Freelancers are playing an increasing role in the American economy, with an estimated 34 percent of the US workforce now working as independent contractors. This shift is revolutionizing the American workplace, helping companies like yours to grow, scale and innovate more efficiently than ever. Why? It’s simple. By hiring freelancers, you create a rapidly scalable team of specialists equipped to manage any challenge that comes your way.
But if yours is like many workplaces, you’re probably also looking at the challenge of building a team that integrates both salaried employees and freelancers. The following tips are designed to help you make freelancers an important part of your next project.
Recruiting top freelancers
It all starts with the right people. You likely already have processes in place for recruiting, vetting, and onboarding your full-time employees. But finding and onboarding freelancers may be new to you. Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to find freelancers in your niche.
Over time, you’ll likely learn that each freelance platform has its own benefits. If you’re looking for designers, there are many paths you can take. Portfolio sites like Dribbble and Behance showcase designers, though you’ll have to do the work of vetting and messaging all on your own. Freelance design sites like 99designs, on the other hand, are built for design, which means you’ll have assistance in finding, hiring and working with professional designers. Upwork is ideal for finding content writers, customer service agents, and accountants. If you need specialized technology workers like application developers or network security experts, consider a site like Toptal, which vets the top candidates in those fields. For general office help, a site like PeoplePerHour may be your best resource.
Once you’ve found a platform, it’s time to then browse portfolios and select a freelancer (or several) with the style and expertise that fits your own brand and your project needs. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, contact your top choices and ask questions that will determine whether the freelancer will work well with your internal team.
One of the best things about hiring a freelancer is that you don’t have to commit to working with that person on a long-term basis. Start a chosen contractor out on a small job first, then progress to a larger project once you’ve verified that they’re the right fit.
Your business’s existing onboarding processes are likely based on your past experiences hiring salaried employees. It can be much more straightforward with 1099 workers since all you’ll need is a completed W-9 form for tax purposes. You may also consider having your freelancer sign a contract agreeing to your payment and work terms and, if applicable, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
An important part of onboarding any new freelancer will be ensuring they understand your brand. A great way to make sure this happens is to create and maintain a brand style guide that can be easily accessed by everyone on your team. This should include details about your brand voice and style, such as how your logo should be cropped and scaled across various collateral.
Thanks to collaboration software, you can easily set up a portal where your freelancers and salaried employees can meet and collaborate on their projects. This is especially important if you’re working with remote freelancers or employees who regularly work from home. With Samepage, you can create an image gallery and point new freelancers there to get started. In the process, they’ll get a quick introduction to the software your team uses.
Since Samepage puts everything in one place, your own salaried employees will be seeing the same up-to-date information as your contract workers. You can also use the image gallery to upload images of your in-office whiteboards, as well as PDF files and other documents. Instead of documents floating back and forth through email, files are all in one place, where everyone can work from the same version.
Bringing teams together
Since tax laws mean you can’t require freelancers to work a set schedule, chances are your employees won’t be able to launch regular face-to-face conversations throughout the day with them. This usually means relying on email and chat solutions to interact. Samepage puts everything in one place so that team members can share files, schedule meetings on each other’s calendars, and update everyone on their progress, all in the same place.
No matter how much time freelancers spend working offsite, they may still feel like outsiders compared to your in-house team. One of the most important things you can do is make sure your freelance team feels included, especially if you’re bringing on long-term contractors. Interactions regarding a particular project need to involve everyone working on it, so try to encourage teams to keep important conversations within your group communication tools, and recap any conversations that take place in-person. Also, if you work with freelance designers long-term, try to set it up so that everyone can meet in person at least once a year, even if it means paying to fly everyone in for a group retreat.
As a project manager, you have the opportunity to make the working relationships between your in-house and freelance teams run smoothly. One of the best ways you can do this is by not relying solely on audio and text-based communication with your freelancers. Samepage.io’s video chat can be a great way to get the benefits of face-to-face interaction without spending money to bring contractors to your office. If you have a tool that makes video chat easy, your entire team is more likely to use it whenever they want a visual interaction with one of your freelancers.
Since freelancers usually work flexibly, it often becomes important to work to keep things on track. Freelancers need clear expectations outlined from the start, including due dates for each milestone. If you use a group calendar, make sure your freelancers are included in it so that they can see for months in advance what’s expected of them.
You can also utilize Samepage.io's Tasks feature to assign specific tasks to each freelancer. Breaking larger projects up into actionable tasks can help keep the project on track and gives freelancers a good outline of what needs to be done. Plus, Samepage.io's software allows you to comment directly on a task, which adds a level of clarity and prevents smaller feedback from getting lost in flooded inboxes.
The decision to hire freelancers is one that can be a game changer. With the right approach, you’ll be able to find the best workers to fit your own company culture and rotate as necessary. With so many collaboration tools available, managing a mix of salaried and contract workers has never been easier.