Whether a market downturn or a booming economy, there’s never a wrong time to hire freelancers. Freelancers are a just-in-time resource who fill specialized talent gaps on teams. And they provide an extra set of hands to get projects done when to-do lists keep growing or full-time head-counts shrink. If you’ve made the decision to hire freelancers, here are some management steps to ensure they are engaged, productive contributors:
Clarify, Specify, Outline, Measure
Freelancers are typically hired for a specific set of tasks to be completed in a set time-period. The onus is on the hiring manager to document a detailed scope of work to clarify expectations, specify deliverables, and cement deadlines. The collaboration brief should also include key performance metrics, so that both parties agree ahead of time how the freelancer will be evaluated. The more comprehensively the fine points are communicated, the easier it will be for everyone to track how the engagement compares against expectations and timelines.
Keep Communication Flowing
To ensure freelance hires are successful, clear, frequent communication is key to success. Most teams already use some type of project management software to keep stakeholders up to date on project progress. Freelance hires often have their own project management platform preferences. Managers need to establish which platform will be used, and what other communication tools are needed to connect freelancers and stakeholders. This is especially true if all or some team members are distributed between in-office and remote work arrangements. Beyond project platforms, does the freelancer need a phone line, internal email, or access to company software subscriptions to complete their work? And, while communication is always important, it’s almost better to err on the side of over-communicating when a manager decides to hire freelancers for their team.
Time & Tracking
When managing freelancers, you should give some thought ahead of time whether or not their work needs to be completed during predetermined hours of the day (for example, during the company’s ‘open for business’ hours). Many freelancers set their own hours, and work when they prefer. But freelance hires will also adjust their schedule to accommodate clients – this would obviously be the case if they must report to a company’s office location. When managers hire freelancers, they should clarify work hours, establish boundaries between work and home life, and honor those parameters. Our freelance recruiters also advise that managers should clarify how the freelancer is to track and submit details around the hours they put in for an assignment.
Freelance Hires Are Teammates Too
When a company decides to hire freelancers, managers should invest the same attention and time into these team members as they would permanent employees. Even though freelance hires are typically retained only for a project’s duration, they still require on-boarding, managing, feedback, and respect. This extra effort should be viewed as an investment – a great working relationship between the manager and each freelancer has a payoff. Our freelance recruiters note that, as projects come up in the future, freelancers who have had a positive experience are likely to want to be re-hired, and the ramp-up time will shorten with each retainer, as the goodwill, engagement, and productivity goes up.
Appreciate Their Expertise
Freelancing is a career choice for many gig workers. They often bring a very specific set of honed skills, deep expertise, or niche knowledge. Freelancers provide an impressive focus to complete deliverables at an expert level that probably does not exist internally. They aren’t throw-away talent and should be valued for their contributions. Their time and boundaries are to be respected like a ‘regular’ team member. Our freelance recruiters advise that the freelance community is a tight-knit one (especially in niche specialties), and freelancers actively share their impressions about the employers that hire them.
When companies hire freelancers, the more prepared managers are for a successful collaboration, the likelihood increases that the freelancer will be engaged and productive. To hire freelancers for your unique initiative or skills gap on the team, contact the freelance recruiters at 24 Seven today. For our Guide to Hiring Freelancers, click here.