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Working with Freelancers: Tips & Tools

July 06, 2020 in Tips & Tools

Special projects call for specialized knowledge – or even just a helping hand. For those teams with limited resources, that’s where freelancers come in. Whether you’re a lean startup looking to supplement your team or an established organization looking to bring in fresh talent for a short-term overhaul, freelancers can be a great option.

Having said that, working with contract professionals comes with both perks and challenges. While it can be an excellent way to add a very specific skill set to your team, working with an external member can take a bit of extra planning, both in terms of logistics and culture.

If you’re considering bringing a freelancer on board, here are some tips for a more seamless, professional experience.

Fill them in on your company culture

A freelancer might be extremely skilled in their niche, but they don’t have the advantage of living and breathing your company vibe the way an in-house team member does. If you’re managing your project online, it’s likely you’ll be communicating with your freelancers through email, phone or a project management platform such as TaskBranch. Physical absence makes it more difficult for freelancers to gain a full understanding of the jargon, industry nuances and the overall culture of your company.

Taking the time to onboard your freelancer – the way you would with any employee – has benefits for you too. It means the work the freelancer produces is likely to be higher quality, needing less revisions, and will reflect your company’s values much more comprehensively.

Identify expectations and measurements for success early

With digital project management, it’s in everyone’s best interests to have clear boundaries and metrics for a successful project laid out before you start collaborating. Make sure your freelancer understands the scope of their involvement, the project’s timeline, who they will be reporting to or collaborating with and how you plan to evaluate what a successful performance will look like.

If you’re using a project management platform, you can even schedule regular evaluations or check-ins to make sure both you and your freelancer are comfortable with how things are going. Just like with your in-house staff, the best time to address concerns is as they happen, not at the end of the project.

Draft a legal agreement

Once you’ve negotiated the job description, it’s a good idea to create a legal agreement indicating that all finished work will be the property of you, and establishing payment terms.  If you’re using a platform to hire, they may have these agreements available for you to customize.

With digital project management, freelancers are usually paid either on completion of their work in its entirety, or after completion of key milestones. Establish before you begin work and have it in writing, along with an outline of their duties.

Be as choosy as you need

Thanks to the internet, even a startup can have access to top freelance talent across the globe. This means there’s no excuse for settling with a freelancer who doesn’t meet your needs, although it can take a bit of time to figure out what those needs are and who will meet – or exceed – them. Treat the early stages like you would with any new employee; ask them questions about their approach, how they collaborate or take criticism, ask for references or portfolio samples.

If you have the time and inclination, you can find a freelancer yourself, using freelance platforms or online recruiting programs, such as Upwork or ZipRecruiter. If you would rather leave the task to an experienced professional, there are creative agencies and recruiting firms that specialize in pairing companies with short-term or freelance professionals. If you’re using the second option, be aware that they will likely charge a fee or commission.

Protect your assets

Depending on what kind of business you have, you might face the risk of your freelancer approaching your clients directly and offering to do work for them. Most contract professionals have good intentions, but it’s still a wise idea to have your freelancers sign a non-compete agreement before starting, which contractually prohibits them from approaching your clients with a work proposition.

Centralize communication

As any project manager knows, project success and great communication go hand in hand. That’s why it can be vital to centralize all communication in one place, rather than getting lost in dozens of email chains. Using a cloud platform such as Taskbranch can help alleviate communication and organization inefficiencies, enabling you to focus on the work that really matters.

In today’s world of digital project management, there’s no reason you can’t find the perfect freelance match for your team. With a bit of extra planning, a short-term contractor can bridge a skills gap and help your company get exactly where they need to be. Good luck!

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Team TaskBranch

TaskBranch is a cloud-based project management suite that makes it easy for digital teams to manage multi-phase projects in one place.