It’s becoming more and more common for companies to turn to freelancers, thanks to the high number of skilled workers in just about every area ready and able to get the job done. All that’s needed is a strong internet connection.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, roughly 160 million jobs around the world could be done remotely – or in other words, by freelancers. In the US, as many as 53 million people are working freelance, claims international freelance website Elance, which is about a third of the total workforce. Those numbers are reflected in Australia’s workforce too, with approximately 3.7 million people taking on freelance work, which is again, around a third of the nation’s workforce.
As it stands, Australia is one of the biggest markets for freelance work, second only to the US and the UK in numbers of jobs posted on Elance.
The benefits are obvious: Skilled, professional workers who don’t need office space and can complete projects as you need them. With the help of technology, your search for the right person for the job isn’t limited to the city of your head office, or even the same time zone.
If you’re approaching a freelancer for the first time, or don’t feel your freelancer is living up to expectations, try these tips to make the process as efficient and beneficial as possible.
Finding your freelancer
Not all freelancers are created equal, so it’s important to treat your hiring decision with as much care and thoroughness as you would for a full-time employee.
Unlike normal full-time employees however, you might be able to ask around business associates to find out if they have any reputable freelancers working for them. Freelancers will often take on multiple projects at once, so sharing them with other companies is standard, and it will help give you an idea of their work ethic and quality before you meet them.
You may also look to traditional avenues such as newspaper ads, online job hunting websites or the newer platform of LinkedIn. Many of these platforms will also offer member profiles where you can actively search for a worker according to their job title or profession and get in touch with them from there.
Also take a look at specialised freelance websites. There are thousands of freelancers across dozens of industries signed up to such sites, and you can often sign up your business as well so that interested freelancers can come to you.
One very important element of finding the right freelancer is making it absolutely clear from day one what it is you’re looking for. Freelance graphic design could mean anything from designing a webpage to mocking up advertisements to rebranding your entire company. Assuming all freelancers can cover all areas equally may not produce the best results, so get specific in your job description to find the most suitable candidate.
Before you start work, ask the freelancer how much time they estimate the job will take. As payment is by the hour, you should have a reasonable idea of how quickly the work will be completed.
Working with your freelancer
Once you have a freelancer on board, you can help ensure the work produced meets requirements, is timely, and of high-quality.
The real key to working with any freelancer is communication. Start by sharing everything you can about the company and its culture to the freelancer, so they can work within your brand parameters and confidently approach tasks that require product or service knowledge.
Get on the phone with them to talk through the details of a new project, or even Skype to create more of a meeting feel. If your office is in the same city as the freelancer, you could even suggest coming in for a real meeting. Keeping these lines of communication open from the start will help ensure both of you are comfortable getting in touch with questions, concerns or feedback as work commences.
Be prompt with your replies if you are ever asked a question. If a freelancer has set aside time that day or week for your projects, their ability to start or continue could easily hinge on your reply.
Have a policy set aside for freelancers, whether your company employs hundreds or just one. This should include everything from what to do if the work falls through and travel or food allowances, to offering the freelancer extra work and non-disclosure agreements.
You may prefer for all freelance work to be approved by a certain staff member in office, and it might be that it is most efficient for the freelancer to report to just one office member so as to avoid the confusion of several staff requesting work and managing the results.
If your freelancer is working on a number of projects for you, aim to avoid simply passing on all the work no one else wants. Just like a salaried employee, freelancers will thrive on interesting, varying and challenging work – even if there is the odd job in the mix that nobody else would do.
Follow up with your freelancer
There is every possibility that you may need a hand with projects in the future, so once your current task set is complete, don’t neglect following up with the freelancer if you have been happy with their performance.
If at all possible, pass on any positive feedback or results you can share with them, and let them know if you are happy for them to share this with prospective new employers. Positive feedback is a welcome addition to any worker’s day, and being able to use examples of their work prove their worth to future employers is a fantastic way to say thanks.
Find out if the freelancer would be interested in working with you again and how far in advance you would need to inform them about a new project. Many freelancers will plot out their work weeks or months in advance, so knowing their availability ahead of time may come in handy.
And of course, keep their contact details on file, even if you don’t think you’ll need their services again. Sooner or later, you will be asked if you know of any great freelancers!