Working on a freelance basis is an increasingly popular alternative to the traditional 9-5. In fact, nearly 50% of millennials already freelance. There are several reasons for this. Some people like the flexibility freelancing offers. Others realize that it’s a great way to earn a side income.
This present certain challenges for businesses though. Managing relationships with freelancers is very different from working with permanent staff. This is partly because the relationship itself is fundamentally different. The crux of this is that you aren’t a freelancer’s line-manager, you’re their client.
The problem is that many businesses don’t adapt their approach to reflect this. They treat their freelance workers the same as their staffers. The danger here is that you waster everyone’s time and harm your relationship.
At the other end of the spectrum, some businesses take a completely hands off approach. This is just as bad, as it makes it impossible to establish a fruitful long-term relationship. This means you’re likely to find your contractors moving on, causing all kinds of problems.
Today, I want to take you through 4 important tips to help you manage relationships with freelancers.
Communication is Key
This sounds pretty obvious right? If you want to build a good relationship with anyone, you need to have decent channels of communication. But what should this look like when your working with a freelancer? Of course, it depends on the individuals involved. Whether you prefer to work by email, or through scheduled Skype calls, there are two main mistakes when it comes to communication.
The first is bombarding your contractor with irrelevant information. It’s good to keep your freelance workers ups to date with what’s going on in your company, but they don’t need anywhere near the same detail as your permanent staff.
I like to work in a little bit of small talk. Adding personal touches to your communication is a fantastic way to build a friendly and mutually beneficial working relationship, but people are unlikely to want to hear what you have for dinner every night. It’s about finding the right balance.
The second mistake is just the opposite. That is, not communicating at all. This means you’re not giving freelance workers the information they need. Then, they either have to find it themselves or make assumptions about what you need. This is extra work that you aren’t necessarily paying them for.
A Little Understanding
If you use a little bit of perception, you can figure out a lot about the working habits of freelancers. It’s easy to assume that just because someone doesn’t have a 9-5 job, they don’t have a routine. This is unlikely to be true though.
Freelance workers usually have very well defined working habits. For example, it’s pretty common to block off part of your schedule for admin tasks, like invoicing or keeping up with emails. This isn’t difficult to work out. If one of your contractors always responds your emails between 9 and 10am, this is probably why.
Understanding a worker’s habits can cut down the need for back and forth, as you’ll have a clear set of expectations. All you have to do is pay a little bit of attention.
Freelance workers love it when you provide a decent set of resources. Exactly what these are depends on the nature of the work. Writers like to have a well defined style guide. Designers want a nicely catalogued set of assets to work with.
Basically, giving your workers an easy to access and navigate set of resources to refer back to just makes their lives an awful lot easier. This is a sure fire way to become their favourite client. This is the position you want to be in, as they’ll be more willing to go the extra mile.
It benefits you too of course. Particularly if you’re working with a number of contractors. If you want to have consistent work, you need to establish a set of standards. This also cuts down the number of questions each worker needs to ask.
Show Some Appreciation
This one will get you far in life, not just when you’re trying to manage relationships. People respond well to praise. If something’s going well, you should let your freelancer know. A couple of words of appreciation can make the difference between a freelancing arrangement which lasts a couple of weeks and one which lasts for years.
It goes further than that though. Appreciation stems from knowing what someone’s time is worth. As such, you’re unlikely to see good results if you try and lowball someone. Freelancers, by their nature, know exactly what their time is worth.
By the same token, you should always try and avoid unnecessary scope-creep. Of course, it’s perfectly normal for new areas of work to emerge. That’s only a problem if you try and sneak extra work in for free.
My goal is to always try to be a worker’s favorite client. This doesn’t mean I want to be their best friend. Rather, I want to establish a long lasting and mutually beneficial arrangement. The key to this is proper relationship management.
The importance of this is too easily overlooked. The cost of doing so is high. On-boarding a new freelancer and bringing them up to speed is extremely time to consume. So when you find someone good, you should do everything in your power to make them stick around. Luckily, with a little bit of human touch, this shouldn’t be too difficult.
Maintaining a good working relationship has other benefits too. If you establish an arrangement which both parties find beneficial, you have a better chance of receiving some good will. This might come in the form of leniency if anything ever goes wrong on your end. It even is a potential source of new contacts, as freelancers tend to talk to each other. If the stars align, this can even lead to new business opportunities.
Photo Credits: Pixabay
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