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How to hire and manage freelancers: 12 tips


America’s growing gig economy may have you wondering how to hire and manage freelancers to benefit your business.

More than 56 million Americans freelance regularly, providing 72 million hours of freelance labor each week, according to a 2018 study commissioned by Freelancers Union and Upwork, a global freelancing website. Even those with full-time jobs often freelance on the side.

With an available pool of labor that deep, how do you successfully hire and manage freelancers?

Understanding freelancers

1. Freelancers can benefit your company

From creative projects to IT needs, freelancers provide flexible labor and talent to supplement a company’s in-house staff.

There’s a wide range of projects and services you can outsource to help your business run more efficiently. Outsourcing a project may make sense when you don’t have the in-house availability or skills to successfully handle it.

2. Freelancers are not full-time employees

It’s important to recognize that while freelancers and employees both provide services to a company, there are key distinctions between the two.

Freelancers aren’t employees and don’t receive employee benefits from the companies they work with. They are usually hired by the project and are expected to report and withhold their own taxes.

It’s important to properly classify employees versus freelancers. A freelancer provides specific services for a negotiated rate and time period. Freelancing is also not a permanent position: you may hire the same freelancer for multiple projects over time, but the projects are independent of each other.

3. You need the proper infrastructure to support freelancers

Before wading into the freelance talent pool, consider whether your company has the infrastructure to support freelancing.

Like building a remote team, you need the structure in place to make freelancing a success:

  • Do you or someone on your team have time to hire and manage freelancers?
  • If the project requires collaboration, do you have the tools and software necessary to make that happen?

Once you answer those questions, here are 12 tips to hire and manage – and ultimately benefit from – freelancers.

Hiring a freelancer

1. Define your need

Before you hire a freelancer, clearly define the project you need completed.

  • Do you have budget for the project?
  • What are the deliverables?
  • What level of expertise is needed to complete the task?
  • What tools or skills are needed for the project?
  • What is the project deadline?

2. Craft a project description

Use those answers to create a project description that will attract the right freelance talent.

  • Thoroughly outline the project.
  • Detail what qualifications you are looking for and set clear expectations.
  • List the education, experience or skills needed for the task.

If it sounds like a job description, it is. It’s a freelance job, and a successful hire is important to your business.

3. Share your freelance opportunity

Finding freelance talent is like finding employees, with agencies, online postings and referrals as opportunities to identify talent.

There are a number of popular freelance recruiting websites, including many where you can view available freelancers. Some sites offer detailed freelancer experience descriptions, work samples and client reviews.

You can also post your need in professional groups focused on the skills you need for your project, like an IT networking group. Also, ask your network for personal referrals.

4. Screen potential freelancers

Finding the right freelance fit is as important as finding the right employee. You want to know that freelancers have the knowledge, tools and the mindset to successfully complete your project. You also want to know that they’re motivated to finish the task.

Interview freelance applicants to ensure they fit your project, understand your company and can handle the job. Ask for references and work samples.

5. Pay freelancers fairly

Hiring a freelancer may be more economical than adding a full-time employee to your payroll, but don’t think of freelancing as a way to get work done on the cheap.

Freelancers are sharing their skills and talents with you and need to be compensated fairly. Freelancers are an extension of your company. You want them to speak well of their experience.

6. Have a contract

Once you’ve found a freelancer for your project, have them sign a contract that clearly outlines expectations, deliverables, deadlines and fees before the work begins.

Detail the level of communication that’s expected:

  • Should the freelancer provide regular updates on project progress?
  • Will you only hear from them when the project is complete?
  • And should things not go well, how do you end the contract?

Managing freelancers

1. Foster a relationship

A relationship with a freelancer is different than a relationship with an employee, but it’s still a relationship. Rather than view them as a short-term, one-off contributor, create a relationship.

A freelancer is their own boss, but they are a part of your team by default. A positive relationship with regular communication will help ensure the project’s success.

2. Continually communicate

Communication is essential to managing a project and building trust between you and your freelancers. To help build a relationship, communicate with your freelancers throughout the project.

Create an open line of communication so they can share their progress and discuss ideas, especially if they’re working on a team project. Regular communication can also circumvent problems.

3. Avoid micromanagement

Whether you work with just one on an occasional project or have several freelancers you turn to as needs arise, freelancers require management.

Offer encouragement and feedback, but like remote employees, don’t micromanage their efforts. There must be a level of trust that freelancers are managing their efforts and completing the projects.

4. Step in, if necessary

If you feel that a freelancer is not making progress on a project, don’t wait until the project deadline to find out that the deliverable isn’t coming.

Ask for an update and discuss the expected milestones. Staying on top of things in a positive manner will help ensure the project’s success.

5. Terminate a contract as a last resort

You can’t fire a freelancer. After all, they’re not employees. But if things become untenable and it’s obvious that the project is not being completed, you can end the contract.

Ending a freelance contract should truly be a last resort: work with a freelancer to resolve issues when you can. When you can’t, the contract agreement is there to protect you. And of course, don’t re-engage with that freelancer on future efforts.

6. Provide rewards and recognition

Freelancers have short-term goals of finishing a project, getting paid and moving onto the next job. So how do you motivate them?

Everyone appreciates being respected and thanked. If the project goes well, consider giving the freelancer a small gift or token of your appreciation. Offer to provide references, positive reviews and more work in the future. That successful freelancer might even be your next great hire.  

Adding freelance labor to your company roster takes planning and dedicated oversight, but that outside expertise and talent can supplement your in-house team to add skills and expertise as needed. Treat freelance labor as an extension of your in-house team and engage them to help your company succeed.

To learn more about how to build and manage teams, download our complimentary magazine:  The Insperity attract, retain, recruit and hire talent.