Freelancing is booming in the UK. There are currently more of us in business than at any point since records began, and more and more businesses are learning that a flexible freelance workforce has many advantages over a traditional employment model.
For traditional employers, though, getting into the right frame of mind to work with freelancers can be tricky. Having been on both sides of the freelancer/client relationship many times I’ve put together some tips to make the transition as smooth as possible for both parties.
Independent expert, not wage slave
Freelancers go into business on their own because they have a marketable skill – by and large they’re damn good at what they do, and know how to do it best.
When you engage a freelancers’ services don’t expect to micro-manage them. Agree the scope of the contract, answer any questions they have, and let them get on with it. It’s always a good idea to check in now and again to make sure the project is progressing to both parties’ satisfaction, but don’t loiter by their desk making helpful suggestions and offering blow-by-blow feedback (it’s really annoying).
You get what you pay for
As with all things in life, the end product will correlate quite neatly with how much money you spent on it. If you commission a project on a crowdsourced bidding website and blindly accept the lowest offer, you can expect a cheap (and not necessarily cheerful) result.
While remote working is certainly on the up, many clients still prefer face-to-face freelancing. The best freelancers are the ones you strike up a productive relationship with – and that’s much easier over coffee than email.
This is where freelancers really shine – flexibility. While a large agency may take weeks developing a pitch or return a quote that’s totally unsuitable, a freelancer can sit down with you, understand your needs, and deliver something to a set budget.
We’re always cheating on you
Something about freelancers that often seems to be pushed to the back of clients’ minds is that we’re all serial polygamists. If we’re at your office one day a week, you can bet we’re spending the other four days with other clients.
This means we may not be able to fit extra work in at short notice, we may be unreachable sometimes, and we may up and leave entirely if an unmissable contract comes our way (although, realistically, that doesn’t happen very often).
Bear this in mind when composing that text message at 1am that begins “Just checking in…” – you’re not the only client in our life.
We’re businesses too
Your freelancer of choice may be a sandal-wearing graphic designer with perpetual three-day stubble, but they have the same needs as every other business out there – primarily, they need their invoices paid on time.
Freelancers don’t have business development, marketing or accounts departments – we do it all ourselves. If an invoice is overdue and we come calling to collect, don’t take it personally; it’s just business.
Similarly, sometimes our rates will go up. We’re not being greedy – inflation and the rising cost of living affect us too.
Keep it simple
The key to a productive and happy freelancer/client relationship is simply knowing where the boundaries are, and what is expected of both parties. Establish this from the outset and you’ll avoid trouble further down the line.
Jon is a freelance writer, community manager and social media advocate. Having spent several years travelling the globe writing about technology, he has now come to rest in Brighton, where he is Editor of Freelance Advisor, a news and resource site for the self-employed, and Web Editor at Crunch. He can usually be found shooting the breeze on Twitter, or writing about social media and content marketing on his website.