Ideas for Choosing and Working Effectively With Freelancers

According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review,  freelancers represent 34 percent of the American workforce. This includes more than fourteen million so-called “moonlighters” who have full-time jobs but use freelancing to supplement their incomes. The good news about this data for freelancers is that there are a lot of opportunities for freelance work. The downside is that there is plenty of competition as well.

That’s good news for companies like Strategic Communications because there’s a great field of talent to choose from. On the flip side, though, as we’re promoting our own services as an outsourced contractor of content creation services, we know the competitive landscape is tough. So, how do we try to stand out from the masses and what characteristics do we look for in the freelancers and contractors we work with?

There are a variety of things we believe make freelancers and contractors good:

  • Strong competencies – In our case, we’re primarily focused on written content, so we’re looking for people who not only have a strong grasp of grammar and spelling, but who also can create content that will resonate with a target audience and who can organize that content in a logical, meaningful way. Because our work is often somewhat marketing related, we also need freelancers to have the ability to develop a strong grasp of clients’ goals, objectives and brand “voice,” and to be able to write copy designed to achieve some specific, measurable outcome.
  • Accuracy – This is important not just in terms of spelling and grammar, but also from a reporting standpoint.
  • Reliability – We have a multi-step process we follow to create, review and deliver content to clients, with various deliverables along the way. We need to know that we can rely on freelancers to meet deadlines consistently.
  • Subject-matter knowledge/experience – This is challenging with millennials because their experience is obviously limited, and it’s not always a deal breaker. However, we do find that our best freelancers are those who have background/interest in the subject matter. Why? It allows them to do a better job of getting inside the heads of the target audience to speak to their needs/interests.
  • Good listening skills – This comes into play both when learning about a new assignment and when interviewing sources and gathering information.
  • Flexibility – Things change; sometimes clients change their minds. Just last week, a client decided to change the topic of a blog post that one of our freelancers had already started to work on. Sometimes clients request additional research or new source material at the last minute. Sometimes they ask for rewrites.
  • Thick skin – Marketing is a very ego-driven industry that can be somewhat subjective in terms of client feedback. Most clients aren’t marketing experts, so their feedback is sometimes off base in terms of what formal training freelancers may bring to the table. But, all feedback is relevant and all is valuable.

Over time, we’ve also learned that much of a freelancer’s or contractor’s success is also related to us. Their success is directly tied to how well we communicate and explain our expectations, the type of work assignments we make–and how well aligned these assignments are with their skills, capabilities and interests.

Of course, informed choices in terms of the freelancers and contractors we engage with also makes a big difference. They’re generally individuals we know, or have worked with, in other settings, or those we’ve found through referrals from our other freelancers, contractors and clients. That’s a lot less risky than trying to find freelancers through sites like Elance or Guru. They may be “cheaper,” but that old aphorism is true: you get what you pay for!

Have you hired freelancers, or worked as one yourself? What additional skills would you add to the list? If you’re a freelancer, what expectations do you have of your clients in terms of how they can help you be the best you can be?

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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