The Golden Rules of Working With Freelancers…

… From the perspective of a freelancer.

Photo by A A on Unsplash

With the rise of gig culture and the freelancer revolution, I thought it would be a solid idea to set some ground rules on how to work with freelancers. There’s some etiquette, some dos and don’ts, that I think everybody considering hiring a freelancer should know, to ensure a smooth and satisfying transaction. I’m not for a single second placing the onus entirely on the client. In fact, my next blog will be ‘The Golden Rules of Freelancing’, so don’t come for me.

In my four years of freelancing, I’ve had some absolutely incredible clients and I’ve also had a handful of shitty ones. It’s part and parcel of being a freelancer but I think that if there were some ‘rules’ or at least ‘guidelines’ on how to work with freelancers, many of the shitty experiences can be avoided for both the clients and the freelancers. In this blog post, I won’t go through the actual process of hiring a freelancer, if you want a blog post about that, I can certainly do one. So, fast forward and pretend you’ve found a freelancer that you want to work with, how can you ensure a good experience? By following my Golden Rules of Working with Freelancers, duh.

  1. Clear Understanding.

Ensure that you both have a clear understanding of the project and what it will/won’t entail prior to starting.

Before I start a project, I ascertain exactly what a client’s ideal outcome is. So many unnecessary problems can arise when there is a misunderstanding about the outcome of the project. Be clear with your instructions and your outcome. If you’re not sure what the outcome of your project will be, then ask to discuss it with the freelancer first. We can be very helpful in advising you on what a realistic and ideal outcome is. You might wish to consider a contract to set out the exact parameters of the project.

2. Set Communication Expectations.

Decide how often you would like to be updated and to what extent you’d like to be involved in the project.

This is very similar to the previous point, but with a major difference. The previous point was about understanding, this one is about communication. If you expect an update at the end of each day but don’t communicate that with the freelancer, then how on earth are they supposed to know that? Similarly, if you want to provide feedback and request edits throughout the project, you need to be explicit with this too.

3. Be Timely.

Respond to the freelancer in a timely manner.

This is a pet peeve of mine. I’ve had clients in the past that expect an immediate response from me, but won’t answer my emails/messages for days. A freelancer’s time is just as valuable as yours and it is only fair that you treat them with respect. As a general rule, I will always respond to clients within 24 hours, but in reality, it is usually far sooner than that. This is something I communicate with clients prior to starting projects. I expect the same courtesy from them unless we’ve come to a prior agreement.

4. Be Respectful.

Treat freelancers as the professionals they are.

Thankfully, the majority of the clients I work with are incredibly respectful and professional. However, I have had a couple that believe their time is worth more than mine, or that I’m just any old dog’s body that they’ve hired to do their bidding. I’m not a servant and I’m not going to be at your beck and call. What I will do is provide you with a quality and professional service.

5. Be Open.

Be open to their advice, they usually know what they’re talking about.

You’re considering hiring a freelancer to do something you can’t do yourself (for whatever reason). The thing that you’ve hired them for is, hopefully, something they’re experienced in and knowledgeable about. If they advise you that something won’t work, or of a better way to do something, listen to them. I’m not saying to accept everything that every freelancer says to you but, usually, their advice comes from a good place and will help you to achieve the best possible outcome for the project.

6. Be Ready.

Consider whether you have the capacity to take on the project at this time.

What I mean by this is, if you’re hiring a freelancer for a project that you want to be super involved with, but you work full-time, have a bunch of kids and are training for a marathon, consider whether it is the right time to start the project. Most freelancers are happy to be flexible with their diary and timelines, but only reasonably so. You can’t expect a freelancer to change their whole diary each week because your life is continually changing and getting in the way. It’s not fair on them, and you’re not going to get the outcome you want. Maybe wait until after marathon training has ended to start the project, unless you’re ready to hand over the reins 100% to the freelancer.

7. Be Courteous.

Treat the freelancer how you would expect to be treated.

We’re all human beings, at the end of the day. We all have other things going on in our lives. Just be kind and treat others with respect. Manners cost nothing and being kind to the people you’re working with will make for a much more pleasant project, I promise.

I think the main thing to remember is that the freelancer at the other side of the computer screen is a human being too, and they should be treated with respect. Technology has made it easier than ever to connect with expert/professional freelancers all around the world, which is an incredible asset for businesses as they’ve got a wealth of knowledge and experience at their fingertips that they might previously not have had. So, the moral of the story: be respectful, courteous, and set clear boundaries.

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