Outsourcing has grown into a commonplace arrangement in the way many businesses operate. With that, the rise of the freelancer or gig worker has come centre stage. Where businesses were uncomfortable working with there now seems to be no other way to handle certain functions. However, the world of freelancing is wrought with dangers for both freelancers and businesses working with freelancers. To help navigate this territory we are going to look at tips for businesses working with freelancers. These are collected from the experiences on both sides of the equation.
Drop the assumptions
One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make when working with freelancers is assuming that the way they run their business is known to all and that is the way things should be done. This leads to a lot of friction in working relationships and is one of the big reasons why things go sour. Assuming that your system is perfect and that freelancers will just drop into it and are completely replaceable is a recipe for disaster. This can be avoided by not assuming anything when working with freelancers. A period of orientation or onboarding may be required to get people into the groove of things. Also, things like organisation culture are mostly undocumented and you will have to accept the learning curve involved in these things.
Remember they are not part of the organisation
Yes, you are paying them, hopefully, but that doesn’t make them part of the organisation. Not understanding this clear distinction is the source of much of the friction that freelancers complain about. They are and should be treated as an external service provider meaning they have their way of working and you will have to find a balance with the freelancer you are working with. You pay these people based on output but businesses tend to be demanding on the time of freelancers. You understand immediately why this would upset freelancers. If you wanted a full-time person you should’ve sought a full-time person for the role.
So you may have less control than you’re used to
Having someone external handle things that are integral or important to the business has many drawbacks but a lot of the frustrations of business owners in this regard come from the lack of control. You can look at it one of two ways; either learn to be out of control or improve your processes. Your business may engage a social media content creator and want things done in a certain way or time frame. However, due to their processes, they may not be able to produce everything in time or to your desire. Learning to be out of control is good but only works if the fallout doesn’t affect the bottom line. You may have to change your processes, for example using a 3-month forward-looking content calendar to plan content. This gives you enough lead time to iron out things.
Be clear in contracts
Firstly you have no business working without a contract in place. That is all I will say about that. Secondly, the contracts need to be clear in terms, especially on what is expected of both parties. Terms such as “any other duties as required” will not cut it in a freelancer agreement. Absolute clarity is required on the responsibilities of parties and where they end. It is painful upfront but it will save you down the line. It is commonplace for freelancers to have their contracts and you as a business may have one. Contracts are negotiations so it’s not a matter of either one being the right one, parties must negotiate terms and find an agreement.
Be fair in payment terms
Of course, money issues are a big source of problems in freelancer and gig work arrangements. Businesses understandably would not want to part with money for work that is never done. There are many cases of such happening some going into the millions of dollars. The other side of the coin has freelancers and gig workers who have done work and delivered it but have not been paid. It is the responsibility of both parties to avoid such scenarios. It is commonplace for freelancers to charge a percentage of the total fee upfront. You can get anywhere between 20% and 75%. How much is correct? It depends on the nature of the work. There are costs involved in producing the work, some more than others. There is also a need to protect yourself as a freelancer and ask for what is called a commitment fee. This is a form of gatekeeping that places the upfront payment as a bar to show that you have a serious customer. Again make sure the contracts are clear on payment terms.