How to successfully work with freelancers

We've heard about how freelancers can successfully attract and retain agencies as clients. But what about the agencies? How can they successfully work with freelancers on a regular basis, ensuring they get the very best out of the working relationship?

No matter what you do - that's whether you're a PR agency hiring in technical support or a design agency employing the services of a freelance copywriter - knowing how to deal with freelancers effectively will ensure your business runs as smoothly as possible.

Here's my top tips on how to successfully work with freelancers...

Lay down the rules early on

Before you start working with any freelancer, meet up for a friendly chat and establish the rules as soon as possible. The freelancer will essentially be joining your team and should adapt to your way of working, so make it clear what they can and can't do. For example, if you want to keep it quiet that you're employing freelancers, make sure your freelancers are discreet.

Get something in writing

If you're feeling a bit wary of a new freelance relationship, simply draw up some contracts and make things official. I've personally never had to do this, as I've always been very lucky to find and work with such fantastic freelancers. But if you're not sure, get something in writing. Bear in mind, NDAs and contracts can be off-putting to many freelancers looking for work. A way to get around this is to keep a record of email correspondance, so you can always refer back to things in future.

Keep an eye on things

Don't forget to manage your freelancers by ensuring that they're communicating with you at all times, keeping you updated on the project and what's going on. Remember, you're the manager in this working relationship and it's up to you to ensure the project is a success. Keep an eye on what's happening and stay in control of your workload.

Hourly or day rates?

Before you start working with any freelancer, ask them for their day or hourly rate. Negotiate if you have to and establish what exactly you'll be getting for your money. For example, will meetings and travel expenses be included or are these extra? Make sure you understand how your freelancers charge for their time, so you don't fall foul of any hidden costs.

Don't assume their price

When it comes to freelance projects, every project is different so don't assume one price will fit all. Always respect your freelancers and ask for new quotes before embarking on anything new. Don't guess their price and make assumptions, going ahead with a quote before checking it first with the freelancer. Don't assume, check every time.

Pay them on time

Keep your freelancers happy by paying them on time and within the standard 30 day period. It's only fair if they've done their share of the work. You most definitely want to become someone people enjoy working with, so if you pay on time your relationship will benefit.

Be a great project manager

As an agency, you'll undoubtedly be in charge of project management. Make sure you project manage effectively to keep your freelancers happy. Give them everything they need to successfully get the job done and be there to support them, whenever they need a helping hand. Don't try to micro-manage everything. Give your freelancers breathing space to work and respect their skills.

Give realistic deadlines

So you've got a deadline looming on Monday and the project is still not complete? That's no excuse to expect a freelancer to spend their entire weekend working on your stuff. Don't ever force someone to work out-of-hours. Avoid deadline issues by allowing plenty of time to get the job done. If you plan ahead effectively, there should be no need for any issues.

Listen and learn

There will be many occasion when your freelancers will offer valuable expertise and advice to a project. Listen to what they have to say and respect their own skills and experience. Yes, you're an agency and you've been established as a larger business for some time but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be open to suggestions. Listen and learn, that's all I'm saying.

Be flexible

Most freelancers will want to work from home. It's one of the main reasons they went freelance in the first place - the chance to have a better lifestyle and no dreaded commute. Be flexible and allow your freelancers to work from home. Trust them and give them the space they need. If you insist on having freelancers work in-house, try and be flexible and allow them to spend some time working on-site and some at home.

Remember, it's business

If a freelancer has let you down or they're not as supportive as you'd hoped, don't feel guilty about turning them away. This is business and you have to do what's right for your company. Be honest and explain that the relationship isn't working. Or, if you like, simply say that you've not got any freelance work to provide. It's the diplomatic option and will ensure you don't burn any bridges.