For some companies, freelancers can be similar to on-demand services. You keep a core team and then pad out your support players for specific projects or times of the year.
Other companies might solely work with freelancers over in-house writers, editors, strategists, etc., on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
Either way, it’s important to be strategic when it comes to managing freelancers.
Managing freelancers starts with a plan
Since there are many moving parts to even the most basic projects, you should come up with a plan for hiring freelancers rather than sending out a panicked request for backup. You’ll also have to manage expectations, including setting realistic timelines for each element of the engagement.
If you’re considering hiring freelancers to support your existing team, there can be a learning curve. That said, once you realize the full benefits of working with freelancers, you’re probably going to wonder how you managed til now.
How to vet freelancers
Now that you’ve decided to work with a freelancer (or a dozen!), how do you find them?
And once you do find the freelancer of your dreams, how can you properly vet, train, and manage them?
Ask your network
Many freelancers rely on their networks and word-of-mouth recommendations. The hope is that if you know the person making a recommendation, you’re already ahead of the game. If you post an ad looking for freelancers, you can include very specific requirements to weed out any time-wasters.
And while you’re at it, make sure to actually follow up, even if that means clicking through to see if someone’s portfolio is up to date or following up with a reference, especially if something strikes you as being potentially sketchy.
Fine-tune your freelance needs wish list
Ilana Zalika, founder and CEO of Resound Marketing, said that when she’s looking to scale up a project or add someone with specific expertise or experience, she looks to freelancers. When choosing who to work with, Zalika said there are specific skills that help her decide who to hire. “Experience is key, but ultimately, communication and transparency are the most important qualities we look for in our freelancer relationships,” she said.
Having had freelancers join her team on both a temporary and longer contract basis, Zalika realized that it’s critical they work seamlessly and collaboratively with her in-house team. To ensure this, she does an in-depth onboarding meeting where clear expectations and Touchpoints are set so that all involved parties are on the same page.
This helps ensure smooth sailing when managing freelancers, both short- and long-term.
Much in the same way that being a freelancer offers a kind of flexibility that being on staff might not, the freelancer hiring process tends to be less rigid as well.
“We want to be respectful of a freelancer’s tried-and-true processes but expect the same in return,” Zalika said. For her, that means working together to find a groove that ultimately works best for her clients — which usually means some adjusting on both sides.
“A big red flag would be someone who is not willing to be flexible or collaborative in that regard.” Zalika also expects freelancers she hires to fully understand the project and process. To that end, she said she’d be “wary of someone who doesn’t ask a lot of questions upfront. It’s the best way to ensure you’re getting a feel for the project and processes.”
Be absolutely clear about deliverables
Unlike staffers who are paid a regular salary no matter how long a project drags on, a freelancer has to be more mindful of their time and other clients. For that reason, it’s crucial to agree on all aspects of a project in advance when managing freelancers and your budget. While it might seem annoying at the time, it helps prevent frustration.
If you are considering hiring freelancers, pay fairly, and if you’re able to, pay generously. Just because this might be the first time you’re working with this person, that doesn’t mean they haven’t been working within your industry for decades. When you treat a contract player with respect and appreciate their work, it’s entirely possible they’ll bring a little bit extra to the project as well.
In this context, they may be working for you, but they also might know insider information or tricks of the trade that will help you in the long run. Bear in mind that managing freelancers involves a lot of give and take to produce the best consistent results.
A sample timeline for managing freelancers
Since the amount of time you spend on each aspect of working with a new freelancer will depend on the job at hand, we’re offering a very loose timeline you can tailor to your own needs.
- Week 1: Decide internally what the needs are, the job requirements, budgets, and any benefits or incentives. This would be a good time to research the going rate for freelancing services in your industry.
- Week 2: Create the job description and set up parameters ranging from whether the freelancer deals with clients at all, to whether there are set deadlines per project.
- Week 3: Start the search for the best possible freelancer. Ask friends and colleagues and post job listings or gig alerts on your social media accounts. Depending on your industry, there will probably be specific hashtags to help you to amplify your search.
- Weeks 4–5: Interview prospective candidates. Figure out their place on your own team. Decide on your hire and inform your team. Work with HR and your attorneys on any contracts or work agreements needed.
- Weeks 6–8: Part of managing freelancers is providing them with all materials needed to integrate their skills with your team. Pad timing for errors. Use this time to create a sample project if possible.
- Weeks 8–1o: Pay attention to the way deadlines are met, critique is received, and feedback is given from other team members. After about a month on your team, you should have a clear idea if this freelancer is the right fit for your team, project, brand, or client.
- Weeks 11–12: Meet with your team and your freelance hires. Reviews projects completed and also best or worst results. Decide what happens next.
Need help finding freelancers? With over 25,000 vetted freelancers available to start on your next project today, ClearVoice can help you create better content, faster. Talk to a content specialist to get started.