Anyone who’s been in the workforce for even a few years has probably had a great boss, and they’ve probably had a terrible boss. This is true for both traditional employees as well as freelancers.
What’s the difference between a traditional employee and a freelancer?
Well, a traditional employee will generally get a schedule for when they clock in and out from work, while a freelancer usually works when they feel like they can put their best work forward. However, on the other hand, employees are often entitled to certain benefits, whereas freelancers are not.
It breaks down to this; employees work for specific companies, while freelancers work on projects for companies.
And the market for freelancers is only growing. There’s more and more demand for high-quality freelance work every day, and there are plenty of freelancers out there to take it.
So more companies are hiring freelancers, but they’ll still give the freelancer a manager to report to like they would for their more traditional employees. This practice can be fantastic for freelancers, as it provides a direct point of contact for a project or series of projects.
However, just like with managing traditional employees, there are some best practices when it comes to managing freelancers. Some of these are the same as with traditional employees, and others are a bit different.
Not sure what to do with your newfound freelancers? Like with most people, communication is key! Freelancers can feel out of touch if you don’t give them enough support and communication. Here’s how to improve:
- Communicate and Be Available
As mentioned above, communication is crucial when managing freelancers. So even though they’re not on-site workers, you’ll still need to check in with them periodically.
What will you discuss with these freelancers? Honestly, a lot of the same stuff you would talk about with your more traditional employees. Provide them with updates, check and see if they have any updates of their own, and listen to their input about their project.
And, as you’ve probably heard in every employee and training seminar throughout your career, communication is not a one-way street. So not only do you need to contact your freelancers regularly, but you should provide them with the means to contact you when they need to.
A big part of the reason many people turn to freelance work is that they enjoy the freedom of flexibility.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should keep them in the dark about expectations. On the contrary, not giving them any structure sets them up for failure, which isn’t good for anyone.
Easy tip to help with this: have a defined process that they can reproduce for every task they need to complete. Each project that the freelancer takes on may require their unique knowledge and creativity, but the processes around the project shouldn’t.
Give your freelancers the best way to contact their manager, set deadlines ahead of time, and share your project calendar! If you’re straightforward about your expectations, you’re doing your part in getting that project done well and on time.
Also, it’s best not to assume that you’re their only client. Most freelancers work with multiple clients simultaneously, so if you approach them with a last-minute, poorly-planned idea for a project, your freelancer may not be available to help out.
Give Them Space
As mentioned earlier, freelancers like flexibility. This flexibility not only applies to their work hours but also their processes.
Good freelancers are self-led, self-motivated problem solvers. Don’t try to micromanage them; it could mean that you get a worse project in the end. Yes, supporting your freelancers is good, but they’ll usually let you know if they’re running into any issues that require assistance.
If you find that you can’t rely on them to complete the project independently, they probably aren’t someone you would want on your projects. It’s usually best to approach them and see if there’s any misunderstanding about expectations. However, that absolutely doesn’t mean that you should just give them a free pass.
In today’s modern world, there are tons of wonderful tools that can help your freelancers out with their projects. If you expect them to use particular tools, share access to the resources that they need!
You can do this with many software by simply creating employee login info for any software that will make their jobs easier. Sometimes it may be a bit more complicated than that, but it’s still vital to get these tools over to your freelancers.
Now, they may already have some of this software. Still, you shouldn’t expect your freelancers to have the correct tools from the start. Remember, these freelancers get paid for their skills, not their tools.
Have a Reliable Payment Process
Nobody likes to wait longer for their paycheck than they need to. This is especially true for freelancers.
One of the benefits of being a traditional employee is the guarantee of a steady paycheck. Freelancers don’t have this safety net, so late payments for them could be more detrimental than you know.
What can you do to prevent your freelancers from missing out?
For starters, please don’t make it a habit to pay your freelancers after everyone else. Just because they aren’t W2 workers with a clocked time card doesn’t mean they should be the last to get paid.
You might also need to have a specific process for paying your freelancers on time. Take the time to teach the accounting department how to handle freelancer payments.
And, of course, don’t short-change your freelancers! Pay them what they are worth and more if they are exceptional. Happy freelancers will jump to take on more of your projects.
Show Them Some Appreciation
Everyone loves to feel included and appreciated. Just because your freelancers aren’t part of your traditional team doesn’t mean they need to feel like an outsider all the time.
If you’re sending all of your employees a company shirt or mug, consider sending your freelancers that merch, too.
If you have a process in place for employees to make requests of management, include the freelancers in that, too. You never know what great ideas could come out of your freelance team!
Most freelancers love repeat clients, and they appreciate knowing that a client is looking for a long, professional relationship. Invite them to team meetings or add them to the corporate email list; they’ll feel more like part of the company rather than the individual project.
More and more people are taking the leap into the world of freelancing, and it comes with plenty of struggles; difficult managers shouldn’t be one of them. If you’re looking to bring a freelancer or two onto a project, make sure you’re not making the task more tedious than it needs to be.
Keep them in the loop, provide them with the tools they need, and pay them on time.
Most importantly, remember that freelancers are people, not products. You should treat them as more than just a transaction.
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Caitlin Sinclair is the Property Manager at Azure (CA) and has five years of experience in property management and many years in Customer Service. She shares her passion for her community in all that she does and thrives at making Azure the place to call home for current and future residents.