16% of businesses are now fully remote, and there are currently over 1.57 billion freelancers globally — that’s almost half of the global workforce (46.4%). In fact, Tech Giant Google, has more contractors/freelancers on their payroll (54%) than permanent employees (46%).
Hiring freelancers or a freelance team benefits both freelancers and businesses; streamlining processes, reducing costs and saving time are just a few of the many benefits of working with a freelance team.
But let’s face it, the freelance marketplace is a minefield, and the results promised are often not delivered. And with literally millions of freelancers to choose from, how can you be sure that you’ve found the right person for the job, let alone manage freelancers effectively?
Here are 15 tips for hiring freelancers in 2023 to ensure that you manage your team effectively so that your business can start reaping the many rewards of outsourcing projects to freelancers.
How to Manage Freelancers Effectively
1. Set Project Outline
Planning is arguably the most crucial part of the freelance management process. Without proper structure, the likelihood of your project being successful is significantly reduced. You’ll need to define whether you need a cross-functional team (a combination of an in-house team supported by freelancers) or a monoline freelance team (a completely remote team handling a specific function). Regardless of which structure fits your business needs best, here are five essential factors to bear in mind at this stage:
- Project Requirements
- Project Expectations
- Project Deadlines
- Project Meetings Agendas
- Project Reporting
2. Define Your Project Budget
It’s important to define just how much you’ll need to allocate in your budget to your freelance team. It’s a good idea to put an overall amount aside beforehand to avoid running into a lack of resources. Also, remember that the idea is to hire a freelancer or freelance team that is the best fit for the task or your brand, not a freelancer that necessarily offers the best rate. The best rate does not equate to the best quality. So it’s best to do some industry research on how much you’ll need to set aside for the project and add a little extra to give you some wiggle room. It’s best to be prepared, just in case any unforeseen tasks pop up or you end up hiring a freelance team that wasn’t the right fit, as you may need to outsource the project to a new team if the results are less than desirable.
3. Hiring Freelancers
This is probably one of the most important steps in setting up your freelance team. There are, of course, pros and cons when opting to work with freelancers, but choosing the right team is half the battle. The digital space is flooded with freelance marketplaces claiming to offer the most accessible and affordable services to get the job done. But anyone who has attempted to use these marketplaces can attest to how painful it can be to find suitable freelancers who actually make good on what they promise. So, to help you weed out the okay from the exceptional when hiring a freelancer or freelance team, consider the following:
- Local as well as your freelancer’s local marketplace rates
- Your freelancer’s level of expertise
- How much time will need to be allocated to the task
- Whether they have the necessary tools to complete the task
You may also want to ask for client testimonials and examples of previous projects they’ve worked on recently if they haven’t provided any.
Finding the Right Freelancer/Freelance Team
The first step is finding a reputable platform for freelancers. Although there will likely always be a risk, you’ll have a much better chance of finding the best freelance talent from outsourcing service providers, like Blackbear. However, unlike platforms like these, navigating your way through your run-of-the-mill freelance marketplaces can be time-consuming and tedious. Various platforms work differently. For example, some websites allow freelancers to upload their rates, portfolios, etc., for companies to peruse and select services. Others allow freelancers to bid on projects or submit project proposals. To ensure you’re hiring a freelancer that’s right for the job, here are some tips for hiring freelancers and what to look for:
- Social Media
- Education and Experience
- Work Samples/Portfolio
4. Provide Documentation (Guides)
To ensure that you receive the desired results, it’s important to provide as much guidance as possible, not only through meetings or discussions but also in the form of documentation. Ensure that these are as specific as possible regarding your expectations, requirements for your brand identity, instructions and so on. This will clear up any confusion or misunderstanding to help you avoid disappointment in the overall quality of the project results.
5. Set Your Expectations
Expectations can mean anything from project expectations to budget expectations. It’s vital to ensure that you and your chosen freelancer or freelance team are on the same page from the get-go. Although the budget is important to both parties, especially if you’re a start-up or small business with tight financial constraints, respecting the freelancer’s rate will be beneficial in the long run. Of course, the rates offered need to be reasonable, but trying to reduce rates just to cut costs may deter the best freelancers and leave you with subpar or, worse, unusable results. It’s also essential to discuss timelines and communication channels so that, in the event, any challenges or issues arise, you’ll be able to keep each other in the loop and avoid failed tasks.
6. Communicate Company Standards
Yet another vital step should not be missed when setting out to hire and manage freelancers. It’s crucial to outline not only your project expectations but the standards too. So take them through your brand visions, strategy as well as company guidelines and standards from the offset. This way, your freelance team will know precisely what is expected of them.
