Working With Freelancers: 4 Steps For Success

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Over the course of placing hundreds of freelancers in contract positions at some of the biggest and smallest companies in the world, I've observed that certain companies know how to work with freelancers more effectively than others. With the number of freelancers in the economy predicted to explode in the coming years, knowing how to incorporate them into your teams is paramount.

The difference between a successful freelance engagement and one that leaves both sides feeling frustrated can often boil down to a few small adjustments right at the outset. By clearly agreeing to a communication plan up front, you can help ensure your project stays on track and that expectations are met or exceeded.

At 10x Management we are constantly working to improve the freelancing experience both for our clients (the freelancers -- whom we view as the "talent") and our customers (the companies who hire our talent). One of the most effective ways to help ensure an engagement stays on track is to adhere to some basic communication parameters at the beginning of a project.

Here are some best practices to help ensure your work with a freelancer meets or exceeds your expectations:

1) Clearly Identify One Person on Your Team as a Point of Contact - Often times, when there is no clear project liaison whose job it is to communicate with a freelancer, messages can get muddied. They can also take longer to reach the intended target and sometimes messages can conflict with each other. By tasking one team member to be the point person with your agile talent, you help ensure there is consistent communication and that when there is an issue, the freelancer knows whom to speak with.

2) Mutually Agree On The Mode of Communication and The Frequency - Once you've identified whom on your team will own the communication process make sure that this person and your contingent talent come to a clear understanding of when communication will take place and through what medium. By ensuring that both parties agree (for example at 10x we prefer to have these policies written out and both parties approve them via email) with the timing and methods of communication you can clearly track areas of deficiency and nip potential issues in the bud.

3) Set Clear Expectations - Now that you've identified whom on your team will own the communication and that person, along with the contingent talent, have agreed upon when and how that communication will take place, make sure expectations for the project are clear and agreed upon as well. If you're sprinting towards the completion of a specific product build, it's crucial that you set clear and achievable goals with your freelancer. These goals should be agreed to by the developer to ensure they concur with them, and believe they can achieve success based on them.

4) Revisit and Revise as Needed - Just because you've adhered to items 1-3 above doesn't mean you're done. You should regularly check in with your freelancer to ensure that the parameters agreed to still work. Depending on the development cycle for the project you may need to adjust your plans above. Keep the process fluid so you're not locked into one modality for the duration of the engagement.

By following these four simple steps you'll find that you're more likely to both identify issues earlier and ensure the success of your project. Too much communication never hurts but a clear communication plan ensures everyone is on the same page from the outset of the engagement.

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You might also like reading, Whose Job Is It to Manage Freelancers featured in Harvard Business Review.