What was once upon a time considered a fad is now becoming the predominant driving force of the modern economy. Known as freelance work, independent work, or “the gig” economy, the system of nine-to-five is rapidly being replaced by this flexible model, and existing companies are starting to incorporate it more and more into their own operations.
However, this wonderful work-style has its challenges, especially for the employers themselves. While the relationship comes with many perks, such as flexible hours, pay per the amount of work done, and better productivity, managers still need to find a way to keep these alliances even more beneficial.
Transparency from the get-go
First of all, it’s essential that you understand transparency as a two-way street. You cannot expect freelancers to be fully upfront with their offers and abilities if your own project descriptions and requests are vague, and the same goes for them. If there isn’t enough clarity in your communication from day one, you should look for someone who appreciates that approach.
On your end, transparency mostly translates into setting clear expectations as far as their role goes and making sure your freelancers know and value what they gain from your collaboration. It doesn’t mean just financial profit, but also a positive reference that may come out of it at the end of a project, a rewarding team atmosphere, and of course, a chance to continue working together if it proves to be mutually beneficial.
When they know what is expected of them, and when you further empower your collaboration with timely communication, they are bound to work more efficiently than ever.
Nurture the relationships
Working remotely presents a unique challenge – how do you connect with your freelance team member, if you never see them or communicate with them on a regular basis outside of what is required by the project?
If you stick to a strictly professional bond, then in all likelihood, you’ll fail to establish the level of understanding necessary for a long-term, trust-based collaboration.
It will be worth your while to put in a little extra effort in getting to know them, learning about their other interests and about their personal life up to a polite level, of course.
Perhaps you’ll make a discovery that will reveal this freelancer as an ideal candidate for another pending project, or even a team-building activity you’ve been planning for your in-house folks.
Form a binding agreement
With so many fake companies and equally false freelancers claiming to have skills that they don’t, you cannot assume that everyone’s word is equally valid, especially in long-distance relationships. For startups and young companies, it’s too high a price to pay to constantly look for new remote workers just because a freelancer has vanished into thin air, or has failed to complete the agreed work.
To be on the safe side, for both you and your freelance workers, you can create a contract that will state all the details of work they are expected to complete, along with their deadlines, and the agreed fee. You can make the first outline when you send them a consultancy agreement, and when you agree on all the terms, sign a contract to ensure a trustworthy relationship in which all the assets are protected.
Think and act long-term
Treating your staff as a temporary fix makes them feel less valued than they should be, and the same goes for your freelancers. If, on the contrary, they feel as an appreciated member of your company, despite the fact they work from elsewhere, they will have a greater incentive to give their best to your projects.
For the sake of finding the best possible match for you and your independent workers, you can use hiring platforms such as Upwork or Freelancer, where you can see their success rates, reviews, and previous work, and make an informed decision. Your freelance retention rate should be as important as that of your in-office staff, so bear that in mind the next time you’re on the hunt for freelance backup.
Ensure regular feedback
Without regular eye-contact, body language, or just hearing your tone of voice, it’s almost impossible for a freelancer to know if and to what extent you are happy with their contribution.
While being paid well is one way of expressing your gratitude and appreciation, regular feedback is a much more constructive way to establish if you’re on the right track and help them adapt in case they could do better.
This can be a natural part of your everyday conversations, since formal reviews might be either too formal, or simply not applicable to their situation. As long as they know that they are on the right track and that you are there to nudge them in the right direction when needed, they will do their job with much more certainty and confidence.
No matter your niche and company size, it boils down to striking the right balance of involvement and independence and giving your freelancers the same learning, feedback, and participation opportunities as your office employees will allow you to find that fine line. There will always be roadblocks to tackle, but when you have a transparent, nurtured relationship, even the toughest business battles can be won.
Emma Miller is a digital marketer and blogger from Sydney. After getting a marketing degree she started working with Australian startups on business and marketing development. Emma writes for many relevant, industry related online publications and does a job of an Executive Editor at Bizzmark blog and a guest lecturer at Melbourne University. Interested in marketing, startups and latest business trends.