If we’ve learned anything over the past few months, it’s that no two work environments are the exact same. While they may share industries and goals, like the often described snowflake, there’s a uniqueness to each born of culture, outlook, and staff. Speaking of staff, one of the things that have been especially notable is the way the traditional workspace has been drastically updated, and that includes freelancers in every possible position.
The evolved workplace
In the past couple of years, entirely new industries have sprung up, and along with them, new support staff. While we might toss around expressions, including gig economy and teamlancing, what we’re essentially talking about is a workforce that’s in large part made up of freelancers.
For anyone who hasn’t freelanced or worked with freelancers, it can be a daunting prospect. After all, how can you choose someone who isn’t part of the team to support the team? And once you do hire someone, how can you keep things seamless so your clients have the best possible result without any interruptions or confusion?
The first thing to realize is that the role of a freelancer has evolved. The freelancers I know (including myself!) don’t consider freelancing a casual decision, but rather regard their freelancing as a business. As such, they take their work very seriously, including everything from attracting clients to retaining them and keeping them happy. From the agency side, things look a bit different. Working with a team of freelancers means that an agency could theoretically expand its offerings or branch out into additional markets.
In this two-part article, we’ll be discussing some of the challenges of being a freelancer or working with them, along with advice from those in the know. To begin with, we spoke with two agency heads who work exclusively with freelancers to help understand some key elements involved in successfully working with freelancers.
A virtual PR agency primarily staffed by freelancers:
April Margulies began her career working at top agencies including Weber Shandwick, Edelman, and Rubenstein Public Relations. When she started her own PR agency, Trust Relations, she considered it almost an extension of her successful freelance career. After she landed a big account ($10K/month) Margulies needed help staffing it and turned to other freelancers she knew from previous agency jobs to help.Are you wondering how to start hiring and working with freelancers? We gathered 11 solid tips from agency leaders to help you get started. Read more via #contentmarketing Click To Tweet
11 tips for working with freelancers
Margulies considers this move to be a smart business model and shared some of her tips for working with freelancers.
Qualifications over availability.
Full-time doesn’t appeal to everyone.
Freelancers invite their networks along.
Have someone manage the freelancers.
Create easily shared templates.
Have meetings only when necessary.
Stay connected throughout the project.
Create perks people will be excited about.
Create test projects and pay attention to results.
Be mindful of finances and your bottom line.
Lessons from a freelance collective
Freddie Laker, the co-founder of Chameleon Collective, co-created what he refers to as something of an ecosystem powered by freelancers and careful vetting. He offered some advice on how to attract and retain the top freelancing talent possible.
Hire trusted colleagues. When looking to expand the collective, Laker said he typically seeks out people that one of them has worked with in a prior role. In that way, “someone from within the collective is able to vouch for that person.” But one person’s approval isn’t enough since six separate members of the collective then vet the new hire. Since Laker works in an extremely non-traditional culture, the vetting process is fairly rigid.
Increase diversity. To create a vibrant culture, it’s important to go beyond your traditional networks. Try using your social media networks to amplify your search and encourage others to share your messages.
Decide how interconnected you want your team to be. The Chameleon Collective works with freelancers from all over the world who are teammates operating independent LLCs. “We share resources such as admin, tech, billing, new business, etc but can work as little or as much as we want,” Laker said. And since it’s more like a body of consultants working together for a common goal, Laker said they maintain their independence, set their own rates, and pick and choose which client projects they want to participate in, and they determine how, where, and when they work.”
Define your collective work style. Laker explained that, at his agency, freelancers are given the ability to work with many of the hallmarks of entrepreneurship. That said, they also all agree to “work collectively in the areas that create value for all.”
Create a feedback program. Working remotely with teams can make it difficult to offer ongoing feedback. Laker said their feedback system is used for both peer feedback and client feedback. “For peer feedback, it’s more about professional improvement for client feedback we use a more traditional net promoter score approach but are always open to direct feedback as well.”
In part two of this guide, we’ll offer ways to manage expectations including setting realistic timelines for each element of the engagement. We’ll also include advice from career freelancers on how to maintain excellent working relationships for the long term.