Back in the old days, freelancing was mostly reserved for writers and photographers. The economy was different, and people lived their lives much differently. But we don’t live in the old days anymore, and freelancing is becoming a way of life.
Nowadays, you can freelance for anything from writing and photography to design and music, as well as consulting and marketing. And with platforms such as Twine helping to connect freelancers and companies, it is easier than ever for both parties to benefit from this trend.
There is research to back this up, as well. A recent study by Deloitte Human Capital found that 51 percent of global executives are planning to increase the use of flexible workers in the future.
Seems simple, right? Hire freelancers. Grow your business. But let’s hold on for just a second; nothing is that simple, as we well know.
To grow your business with freelancers you need to be prepared to manage employees in a whole new way, and the faster you can figure out how to do this and adapt, the faster you will be able to reap the benefits of this highly-qualified, highly-skilled workforce.
Let’s take a look at some of the essentials for growing your business with freelancers.
Be clear about your goals with your freelancers
One of the most frustrating things that can occur in any freelancer/client relationship is rework. Time is money, and when things need to be redone or resubmitted, it either costs the freelancer time, or the client money, or both. This will quickly sour the relationship and could end up being its ultimate demise.
So, the best thing you can do to make sure freelancers are helping you grow your business is to be very clear about what you are looking for. The more details you can provide, the better. You need to remember these individuals do lots of work for lots of clients, so they will have certain ways of doing things. If you leave important aspects of the job up to the freelancer, then expect them to fill in these gray areas with their own judgment.
If you have a specific idea in mind, communicate this as clearly as possible so that you can increase the chance of the freelancer getting it right the first time.
As the relationship develops, you may find the freelancer’s judgment is pretty good and that it adds value to let them do their thing. But don’t assume this in the beginning, as it will ultimately lead to frustration and perhaps costly rework.
Ask for samples from freelancers, and pay for them
When entering into a freelance relationship, you have no idea about how good the person really is. They may have the most stunning profile or sales pitch, or they may even have some great examples of past work, but until they submit something to you, you don’t exactly know what you are getting into.
The best way to make sure you are getting someone capable of doing what you are looking for is to have them submit some sample work you might need them to do. Perhaps you are looking for some writers, then have them submit a short article that you might typically request. Or if you are looking for some design work, have them work on a small piece for an hour or two to see what they come up with.
However, it is important to point out that you should be ready to pay for these tasks, as freelancers aren’t usually excited about the idea of doing work for free. This is why looking at their profile and portfolio is also important; you want to make sure that you are spending money on something that might actually pan out. But get some tangible evidence that this person is up for the task so that you can get the most out of the money you are going to spend for their work.
Communicate often, but stay hands off
Freelancers become freelancers because of the flexibility the work offers. People are diverse, and many freelancers keep weird schedules. They may work through the night, or they may be in a different time zone from you.
So, if you are constantly checking in on them for status updates, you may end up cramping their style, once again souring the relationship and causing you and your business to miss out on their unique talents.
The solution to this is communication. Set clear and firm deadlines, and then simply make yourself available to the freelancer. The good ones will reach out when they have a question to make sure they are on the right track. Now if there is a delay, that’s a different story. Being hands off doesn’t mean not sticking to deadlines or commitments, it just means to avoid micromanaging.
This may be one of the biggest differences to using traditional workers. If everyone is in the same office, you can check up on people without seeming overbearing. But in the digital world, repeated messages can get annoying quickly and can turn freelancers off to the work.
A lot of the work you will be getting from freelancers to grow your business will be creative, and creatives need space to work, as well as firm deadlines. Keep this in mind and apply it to your strategy with freelancers, and you’ll find you can maximize their efforts, helping your business achieve its aims.
Using freelancers is a fantastic way to grow your business. It allows you to tap into a literally global talent pool, giving you access to industry specialists without having to hire them and pay them as full-time employees. However, making use of freelancers is a whole different ballgame as compared to traditional workers. If you take the right steps to adapt, you’ll quickly see just how valuable freelancers can be to the growth of your business.
Jock is the founder of Digital Exits, a brokerage service that specializes in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. He got his start as a freelance writer working for digital marketing clients, and through this, he got to know how business gets done over the internet. Now, he works to help others have similar success.
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