There are any number of reasons for a business to hire freelancers. Maybe your start-up needs a copywriter for 20 hours a week and a full-time hire just doesn’t make sense. Maybe you need a developer with a very specific skill set to help you complete an ambitious software build. Whatever the reason, it’s important to remember that experienced freelancers are more than contract labor. They’ve got specific skills and they want specific things out of a contract job. If you want to attract better talent to your project, start retooling your approach to hiring freelancers now.
Make your goals clear. Almost every freelancer has the same horror story: they get brought in for a project, and then the project grows. And grows. The project mushrooms into something they didn’t sign on for and don’t want to be doing. If you’re a hiring manager and this sounds familiar, consider doing the following next time you think about hiring a freelancer: does the project have a clear, coherent, realistic road map? If not, make one. If so, make sure you’re committed to following it. Word gets around among freelancers quickly, so avoid being That Client by being realistic about your goals and expectations.
Make your needs clear. Communicate your needs up front. What specific skills will the freelancer need? Things like editing, copywriting, web development, and graphic design — to name only a few — have many sub-categories, and no one freelancer will possess every skill in that field. Determine what your needs are. What language does the developer need to be able to code in? Does the copywriter need experience writing copy for email marketing? Is the graphic designer designing for print or digital? Be as specific as you can as early in the process as possible.
Consider what the project offers them. When writing job ads or querying talent agencies, companies often talk about their work in terms of their needs only. Next time, imagine being on the other side of the table. What will the freelancer be able to walk away with? What will they be able to add to their portfolio? Freelancers are always thinking about their portfolio — it’s a necessity in that line of work — so make the work attractive. Give them a clear idea of what the end result will be and make it clear how this will benefit their portfolio.
Build a rapport with your current freelancer(s). Good freelancers know other good freelancers. The most successful freelancers are tenacious networkers and know how to work their connections to land great gigs. If you currently have a freelancer whose work has been exceptional, or if you have had one in the past, reach out. Tell them what you need. Even if what you need isn’t them, the chances are good that they can refer to someone who might be able to help you reach your current goals.
There’s no secret sauce here. Next time you find yourself in need of some freelance support, consider how they see your organization. Better yet, consider what your company is like as a client. Being able to do so will ultimately bring you better talent, and better talent yields superior results.
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