many assignments for many companies, and it can shed new light on your business.
If you’re prepared to hear what the freelancers have to say, that is. You don’t have to agree, but you aren’t maximizing your return the investment if you don’t pay attention. And if you do disagree? Be polite and tell them why.
3) Pay their price.
If you want the best work from freelancers, pay them what they ask. Don’t try to hammer down their rate; that’s disrespectful. This rate is what they’ve been getting from others and it reflects their professional worth. If you accept the price freelancers charge, they’ll work harder for you, and you’ll get more out of them than what you’re paying for.
If their price is beyond your budget, that’s okay – just tell them, then go look for someone in your price range.
When the project is finished, if you think the price was too much for what was delivered, tell them why you didn’t see the value you expected. They’re professionals, and you won’t hurt their feelings. They’ll want to know why you were disappointed so they can do a better job the next time.
If they exceeded your expectations? Give them a bonus. It says a lot.
By the way, stick to the payment terms you agreed to, whether it’s 50% down and 50% on delivery or net 30 days. Pay your freelancers on time. They operate micro-businesses and gaps in cash flow have a huge impact. (Plus, if you pay on time and reliably, freelancers are more willing to help you the next time you have an emergency.)
4) Be loyal.
When you find freelance talent that you’re comfortable with, keep sending them work. Loyalty is a two-way street. Be loyal to them, and they’ll be loyal to you. You might one day need fast help, a quick turnaround or even a miracle – your favourite freelancer is more likely to help you out if you’ve been loyal to them in the past.
Also, this might appear counter intuitive, but tell your friends and colleagues about your favourite freelancers. This helps make sure that they’re still freelancing when you need them and keeps them happy and busy. By demonstrating your loyalty and sending work to a freelancer when you don’t have any, that freelancer will always find time for you when you need it.
5) Trust them.
Things go wrong. That’s just life. When an error or a communication breakdown occurs, don’t freak out. People don’t come to work intending to do a bad job.
I’m not suggesting you ignore the issue. Part of gaining mutual trust involves honest feedback. Talk to your freelance talent about what happened. Dig into the root cause. They’re professionals, they can handle it, and you’ll both benefit from understanding what went wrong.
Never make freelancers the whipping boy for your problems, no matter what the circumstances. Your talent needs to know you have their back. This works both ways, too. When there’s mutual trust happening in your business relationship, freelancers often alert you to issues they see before they becomes issues that everyone sees.
Let freelancers do their job. The fine line between great work and exceptional work often lies in the execution and feeling confident and relaxed. Trust freelancers to see the project through. It might cost a bit more but it tells freelancers you believe in their great work and you believe in them.
The next time they work with you, they’ll want to do an even better job.
6) Thank them.
This is the easiest to do, and it might well have the most impact. It’s sadly also the best practice most often overlooked.
When freelancers finish the job say, “Thank you.” After some time has passed, circle back to provide positive feedback on how the project turned out. Give freelancers some samples of the finished work, if they were just taking care of part of it.
Everyone wins, and it’s a simple, zero-cost, low-effort gesture that makes all involved feel good.
For more feel-good ways to get better value for your business, check out Hip Shots, James’ marketing blogsite with bull’s-eye advice.