9 Tips for Managing Freelancers and Independent Contractors

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Freelancers are to your business as coffee is to Mondays – not strictly necessary, but it makes the entire operation run smoother.

You’ve taken the plunge, and decided to hire a freelancer to soak up the work overflow, but you’re feeling uneasy. You know that hiring a freelancer will relieve stress on your team (among other things), but it’s new territory. How do you manage an employee, when you’re not their boss? And how are you supposed to keep this person excited to work for a company where they get no perks, benefits or bonuses?

Managing freelancer and independent contractors may seem daunting, but the rewards (for both yourself, your internal team, and your freelancer) are well worth reaping. Here’s how to get the most out of your business-contractor relationship, and have freelancer success every time.

1.      Be prepared

There’s nothing like foraging for a freelancer AFTER the work load has piled to mountainous proportions. Quit trying to find a needle in a hay stack and plan ahead by creating a little black book of independent workers who are on hand in your hour of need.

Costing freelance hours into your annual budget will make sure you’re ready to take on an extra set of hands at the drop of a hat.

Craft a go-to team for last minute jobs, an A-team for projects that need pizazz, and a B-team for smaller projects that don’t require too much prior experience in the biz (read: budget jobs).


2.     No add-ons allowed

It’s time to debunk that pesky adage that freelancers are simply an add-on to your business. They are a valued member of your team, and are as prized as your internal staffers. This means you can afford to be choosy when hand-picking your team. Posting a project may be a cinch, but choosing the freelancer right for the job takes a bit of extra work. Ensure independents reflect your values, and are a good cultural fit for your business, otherwise it may cause unnecessary stress on the rest of your team.


3.     It’s all in the relationship

You may think freelancers don’t need nurturing, that once hired they pretty much take care of themselves. This isn’t the case – freelancers are a flock that thrive with the right shepherd.

The demand for specialised creatives with unique skill sets is continuing to grow at an alarming rate, meaning in the business world, it’s a freelancers market.

Independents are in the position of power to choose who they work for, now, more than ever.

So how do you keep them loyal? Get to know them, just like you would with any other employee. What do they do outside of work? What’s their family like? What’s their wine of choice? Your freelancing squad will be more inclined to work with you in the future if you have built a genuine connection, or even formed a friendship.  


4.     Know what they want

Let’s get back to basics – why do they want to work for you? Whether it’s for the money, to develop new skills, or refine old ones, find out up front why they are loaning you their services. You won’t get the chance to spend as much time with your freelancers as your permanent’s to come to this conclusion naturally, so don’t be afraid to ask them directly! They’ll most likely be flattered that you care about them as much as you care about their work.


5.     Tell it how it is

Great expectations? Be upfront. Be clear about what YOU want, and what YOU expect to receive in the business exchange you’re embarking on. If it’s a new website, find examples. A new logo, create a Pinterest mood board. If you’re looking for expert advice, write the questions down, and be specific.

Set yourself up for freelance success no matter who you’ve contracted by giving them a job brief, just like if they were an internal team member. Creating one document that outlines a projects’ purpose, details, context, and actions will ensure everyone is working towards the same goal.

A freelancer flits between companies great and small, all with differing priorities, so make sure they understand who you are as a business from the get-go.


6.     Make them feel like part of the family

Research shows that freelancers prefer to feel like part of a team – so make the extra effort to invite them to Friday afternoon drinks, call them over to join in water cooler chats, and show them where the best neighbourhood coffee is. Finance or HR might be mumbling about making freelancers look too much like permanent employees (they’re thinking of the legalities for tax purposes) but there’s no rulebook dictating they can’t join in on office Taco Tuesday – right?

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7.     But don’t micromanage

There’s a reason why your contractor got into freelancing – to work for themselves! Respect their independence, believe that they’re probably more motivated than your permanent employees, and give them space to do the job you hired them to do. When in doubt, ask what their preferred working environment is.


8.     Don’t skimp on the feedback

While freelancers miss the probations and performance reviews dealt to permanent employees, it doesn’t mean they don’t want advice on how to do their job better. At the end of the day, you’re paying for a service. Not only will expressing what you think of their work improve their performance, but it will cultivate your relationship. Thank them if their work is top notch, and be straight with them if they’re underperforming. Continually revisit the original contract, and be clear whether they’re hitting their targets. After all, they’re a freelancer – you can boot them out at any time, it’s in their contract!

9.     Be generous, financially speaking

It’s simple – treat your contractor fairly. Just because they’re working on an hourly, or Pay As You Go basis, doesn’t mean you should take advantage of them. Paying at market rate, if not higher, shows you value their contribution to your business.

Let’s not forget that freelancers talk to one another, so aspire to be an employer of choice, and encourage a good reputation in the industry.  (This is where having freelance work written into the annual budget helps!)

Try using tools such as Trello, Slack, Asana or Timely to easily keep track of billable freelancing hours.

At the end of the day, freelancers are not employees. They are independent contractors who work wherever they want, whenever they want. By communicating effectively and outlining consistent, measureable deadlines, you’ll be sure to get the most out of your freelancer-business relationship.


Did you find this article useful? Let us know in the comments below!

Posted 3 July, 2017

Ashley Hanger

Writer, blogger, creative

Growing up in Brisbane, Australia, Ashley's love of fresh fruit platters was rivalled only by her love of words. Never a doubt in mind, Ashley studied a dual Bachelor of Journalism and Communication with a focus on Public Relations at The University of Queensland. She fostered her love of storytelling in numerous internships including Channel Nine, ABC, Ipswich News, The Red Republic, Graphic Publ...

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