Tips for Working with Freelancers

 Tips for Working with Freelancers

Tips for Working with Freelancers

In the last Onwords™ column I said that “a qualified freelancer can help you produce more and better work at higher profit margins.” That is absolutely true, as long as you understand how to work with them. What you get out of a freelance relationship depends on what you put into it.

Freelancers bring unique strengths and perspective to your business; it is up to you to give them what they need to shine and make you look good. Here are five tips for working successfully with freelancers:

  1. Front load your information. The more information you share with a freelancer upfront, the more successful they will be in meeting your needs. Give as much detail as you can about the scope of the project, fee structure, payment schedule, administrative requirements, communication protocols, and a production timeline. Start with a top line overview and work down. Sharing upfront will cut down on time consuming Q & A back and forth throughout the partnership. No detail is too small for an off-site specialist. 
  2. Establish chain of command. I can tell you firsthand that chain of command is one of the most important things for a freelancer to know. Who is the key contact, and what is the best way for the freelancer to communicate with them? What about contact between the freelancer and other members of your team, another department, or your end client? Is that expected? Encouraged? Forbidden? And most important, who has the final say when opinions differ (trust me, they will) about content, format, or presentation? If someone other than the key contact requests a revision or wants to add new content, does the freelancer need to check with you before making the changes?
  3. Communicate your expectations. Exactly what is the freelancer expected to do? Create new content, significantly revise existing content, or simply edit what you already have? Are they to conduct research? If so, will you provide sources or are they to find their own? What are your expectations for annotating references? A freelancer needs to know if you expect to see an outline, drafts, or only the finished product. Set up a schedule for submission of each piece of the project, and include internal deadlines to send revision requests to the freelancer for re-work.
  4. Be clear about money. Freelancers use a variety of fee structures, billing per page, per hour, per day, or per project. Most professional freelancers expect 20-30% of their fee upfront, 30% upon submission of a draft, and the balance when the work is complete. However, most of us also have clients who cut one check for the total fee upon completion of the project. Make sure you come to terms about a fee structure, and put your agreement in writing.
  5. Speak up. Freelancers are specialists in their field, but they cannot read your mind. If you don’t like what you see in an outline or a draft, let them know specifically what needs to change. Tell them as early as possible if you need to move a deadline, shift direction, or change the scope of the project. A good freelancer understands that projects sometimes get axed midway through or someone in-house decides to jump in and take over a portion of the work. Speak up early and frankly in order to maintain a positive relationship.

Successful freelancers make great professional partners. A qualified freelancer will work as an extension of your team to make your life easier and your business more successful.

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Copyright © 2011 by Sally Bacchetta. All rights reserved.