In the last year, the transformation of the workplace has accelerated. And here at Jam Pan, we’re seeing our clients utilise freelance talent more than ever before. But advice around effective freelancer-employer relationships often focuses on things the freelancer should do. So now we want to flip the coin; what can organisations do to work more effectively with freelance talent? Here are our 7 top tips:
1. Onboard your freelance talent
You’d never employ a full time member of your team and not onboard them properly – would you? So why is this step so often overlooked when working with freelance talent? Especially as it’s such an important step to ensure consistency (and in turn quality) of work.
Onboarding doesn’t have to be a week-long process, like it typically is with a full-time employee. Instead, take an hour or so to ensure that your freelancers have everything they need, understand your communication channels and your brand. Contently™ have put together this handy list for onboarding your freelancers, which includes:
- Explain the business and objectives
- Introduce the team and technology
- Set rules for communication
- Provide a style guide
- Gather a portfolio of success
- Ask for feedback
2. Set a brief – and stick to it!
Being super clear with expectations in advance is the single best way to ensure success when working with freelance talent. Create a brief or statement of work, that details exactly what you’re hiring the freelancer for – and get agreement from all parties in advance. Think about the fine details here:
- Are you expecting the source files for the project?
- Do you want the talent to use a specific authoring tool?
- How many feedback cycles do you need?
- Which element(s) of the project do you need help with?
- Who will you expect the freelance talent to work with/report to?
Once this has been outlined (in writing) and agreed by both parties, the next step is sticking to it. You should not expect freelancers to pick up additional work due to a change in scope. But of course, things change all the time – not least in L&D projects. If this happens, speak to the freelancer and draw up an amendment to the statement of work.
3. Practice open communication when working with freelance talent
Open communication is critical in any professional relationship. When you’re hiring an expert freelancer, it’s tempting to hand over the brief and then sit back and wait for the magic to happen. But this approach rarely leads to a perfect project. Instead, ensure freelancers know that you’re open to discussing project requirements. This may involve some back and forth discussions, feedback and suggestions from both parties.
4. Respect their skillset
You have chosen to work with freelance talent for a reason. That reason may be that you’re short on capacity or that you need some expertise that your permanent team does not have. So it would be foolish to overlook the skills and talents of the freelancers you are working with.
This comes in many guises, but our top tip is to not tell a freelancer exactly what to do. This rarely creates the innovative and collaborative environment needed for ‘out of the box’ thinking. Instead, give them a project brief and ask them for their opinion on how to create a solution for the problem at hand. By giving freelancers this autonomy (with your guidance) will result in some fantastic digital learning being created.
However, do not hesitate to give constructive feedback when working with freelance talent. Oftentimes, when a freelancer ‘misses the mark’ it isn’t due to a lack of skill or talent. Instead, it’s more likely they’ve misunderstood your expectations – and thus by giving them feedback you’ll be helping them to successfully complete the project. Alongside this, it’s also critical that you give positive reinforcement too. Just because the individual is a freelancer does not mean they don’t need a pat on the back from time to time!
5. Set and respect boundaries
Most freelancers have chosen this way of working for a reason. They likely appreciate the flexibility of freelance work, and have their own routine of working. Often, you will not be their only client, or they may not work a standard Monday – Friday, 9-5 working structure. So they may not be able to reply to your email or message immediately and it’s really important that you respect this.
However, this works both ways. It’s important that freelancers respect your boundaries and ways of working. For example, if you say an assignment is ‘due for Friday’, you may consider that deadline to be Friday morning. The freelancer may interpret this deadline as Friday close-of-play. So avoid ambiguity in boundaries, and set clear expectations on communication and deadlines.
6. Build relationships
Some of the most successful digital learning projects we’ve completed result in repeat work – leading to happy stakeholders and learners. Two great ways to build the relationship is by following steps 4 and 5, above. Because all relationships are built on mutual respect, right?
However, when working with freelancers it’s easy to fall into the trap of a purely transactional, business relationship. Don’t let this happen! Freelancers are humans, and you should get to know them on a personal level. Ask questions about their family, their hobbies and their interests. This will allow you to create a real connection with the freelancer – and increase the likelihood that they’ll want to work with you again in the future!
7. Pay fairly and on time when working with freelance talent
Last, but by no means least, you should always pay your freelancers on time. It seems really basic, but it’s one of the most common areas of frustration between freelancers and organisations they work for. One way to ease this process is for the freelancer to invoice based on deliverables, rather than time. If the project changes direction, or needs additional tasks – make sure you’re prepared to pay for this change in scope.
Here at Jam Pan, we truly believe that freelance talent is the future of effective, impactful digital learning creation. We work with a whole host of super-talented freelancers, who are experts in their field and are ready to help you transform your learning today. If you want to learn more about how Jam Pan can help you – get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.