No one can deny the fast-paced gig economy growth in recent years. Lots of businesses today recruit contingent workers, be it freelancers, independent contractors, consultants, or other off-payroll workers to benefit from vast skill sets for a specific duration while cutting costs and keeping the bottom line low.
While all of that sounds good, finding and hiring top talent takes time and resources, so much that when you do find the right freelancers, you would definitely want to keep a good relationship with them and continue working with them on future projects and guarantee that they deliver high-quality work. Not sure where to start? We’re here to help!
8 Tips to keeping your freelancers happy and boosting their productivity and loyalty:
1. Allow flexible hours
This might be an obvious one, but you would be surprised how many companies impose fixed working hours on their freelancers. While this is understandable for jobs that require strict schedule adherence like customer support, sales, etc, it does not make sense for your freelance software developers, web designers, content writers, and so on. If you are recruiting for such jobs, let your freelancers choose their working hours. If they get the deliverables done by the agreed-upon deadline, it really does not matter which hours of the day they worked to get them done, does it?
Remember, one of the main reasons many talented workers chose freelancing is the freedom to choose their working hours. Taking that away from them would very much be counterproductive. Also, it goes without saying that those talented freelancers already have their pick of clients to choose from, and they’re definitely more likely to stick with those that respect their schedule.
2. Track their progress, but don’t flat-out spy on them
As a manager, it is perfectly reasonable for you to use project management tools to monitor the progress your freelancers are making. Using spy-like software, however, is not.
Some of the “productivity monitoring” solutions available today are quite invasive. They take screenshots of what workers are doing, snap webcam shots of them while working, record their activity like the number of keystrokes as well as mouse clicks. Some of them even access their browser history. Needless to say, this goes way beyond a manager’s progress monitoring needs. Not to mention, using such tools can put your business in legal trouble for privacy infringement or security breaches. At the very least, it can create a culture of mistrust that could also tarnish your company’s reputation to potential recruits.
3. Provide positive feedback, not just criticism
We all like being commended for a job well done and freelancers are no different. Though constructive criticism is necessary at times, positive feedback is just as important to make freelancers feel engaged, appreciated, and valued for what they do. Here are some tips to giving positive feedback:
Make it timely: Positive feedback is more effective when given immediately. If you see that your freelancer is doing something well, let them know immediately so they continue doing it the same way.
Make it specific: Positive feedback is ineffective when it is vague. Always tell your freelancers exactly what it is they are being praised for so they know which of their skills are good and which ones could perhaps use some improvement.
Make it public: Whether it is given verbally or in a chat thread, public positive feedback is a powerful motivator for the praised freelancer to keep doing what they are doing and for other members on the team to understand the quality of work you are after.
4. Be responsive on the communication channel(s) they use to get in touch with you
Freelancers often work remotely, which means they can’t simply walk from their desk to your office to ask questions or request information pertaining to the projects you have assigned them. Instead, they’ll do so through email, chat, or whatever communication channels you have prescribed for them to reach you. When they do reach out to you, always make sure you respond to their queries in a timely manner so that they are able to get on with their work without unnecessary delays and frustrations.
5. Pay them on time
This one cannot be stressed enough: your off-payroll workforce needs to be paid on time just as your on-payroll employees do. Freelancers do not have a steady paycheck to rely on so they trust that the companies they work with process their invoices in a timely manner. If you are going to make freelancers wait for months on end to get paid, they will be frustrated and eventually stop working with you.
Whether you are a small, medium, or large company, the best way to ensure your freelancers are paid on time is by investing in a recruitment back-office solution or better yet, a freelancer management system (FMS). Such solutions can process a large volume of invoices with little to no errors, alleviating your accounts payable bottleneck and ensuring your freelancers are happy.
6. Pay them fair rates
While we are on the subject of freelancer payments, another mistake many companies make when hiring freelancers is offering them incredibly low rates for their skills in an attempt to save more money, on top of all the money already saved on overhead.
The saying “you get what you pay for” is very much true when it comes to hiring freelancers. Low rates buy you low-quality deliverables. It is also important to keep in mind that there isn't a shortage of career opportunities for talented freelancers. They are constantly sought after by hiring managers and 3rd party recruiters, so if you are not going to pay them what they are worth, they can easily find another business that will.
7. Invest in tools that make their lives easier
We know what you’re thinking: freelancers aren’t exclusively your employees so it isn’t your responsibility to provide them with access to tools or equipment, which is correct. But you have to keep in mind that freelancers complete tasks much faster and better with the right tools at their disposal. This means that you’d be investing in the quality of the deliverables and timeliness of their submission as much as you’d be in making your freelancers’ jobs easier.
8. Make them feel included
Just because freelancers are not full-time employees, it does not mean they want to be treated like replaceable outsiders. Freelancers contribute to your company’s success just as much as full-time employees do so make them feel like they are part of the team.
It isn’t difficult to include freelancers in your company culture. Small acts such as sharing your goals for the business with them, adding them to the company’s social chat, and even inviting them to company trips can help you achieve that. Doing that will not only make them feel included but will also make them attached to your business and more committed to its success.
Do note that the above recommendations should be optional for freelancers. They are quite busy and may not have the time to participate in non-project related activities. It could also be that they are happy with the way things are and want to keep their relationship with your business transactional, and that’s okay too.
When freelancers are poorly managed, it's easy for them to get frustrated and dissatisfied with your company which will eventually take a toll on your projects’ development and brand reputation.
Having gone through the tips we’ve just listed, you should know by now that keeping freelancers happy is quite attainable. All you have to do is to strike the right balance of the above and you’ll certainly achieve it.