Eight tips for working with freelancers

I’ve been responsible for multiple freelancers in my career. Some were engaged directly by me, others were engaged by the company I worked for, but all reported directly to me. I’ve often heard people singing the virtues of hiring freelancers – they’re cheaper, they’re experts, they’re dedicated. In some situations, hiring freelancers makes total sense, but without careful management, working with freelancers can turn into a nightmare. The eight tips below will help you to hire the right team and keep your project on track.

  1. Clearly define the scope, schedule and budget of the project. To avoid confusion once the project has launched, make a detailed plan of exactly what you need, when you need it and how much you’re willing to pay for it, as well as penalties if deadlines or standards are missed.
  2. Start your search online. I’ve always worked through a platform called Elance, which allows you to post a detailed description of the work you required in a specific category and then receive resumes and proposals for review.
  3. Tap into your own network. Another good place to find talented freelancers is through your professional network. Ask friends, relatives and colleagues if they know anyone who might be able to deliver the work you’re looking for.
  4. Negotiate ownership of the work upfront. Draft a legal document stating that all works completed is the property of you (or your company) and pay no more than 10% of the value of the project upfront, with the remainder due to be paid on successful completion of works.
  5. Provide constant (useful) feedback. Just because your freelancer is hired doesn’t mean that they’ll do a good job. Constant feedback is important to keeping the project on track through daily and weekly reviews. If you’re interested in learning more about providing effective feedback, I’ve published an article on it here.
  6. Match your requirements to their experience. One thing I hate is the freelancer who says ‘Yes, yes, of course I can deliver X, anything you need’. Most freelancers can deliver most of the work, but not every freelancer is suitable for the job, or can understand exactly what they’re signing up to. Make sure to be clear about their capabilities upfront along with penalties if standards and deadlines are later missed.
  7. Never make a decision based solely on price. You might find someone willing to do the work for half price, but you’ll likely find them cutting corners to deliver the project.
  8. Realise that you are not their only client. One of the disadvantages of working with freelancers is that they’re not just working for you. If they have an urgent deadline for another client, they may not be immediately accessible in the same way that a regular employee would be.

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