Rules of Engagement: How Managers Should(n’t) Work with Freelancers

how to work with freelancers

If you’re leading a company with employees, it can’t be that different when working freelancers, right?

A common misconception is that freelancers are just like employees and thus, can be treated the same. But while employees can duck into the employee kitchen to avoid a bad boss, freelancers can simply stop working with clients.

A manager doesn’t want to have the reputation in being difficult to work with. Freelancers may talk and warn other colleagues to avoid a certain client. This may leave a manager with unexperienced newbies to do the work. While cheaper, freelancer newbies may not deliver  expectations or add seasoned insight onto project. This may leave a manager responsible for an under-delivering freelancer.

freelancer boss

What should I not do when working with a freelancer?

Ask them to do something for free

No bueno. This is the most unforgivable strike in the freelancer manual. It’s understandable when manager and companies want a sample of their work. They want to see how a freelancer can contribute to a few of the issues they’re facing. Request work samples or browse their online portfolio or Github to become better acquainted with their work experience. Avoid asking them to do any work for free.

Hire without clear goals

You’ve got to know what you want done. A freelancer can execute, but they can’t execute well if they don’t know what to exactly do. If you know that you need to update your logo, but give little direction in exactly what you want to convey or the color scheme, a freelancer can only do so much.  Before you hire, clarify your company’s needs: if do need a logo, but are open to design suggestions, pull a few sample logos for inspiration. Be careful as to avoid being the boss that constantly changes their opinion on a project. Depending on the contract, a freelancer can often make only one or two revisions. So, best to know what you’re end-goal is before hiring.

Question their rates

As as manager, you’re familiar with the average salary in your industry at your seniority. Just like you’re an expert in salary, trust your freelancer is knowledgable about their own rates.  It’s unprofessional to question how a freelancer came up with their rates. It may signal that your focus is more on the wage rather than on what you want accomplished. You may have a small budget, so let them know how you have to be a bit more money-conscious this year.

Here’s what to do:

Sign a contract

Contracts are protective means for both client and freelancer. It acts as a plumb line in expectations as you begin working together. You’re a professional; they are a professional. A contract signals a respectful relationship. Also, if you don’t offer a contract, a seasoned freelancer will avoid you. They could do work and not receive payment, if a contract is not signed. Contracts also act as guidelines if freelancers do not deliver. Show you’re professionalism in providing a contract, or asking a freelancer to send over their own.

Respect boundaries

Freelancers differ from employees in a few ways. Different boundaries are another. Because freelancers typically a lot a certain number hours to a particular client—and usually have multiple clients—they can’t be expected to adhere to the same boundaries as employees. If you worry in reaching a freelancer, discuss and make specific time slots where they make themselves available for a call or an in-person appointment.

Understand that things take time

Projects take time. Even though you found a razor-sharp freelancer, be aware that even the brightest need time to re-focus, concentrate, and change a solution. You may find yourself saying, “You were so fast with this change. How hard will it be to change this?”. Revision takes time.

freelancer boss

What’s the best relationship a manager can offer a freelancer?

The best managers offer collaboration, transparency, and autonomy. Choose to be an inclusive manager, opening up the floor for a freelancer to contribute to ideas—even alongside full-time employees. When there are difficulties, operational, or product changes, keep the freelancer in the loop. They work for the company and will feel closer as they are told what’s going on within the space. Lastly, like employees, freelancers thrive with autonomous rule. Offer them the option to work remotely and contribute free-flowing ideas.

Share success

Managers have the tough job of having to get others to adopt their own agenda. Part of that is showing them they have real value in reaching company goals. Share with freelancers how they can or how they’ve already helped your department or business reach milestones.

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