To communicate effectively with your freelancer, it’s helpful to first understand some general guidelines and common differences between freelancers and employees. From there, you’ll want to keep lines of communication open, be clear about expectations, and stay responsive throughout your project.
Here are some other helpful things to keep in mind.
10 Dos and Don’ts to Help You More Effectively Communicate With Freelancers
1. Don’t think of them as employees. Do understand they are business owners with other clients.
Freelancers work on a project-by-project basis. When working with them, remember to respect their independence. They maintain total freedom over how they do the work, which should be one of the most important things you keep in mind as you engage freelancers.
This will underscore many aspects of your working relationship—from communication and meetings to project changes.
2. Don’t attempt to set a freelancer’s rate for them. Do your best to estimate your project scope and budget, and let them dictate their rate.
Freelancers set their rates based on their experience, the demand for their skills, their expenses and other factors. Often, a freelancer is willing to negotiate for an interesting project, or if he or she wants to get a foot in the door. But very in-demand freelancers may stand firm on their rates.
When it comes to setting a budget, don’t be afraid to take their advice on scope and price. After all, they’re the experts and are familiar with general project costs in their field.
3. Don’t supervise their work or provide too much instruction throughout the engagement. Do clearly communicate expectations and agree on deliverables.
It’s helpful to remember that theoretically, you should be able to hand a freelancer a project and get what you’re looking for with little to no guidance along the way. As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want to specify the process or work methods required to get a project done. Instead, try to give plenty of context—like a thorough project brief—so the freelancer has enough information to deliver.
4. Don’t worry about “integrating” a freelancer into your team or organization. Do make sure they’re in touch with anyone they may need to collaborate with on the project.
During the course of your project, you might be tempted to include the freelancer the way you would an employee. While freelancers welcome information relevant to their project and can be great collaborators, they are still independent professionals. Also, note that unless otherwise agreed you’re not responsible for providing a freelancer with equipment, tools or training.
5. Don’t expect them to be available around the clock. Do get comfortable with asynchronous conversation.
Freelancers aren’t required to work 9-to-5—or even during your working hours. That said, you’ll want to be familiar with the concept of asynchronous conversation, which can happen when you’re not both online. With this, consider how you use a channel for what you want to convey. Instant messages are great for quick questions or small bits of information, email for more detail, and a video or phone chats for bigger discussions.
In The Complete Guide to Asynchronous Communication in Remote Teams, Benjamin Brandalls notes, “When communicating asynchronously, you need to keep in mind that the recipient needs more information than they otherwise would, because there’s a chance that you won’t be around to answer important follow-up questions.”
6. Don’t rely on regular meetings or daily status reports. Do keep lines of communication open.
It can be frustrating when someone is unresponsive—freelancers can feel like they’re held up while clients can feel like their project isn’t a priority. To head this off, discuss how you’ll both stay in touch and establish times when you’re both available to chat. Be prompt when replying to your freelancer so they’re not held up on their end, and use Upwork Messages to keep all of your communications and shared files in one place.
7. Don’t dictate when a freelancer should work. Do agree on a deadline(s) to keep things moving.
Unlike full-time, W2 employees, you generally won’t tell a freelancer what hours they should work (or where to work from). Typically, they’re only contractually obligated to produce the milestones you’ve agreed on, by the agreed-upon due dates.
Many organizations who engage freelancers have found ways to have meetings when schedules overlap and align communications early or later in the day.
8. Don’t request extra work not included in your original contract. Do find new ways to engage them, such as new or follow-up projects.
Be careful not to require any extra work that wasn’t included in your original contract. That can get into employee territory—and is best addressed with a revised contract you both agree on, or a second contract for another phase of the project if needed.
9. Don’t forget to use milestones as a chance to provide feedback. Do have a frank conversation with a freelancer when you’re not happy with the results.
Rather than provide mid-project feedback, which can come across as instruction as you’d provide an employee, wait until milestones are submitted to ensure a project is on the right track. Read this article to learn what to do if you’re not happy with the results.
10. Do show appreciation for a job well done.
Be sure to show your appreciation, just like you would an employee. If a freelancer did a great job and has grown familiar with you and your company, the best way to show them they did a great job is to initiate another project!
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