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How To Manage Freelancers: 6 Actionable Tips For Success

Working with freelancers can be a real game-changer for your business. But you already know that. Right? There is no need for me to list all the benefits. You didn’t come here for that. You’re here because you want to know how to manage freelancers effectively.

You want to ensure the freelancers you work with push your business forward, not hold it back. You also don’t want to waste your time and money, and you want the process to run smoothly, without headaches and hassles.

I get it! But don’t worry, I have you covered. 

In this post, I am going to share six actionable tips on how to manage freelancers to get the best results for you and your business.

Let’s get started.

#1 Hire freelancers that tick all the boxes

It’s a lot easier to manage a freelancer team when you hire the right people for the job. Every freelancer you hire should possess five key attributes:

  • They should have the required skills
  • Be able to communicate clearly
  • Be professional and trustworthy
  • Have the right personality traits
  • Be motivated and driven

Of course, finding such freelancers is not always easy. There are millions of people offering freelancing services, and unfortunately, many of them don’t make the grade and tick all the boxes. To separate the whey for the chaff, you will need to invest time in the recruiting process.

Here are some tips to help guide this process:

Carefully read client reviews: If you’re hiring from platforms like Upwork, you can read client reviews. These reviews will provide insights into the skills and professionalism of each freelancer.

Conduct interviews: You probably won’t be able to conduct in-person interviews. But, you can hold them via video. During interviews, try and get a feel for the freelancer’s personality, drive, and motivation, and ask questions that allow you to assess their skills.

Request references: Ask candidates to provide references from previous employers. When you speak with these past clients, confirm the candidate can be trusted, and that the picture they painted of themselves during the interview process is true to life.

Ask for examples of their work: Any freelancer worth their salt should have a portfolio of their work. Review this work and make sure that it meets the quality and skill level you require for your project.

Once you find the perfect freelancer for the role, the next step is to set (and agree) on work expectations.

#2 Set (and agree) expectations from the outset

Setting clear expectations from the outset of your relationship with a freelancer is crucial. It builds the framework for how you will work together and puts both parties are on the same page.

However, remember it’s not a one-way street. It works both ways – your freelancers will want to lay some ground rules. So, be prepared for some give and take.

Expectations you should agree on include:

Budget expectations: This is a game stopper: What you think a project or task will cost, and reality might be two different things entirely. Before you move forward with a freelancer, you both have to agree on the budget expectations and limits. There is no deal otherwise.

How you communicate: Effective communication is at the heart of the client/freelancer relationship. However, because freelancers usually work remotely, in-person conversations are not an option. So, you will need to agree on the best method to stay in touch with each other – Email, Slack, Skype or some other tool.

When you communicate: Freelancers work in different time-zones, they also work for multiple clients. Which means they won’t always be around to talk or answers questions. Given this, you should agree times when they’re available to talk and catch-up.

Progress reports updates: Regular progress report meetings are essential to stay on top of projects, and ensure everything is going according to plan. Agree, and set regular calendar dates and times for these meetings.

Payments: Agree on how you will pay for services. Some freelancers prefer bank wires, while others prefer to receive payments via PayPal, Skrill, or some other method. In addition, to the payment method, agree on the dates when you transfer funds to their account.

The number of working hours: This is a big one. Freelancers don’t work to your clock. They set their own hours. Because of this, it’s super-important that you set ground rules for the number of hours they work on your project every week.

#3 Write detailed briefs for every project

I always say that a freelancer is only as good as their brief. No matter their skills and experience, a freelancer will never deliver what you expect unless you provide a clear and detailed brief.

A good brief contains:

The context & objective: Give some background on what you do as a business, explain why the task or project is important for your business, outline the challenges you currently face, and what you’re trying to achieve.

Example: “We are a graphic design company. And as part of our marketing strategy, we want to improve our SEO rankings. One of the issues we face is that our website currently takes 20 seconds to load, which negatively impacts or SEO efforts. Load speed is a big ranking factor for Google, and we want to have our website load super fast.”

The desired outcome: Once you set the scene with the context and objectives, be specific about the projects’ desired outcome.

Example: We want to make our site faster, with our ultimate goal to reduce load times from 20 seconds to less than 3 seconds.”

The specific deliverables: Outline what the freelancer must deliver for the project to be successfully completed. Keeping with the above example, it’s not good enough to say that the project is complete when the website loads in less than 3 seconds.

