Eventually, most businesses find themselves facing a skills gap. Hiring additional full-time staff members is one way to bridge this, but in many situations, adding outside expertise on a freelance basis makes the most strategic and fiscal sense.
Hiring freelancers allows you to scale your business with agility. It’s an opportunity to bring in skilled individuals without added salaries and benefits. But some businesses fail to properly incorporate freelancers into their day-to-day operations and company culture. This results in poor output and wasted money, and it gives freelancers a bad rap.
At my company, our experiences with freelancers have almost always been positive. Some of this has to do with the people we hire, and some of this is from things we've learned along the way. Here are four things to know about working with freelancers.
1. Make the right choice
Maximizing the output of your freelancers starts with your hiring process.
Research who's available, as well as the going rate for their services. Identify the best candidates by looking at reviews and testimonials from past clients. This will give you a good idea of the freelancers’ personalities, work ethic and overall skill sets. Also, try to get your hands on some samples of their previous work to get a sneak peek at their style.
Pay close attention to how they communicate. You always want to bring in someone who has your business goals in mind. If you aren’t on the same page, you’ll probably end up with a product that doesn’t fit your needs.
2. Provide clear direction
Once you make the hire, avoid surprises by making sure you align expectations and incentives for both parties before the first day. Work together to define deliverables and create a project timeline.
For example, one of our top freelancers is frequently in high demand among clients. Early in the relationship, we made sure to take the time to understand her preferences in project type and in how we communicate. That upfront investment has paid dividends in the form of efficient communication, fewer false starts on projects and a more symbiotic and productive relationship.
3. Make them your teammates
Be sure to welcome all freelancers as new team members, and encourage them to attend meetings and company functions. Even if they’ve only been hired for a one-time project, promoting an atmosphere of inclusion and camaraderie will always result in the best product.
4. Focus on communication
Communication is essential to functional relationships between businesses and freelancers. Make yourself available to them. Share information freely. Create an environment where everyone feels comfortable asking questions. If your freelancers work off-site, communication tools like Skype and join.me can provide the best of both worlds.
Every employee deserves to feel valued, regardless of his job title or status. Treating freelancers as equals shows them that they’re essential members of your team -- and this will lead to a mutually beneficial relationship for everyone involved.