By 2020, 60% of the UK workforce will be working independently. And in the next twelve months, nearly 70 percent of organizations are expected to hire more contingent workers, according to a recent study.
Freelance, or "on-demand" workers, will dominate the future of the workforce and shape the structure of companies and careers. So the question is no longer ‘should I be working with freelancers?’ - it’s ‘how do I best work with freelancers?'
You’ll be relieved to hear that it’s not too complicated. If you follow a few key principles, then working with freelancers can be incredibly successful. Here are the 6 most important rules to getting the most out of your freelancers.
Clear and effective communication
As an employer, it is vital that you set out your expectations clearly from the start. Spend time up-front explaining your objectives and defining the project through a detailed brief for the freelancer.
Be honest and straightforward. This is the simplest way to achieve effective communication. Don’t shroud your expectations in mystery. If you do, it is unlikely that you’ll achieve what you want from the relationship.
Equally, the freelancer needs to be honest about their expertise and ability. If a freelancer overpromises and under-delivers, you will end up frustrated and the whole project could end up in jeopardy. Communication really is key.
The employer-freelancer relationship will have a massive influence on the ultimate outcome of a project. If a partnership is strong, the end result is likely to meet or even exceed expectations, and you never know – you might just have fun doing it.
Draw up a clear contract, agreeing time frames and expected outcomes upfront
This has to do with effective communication, but it's also about will protecting your interests in case any issues arise.
After preliminary talks and agreements are reached, draw up the contract and ensure the freelancer reads and agrees to it. This is where you should include any confidentiality clauses as well as realistic timeframes to ensure the freelancer has all expectations in writing, in advance.
Once work begins, remember to respond to messages or queries from your freelancers in a timely manner. If you don’t, you will slow down your project. Be as clear and direct with your responses as possible. Using technology platforms can help; try out free tools such as Trello or Google's Collaboration Apps.
If as a client or freelancer you need more time to come up with a deliverable – it is best to say so sooner rather than later.
Pay for the project rather than for time
For those new to working with freelancers, it can be best to pay for project deliverables rather than time. This is a completely different way of managing workers than the traditional 9-5 office structure. By focusing on deliverables you will likely end up with a better, more experienced freelancer who can complete the project quickly.
This can become complicated if the project changes, so make sure you let the freelancer know about changes required as soon as they arise. And be sure to clarify if and how the change will affect the project fee. You don’t want to leave this conversation until the project is finished as you may be stuck with a much higher fee than anticipated.
Projects can change at a moment’s notice, so it is important for both parties to maintain a degree of flexibility and consistency. If you often experience changes in projects, it's best to set this out as a possibility from the start, and ensure you have a system for dealing with the change that is agreeable to both you and the freelancer.
Treat the freelancer as part of the team to gain loyalty
Making the freelancer feel like they are part of your team will help you build a good working relationship, not to mention they will likely feel more loyal to you as a result.
Regardless of whether they are working in your office or remotely, give them a modified induction to help bring them into the fold; explain your company ethos, vision, and the importance of the project to your wider business objectives.
Put incentives in place to ensure the freelancer stays through project completion
On longer term projects, there is nothing worse than a freelancer leaving before the project is complete, especially if they've worked successfully on the early stages. It can be damaging, especially if you've invested in the freelancer and started to build a good relationship with them.
Incentives will help ensure freelancers stay. If you have an important launch or deadline that you're working to, then add a bonus for them to stay to the full term.
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