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How to work effectively with freelancers

July 4, 2012

As the recession continues to hit UK businesses, many are finding they have to make redundancies to save money, and replace their full time staff with part-time freelancers.

This means more work for the UK’s freelancing population, which is great news. However, it also means many business owners who have previously only employed full time staff are suddenly dealing with freelancers – a different ball game entirely.

The client-freelancer relationship is fundamentally different to that of an employer and an employee – for a start it’s perfectly acceptable for a freelancer to sack a client! Many small businesses are taking their first tentative steps into the world of engaging freelancers, so we’ve put together some tips to make sure your relationship is efficient, mutually beneficial and enjoyable for both parties.

Expert, not employee

Freelancers are a specialist bunch. They go into business on the strengths of their own expertise, meaning they’re usually pretty damn good at what they do. If they recommend a course of action, it’s usually in your best interest to follow their lead. A good freelancer will not only complete the task you set them, but add value in terms of professional opinion. Take their feedback on board, and listen to their opinions.

Autonomous beings

Although freelancers look, feel and smell like employees, they’re actually third-party suppliers. Don’t mentally categorise them with Sally in Accounts, file them away with the company which prints your business cards. If you hover over them, offering endless feedback and micromanaging, don’t be surprised if they politely decline your next offer of work. Freelancers go freelance to be their own boss, not to have several new ones.

Pay on time

Freelancers are the tiniest of businesses, and often don’t have very deep pockets. Living contract-to-contract is by no means uncommon and prompt payment is often top of the list of desirable client qualities.

If you offer 90-day payment terms and often fail to meet them your favourite freelancers will most likely go elsewhere for work. Offer good (read: 28 day) payment terms and always meet them promptly. For larger contracts don’t be surprised if an upfront payment is requested.

Understand where the contract ends

For any freelance work there will always be some kind of revision, approval and sign-off process. Understand that once the work is signed off, the freelancer’s work is done. Finished. Farewell. There’s no finer way to get a bad reputation for yourself amongst freelancers than by asking for endless revisions, especially after the work has been signed off.

Freelance work is all about collaboration between your business and theirs, and changes are to be expected. Just be mindful of where the contract ends – request extra work and you’re essentially asking the freelancer to work for free. Would your business work for free?

Jon Norris is a freelance writer and Web Editor for Crunch, who offer online accounting for freelancers, contractors and small businesses.