It’s a commitment to engage a freelancer, introduce them to your team, and learn how to effectively work together. It’s also an endeavor to figure out the conditions needed to inspire a freelancer’s best work to help your project succeed. So when you find a great freelancer, you want to hold onto that relationship so you don’t need to start fresh every time!
The balance of a good working relationship goes both ways: Just as freelancers want to stay on your radar for future work, it can be in your best interests to keep in touch with talented freelancers—even if you don’t have a steady stream of work to send their way. Here are five ideas to help you stay connected.
1. Start with the right freelancer
Finding an independent contractor is typically much more efficient than hiring an employee; a freelancer can often be up-and-running within just a few days compared with an average of 42 days to fill an employment vacancy.
But that doesn’t mean you can be complacent. Taking time to choose and interview the right freelancer can help determine whether your project will succeed. Here are a few tips:
- Prepare a detailed job post that’s well written and clearly explains objectives, deliverables, deadlines, and other critical information. (Here’s a checklist.)
- Vet freelancers who submit proposals by identifying the factors that are most important for your project before you make your shortlist.
- Do a remote interview by voice or video, and prepare ahead of time so you can conduct the interview like a pro.
- Start with a smaller paid test project to see them in action and learn more about how they approach their work.
2. Set clear expectations
This may seem basic, but one effective way to help inspire work that meets or exceeds what you’re looking for is to be clear about your expectations. For example:
- Be realistic about what can be accomplished within your timeframe.
- Kick things off with a great onboarding process that gives a freelancer all the information they’ll need to do fantastic work.
- Communicate effectively—not just to respond to questions that might come up but also to provide and listen to feedback along the way.
3. Ask about their motivation
“What are you giving that person in exchange for lending his or her talent to your organization?” Asked Dan Pink, author of Free Agent Nation, in an interview with HBR.
Money is the easy answer, but not always the right one: Freelancers may also be motivated to learn new skills or to work with a particular team or organization. “Don’t fall into the trap of making [the relationship] purely transactional,” Pink cautioned.
4. Trust their expertise
In a survey by Emergent Research and MBO Partners, freelancers ranked what they felt was most important:
- To have their work valued (96%)
- Control over their schedule (89%)
- Control over their work (88%)
- To be treated as a team member (83%)
“These professionals are in demand, and they know it. According to our research, 83% say they have a lot of choice or some choice over who they work with,” the researchers noted. “In other words, these talented professionals can choose what to work on and with whom to work.”
5. Stay in touch (even infrequently)
Once your project has wrapped up, you may be at a loss about how you can stay connected with the freelancer; after all, connecting via social media can only go so far. But reaching out once in a while doesn’t need to be complicated.
- Let them know how things go. After dedicating themselves to your project, a freelancer may not be involved when a product actually rolls out or the results start coming in. Let them know how things are going; they’ll be thrilled to hear about your successes, and you can pass along feedback that may have come up in the interim.
- Leave a review. From testimonials on their website to comments on their Upwork profile, client feedback is like currency for freelancers: It can help potential clients make decisions about who they want to work with.
- Take advantage of holidays. It may seem rote, but holidays and special occasions are reasonable times for you to reach out to say hello and may be easier to manage if you have other communication going out at the same time.
- Share company news. Automatically adding a freelancer to your mailing list isn’t a good idea—and, in some cases, may go against anti-SPAM legislation. But letting them know about big announcements can help them stay in the loop and maybe spot new opportunities for you to work together.
Finding and keeping good talent is competitive, and that’s no different when you’re working with freelancers. But by fostering good relationships from the start, you help inspire quality work and build long-term relationships with people who want your business to thrive as much as you do.