6 Freelancer Onboarding Tips Every Company Should Know

Would you like to improve your freelancers’ effectiveness, enthusiasm, and loyalty? Then take a look at how you onboard them.

Onboarding is not solely about getting a freelancer started on a project. It’s also about connecting freelancers with your company’s culture, which helps them feel valued from the beginning. To better understand why this is important, let’s start by looking at it from an employee’s perspective…

Surveys from TinyPulse show companies with a solid onboarding experience retain 91% of their first-year workers. And those who experience a positive onboarding process are 69% more likely to stay in the company for three years.

In a world of widening talent gaps and growing competition for skilled employees, those numbers shouldn’t be ignored. Sadly, most companies fall short:

Now consider this: If employees find onboarding that important, freelancers rely on it even more. Unlike employees in your office, freelancers can’t pop their head around the corner to ask a question or walk down the hall to track down a missing document.

Freelancers face a challenging balance of delivering a valuable work product, while working independently as an outsider. When they get out of sync, errors may increase and project results may suffer. A strong onboarding process helps keep them in sync from day one.

So follow these six ideas for onboarding freelancers and you’ll see greater dedication, excitement, and productivity. You’ll also enjoy smoother, more successful projects.

1. Connect them (virtually) into the office

The more freelancers feel valued and connected with your company’s culture, the more openly they’ll communicate. This often improves their level of collaboration, so you benefit fully from their wide experience. And it encourages them to ask questions, which could help them avoid going off track as the project progresses. Chess.com co-founder Erik Allebest fosters connections at all times. He starts by introducing the freelancer to team members via video chat. After hiring over 120 freelancers in 29+ countries, Allebest explains, “At the end of the day, I have to work with this person so I need to connect with them…It’s important even when working remote because we’re human. We have to communicate, we have to collaborate.”

Ways to develop connections include:

  • Introduce freelancers to team members via video chat like Skype or Google Hangouts
  • Conduct meetings via video chat instead of over the phone
  • Provide a list of team member names and their contact info

2. Gather project documents

Help freelancers get up to speed faster and understand expectations by providing project documentation that shows the scope, research, and other relevant information. This aligns your visions and helps the freelancer ask clarifying questions before diving in. In addition to project background documentation, you may consider including:

  • Relevant internal documents the team currently uses
  • Related project samples
  • Project expectations, deliverables, timeline, and payment schedule
  • Past campaigns and their outcomes
  • Target audience research

3. Prep the tech

It’s frustrating when a project hums along, then gets curtailed by a simple administrative delay. While independent professionals provide and use their own tools to do their work, they may sometimes need access to company systems for situations like delivering assignments or receiving project-related information. Before hiring the freelancer, avoid administrative delays with a bit of preplanning. Make a checklist of any systems, applications, and programs they may need to access like VPN or a company file sharing system. Some types of access might take longer to grant than others, so plan accordingly. And never assume the freelancer is familiar with a program, no matter how widely it’s used across industries. You may want to give the freelancer a list of programs and applications in the beginning, so they can make time to familiarize themselves. While considering access, ask yourself:

  • What systems, files, and applications will they need, if any?
  • What programs do we use for communicating? Sharing documentation?

4. Explain the brand

Putting your brand in context encourages a successful relationship. In addition to your external brand, this includes your internal brand—or corporate culture. Every company runs on unspoken nuances that make up the vibe of the company. This includes how everyone talks to each other, makes requests via email, and so on. When you’re immersed in it each day, it’s easy to pick up on it and feel part of the team quickly. Freelancers don’t have that luxury, so help them understand your brand. Then their work product and outcome will stay in line with your goals. And they’ll understand the importance of the project and the difference they can make. Potential ways to increase their understanding:

  • Provide a brand document/brand guidelines
  • Explain the company’s core values, mission, and expectations of freelancers
  • Define what values you prioritize
  • Explain how they play a role in the company vision, and the overall impact of their work

5. Give information in chunks

Freelancers often digest a deluge of project, company, and industry information in a very short time. Although they’re talented professionals, they aren’t supercomputers. To prevent overwhelming them and opening the door to possible errors, give information to them in chunks. If possible, start with a small project to test their understanding before giving another chunk of information.

6. Encourage questions

In most cases, freelancers are a fiercely independent bunch. Because of this, they usually shy away from asking questions or asking for help. But you must encourage them to feel free to reach out when needed, or projects may veer off course. Save potential confusion and time spent correcting errors by creating a culture where asking questions and sound boarding are encouraged. If you use certain communication platforms invite the freelancer to use them as soon as possible. It helps them feel involved and it helps you communicate more efficiently with multiple freelancers.

Providing a rock-solid onboarding experience doesn’t just make the project more successful for you, it’s also more enjoyable for the freelancer. In turn, their loyalty increases. As they continue working with you on future projects, they’ll anticipate your needs better and provide consistently high-quality work.