Instead, be more specific: The project is complete when 60 pages on our website load in less than 3 seconds.

For a freelance content writer, the specific deliverables might be:

A 1000 word article on the topic of “Best diet plans.” The finished piece should have 4 relevant images, contain at least 3 authority links to other websites, and be free of grammar and spelling mistakes.

The key project stakeholders: If your freelancer needs to work with specific team members or other external stakeholders. Include their names, their role, how they will assist in the project, and the best way to communicate with them, for example, Email, Skype, or Slack.

Examples for reference: Where possible, provide examples of what you are trying to achieve. If you are hiring a freelancer to design a new landing page, give them examples of landing pages that you like. Or for a freelance writer, give them examples of great posts that cover the topic that you want them to write.

Timelines and deadlines: Tell your freelancer when you need the project completed. For a big project with multiple stages, set milestones with specific deadlines for when you expect each stage completed.

#4 Don’t micromanage – don’t be that person

Freelancers don’t work well with clients who micromanage. Ask any freelancer, and they will tell you it’s a major peeve. After all, they started a freelance business in the first place to be their own boss, set their own hours, and work how they want to work.

The last thing a freelancer wants is you continually looking over their shoulder, sticking your nose into every aspect of their work. And if you do. It will kill their productivity and also demotivate, demoralize, and infuriate them.

This is not just bad for the freelancer. It’s bad for your business.

Excessive meddling slows down projects and drives-up associated costs. In many cases, it will cause freelancers to quit, which means you will have to invest more time, energy, and money to find suitable replacements.

Ultimately, you need to have faith in the system you put in place to manage your freelancers and give them the trust and freedom to do their work unhindered.

#5 Take advantage of tools

Working with a freelancer team, spread across the four corners of the earth, has largely been made possible thanks to technology. Today you have access to a host of amazing tools that help you manage your remote workforce.

There are three main areas where tools can help you manage your freelancer team more effectively.

Project management: Project management tools enable you to collaborate, organise, and manage tasks and projects. When working with freelancers, these tools will help you track and monitor their progress. You can add freelancers as users and ask them to plot the job and break it down into tasks and timelines.

Popular project management tools include:

  • Trello
  • Monday
  • Jira
  • Asana
  • Agantty

Communication: On projects, there are usually lots of back and forth conversations between the freelancer, the project lead, and other stakeholders. So, having real-time communication tools are a must. Ideally, the tools you use should offer group chats, video calling, text messaging, and file uploading.

Popular communication tools include:

  • Skype
  • Slack
  • Google Hangouts
  • Chanty
  • Flock

Time Tracking: Time tracking tools are a must if you pay freelancers per hour. They are also helpful, even when freelancers work on a per-project basis. You can track and monitor the time spent on tasks and projects, and also ensure that hours billed, are actually hours worked.

Most good freelancers will use such time tracking tools anyway to improve workflow and productivity and for accurate billing. But, if your freelancer is not tracking time, you can request they do for your projects.

Popular time tracking tools include:

  • Harvest
  • Toggl
  • Top Tracker
  • Tick

#6 Work hard to foster good relationships

The one point you should always remember when working with freelancers is that they don’t need your business. At least not if they’re good! A good freelancer will probably have ten other customers knocking on their door, wanting to hire them.

This is why, when you find the right freelancer, you should work hard to foster a good relationship with them.

As I said near the top of the post, it’s not easy to find a freelancer that ticks all the boxes. So, when you do, you want to make sure they continue to work with you. Great talent is hard to come by!

And it’s important to build good relationships not only with freelancers who will work with you on a long-term basis. But also those who are working with you on a short (one-off) project, because you never know when you might need their services down the line.

Here is you how you develop good (life-long) relationships with freelancers:

  • Treat them as business owners, not employees
  • Make them feel part of the team
  • Value the experience they bring to the table
  • Be personable and show genuine interest in them as people
  • Respect their time – avoid scope creep, and little favors
  • Embrace two-way honest, open and ego-free communication
  • Reward fantastic work with a thoughtful gift or small bonus
  • Recommend their services to others

Over to you

I started this post by saying that you already know the business benefits that freelancers can offer. Now it’s your turn to take the tips in this post and make those benefits become a reality for your business.

The ball is in your court.

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