7. Effective Streamlined Communication
As mentioned previously, finding a communication channel that works for you and your freelancer or freelance team is essential. It’s also a good idea to open the lines of communication before your project or task kicks off. It’s a good idea to use chat platforms for daily check-ins and email for more formal communication.
8. Regular Check-ins, But Avoid Micromanagement
Although keeping the lines of communication open is very important, be careful of checking in too frequently or when unnecessary, as this could throw your freelance team off and have the opposite effect than intended. Finding the balance is key to not only keeping your freelance team at ease and allowing them to focus on the task at hand but also ensuring that your project is on track to meet your deadlines.
9. Time Tracking
On the topic of meeting deadlines, one efficient way to ensure that project due dates are met is time tracking. Time tracking is particularly beneficial for jobs that involve hourly rates or tasks, where freelancers need to bill based n time spent on a task. If you don’t already have one, various time-tracking tools can help you improve accuracy and efficiency when recording time spent on the task.
Although the traditional request for a screenshot of time logs is generally appropriate, it can cause tension as it could be interpreted as a lack of trust. So having a tool where you both have access to hours logged could alleviate or avoid creating unnecessary friction in the relationship between you and your chosen freelancer or freelance team. Here are a few time-tracking tools you may want to consider:
- Toggl Track
- Screenshot Monitor
10. Project Management Tools
Just as important as time tracking is, project management is another way to help manage your team of freelancers. These tools are a great way to keep up-to-date on the progress of your project and avoid having to follow up constantly through direct communication apps. Below are a few of the most popular tools you can check out to help track your in-house and freelance or outsourced projects:
- Zoho Projects
11. Remember — Freelancers Aren’t Employees
Now that you are in the process of hiring a freelancer as part of your team, it’s easy for the lines to be a little blurred when it comes to managing your freelance team. Remember that you are not the only client that your freelancer has. Freelancers often require some flexibility when it comes to working hours, especially if you’re outsourcing projects to a freelance team located in a different time zone.
When managing freelancers, keep in mind that working environments and standards may differ greatly from what you’re accustomed to. So it’s important to outline your expectations and requirements at the beginning stages while considering the differences in the dynamic between your in-house and freelance team. Although the standard level should be the same, the process of completing the task may need to be adjusted slightly to give the freelancer the freedom they need to complete the task. After all, there’s more than one way to reach the same destination.
12. Extend Team-building Activities
Although freelancers are technically not part of your in-house team, they are still team members. Including freelancers in company activities or offering opportunities usually only afforded to your employees could help build a good rapport between you and your freelance team members.
At the end of the day, you are both working towards the same goal, which is to meet your brand’s objectives. So what better way to help drive productivity than by keeping all team members motivated by focusing on making your freelancers feel welcome and included, such as inviting them to team meetings, team building, or virtual events.
13. Regular Feedback
Feedback is vital — whether it’s positive or constructive. It’s the only way to ensure that you get the desired outcome of the task or project and that your freelance team has all the information they need to improve their efforts and provide the best possible service. This is a great way to nurture the relationship with your freelance team so that, should you need to hire them on another project, they know exactly how and where to make adjustments going forward. This means they will be able to complete the following task efficiently and produce a higher quality of work, so it’s a win-win for both you and the freelancer.
14. Recognition for Good Work
Let’s face it, as helpful as constructive feedback can be; no one wants to hear about how they could have done a better job or simply only hear about what they’re doing wrong. If your freelancer did a great job on the last project they worked on, let them know. If senior management has passed on positive feedback on the service provided, pass it on. Nothing motivates a freelancer, freelance team, or employee, for that matter, than the hard work they’ve put in has not only been acknowledged but appreciated.
15. Nurture the Relationship With Freelancers
You may want to ensure that your freelancer feels at home as part of the team, but remember; freelancers are not employees — they are business partners. And, as with any partnership, it’s important to nurture the relationship. By focusing on some of the tips for hiring freelancers offered above, like communication, clearly defined requirements and expectations, and giving the freelancer enough space to do what they do best, acknowledging great work yet providing constructive feedback, are all fantastic ways to help nurture the partnership.
Now that you know how to manage freelancers effectively it’s time to take the first step. Although managing freelancers can be challenging, it can be an enriching experience, especially for your business or brand. It opens up the doors to some of the best talents worldwide and can not only help drive productivity and revenue. But in order to do this efficiently by utilising a freelance team or outsourced service, you need structure, clarity and preparation.
As long as both parties are on the same page from the beginning of the task, lines of communication are consistent, feedback is constructive and you avoid micromanagement, your freelance team should have everything they need to produce nothing short of stellar results.