As an employer, you are expected to do right by the people working for you. But the expectations and rules are quite different when you are managing freelancers who aren’t fully employed by your organisation. Figuring out how to motivate and keep freelance workers (who you don’t have any formal authority over) interested and excited about the job can be a challenge.
Many managers make the assumption that they don’t need to tend to their freelancers as they do their “real” employees. And although there is some truth to that, it doesn’t mean that you use a completely hands-free approach. You will still need to thoughtfully and actively manage your freelance workers to get the best output and to ensure they will want to work with you again in the future.
So how do you successfully manage your freelance and contract workers to get the best out of them? Here are 7 tips to help you out:
- Know what they want. The most important question you should ask is: Why is the person interested in doing this job? Answers to this question will include money, the need to develop new skills, or wanting to work with others in the same field. Since you won’t be able to know your freelancers as well as you do your regular employees, you may need to ask the person directly about what they want. Make sure you deliver what the freelance worker is looking for once you find out what it is.
- Set expectations. You need to make sure that the freelancer knows exactly what you want from them – whether it’s a new website, advice every week, or a well-designed brochure. A good way to go about this would be to draft a statement that details what you need from the worker and when you need it. Make sure to provide context by detailing what the goal of their job is, why it matters and how it’s connected to the big picture.
- Build the relationship. Although you do not have to invest as much as you would with your employees, you will still need to build a relationship with your freelance workers. Avoid making the engagement purely transactional and instead get to know them a little bit. You can ask questions about their interests outside of work, their family or even other projects they might be working on – if you’re not their only client. This is especially important if you’d like to work with the person again.
- Make them feel like they’re part of the team. It can be demoralising when you get treated like a second-class citizen. For this reason, you should avoid status differentiators (even subtle ones like different ID badges) and instead try to be very inclusive. Invite your contractors to important meetings, invite them to team lunches, add them to the team’s email list, and include them in water-cooler conversations. Be careful, however, when integrating contract workers so as not to overstep HR guidelines and employment laws – it might cause trouble if you make them look too much like regular employees.
- Do not micromanage. Contractors, in most cases, chose to freelance because of the autonomy the arrangement gives them. So make sure you give your freelancers freedom. Allow flexibility with their schedules as well as other commitments. A successful freelancer is self-motivated and will be able to get the job done without someone looking over their shoulder. Give them space to do their work and trust them to deliver the product – if they are good, they won’t disappoint.
- Provide feedback.
Performance reviews are not necessary with freelancers, but that does not mean you hold back on providing feedback. Tell your freelancers what you think about their work as this will help improve their performance as well as deepen your relationship. Revisit the contract or statement of work from time to time and be clear about whether they are hitting their targets. Commend them if they are doing a good job and inform them if they are underperforming.
- Pay well. Treat your contractors fairly without taking advantage of them. Ensure that you pay them at the prevailing market rate or even more if you value their work. Even when trying out a person before you commit to a big project, ensure you offer to pay for the time it takes for the “tryouts.” You don’t want to build a bad employer reputation.
Freelancers and contractors might not be “real” employees, but they still need to be managed effectively for you to get the best out of them.