This article was based on episode 188 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get Matthew’s Leadership Deck To Hire Freelancers and his Worksheets To Identify The Work And Hire Your First Freelancer when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.
To some, the idea of hiring a freelancer sounds amazing. Instead of hiring an expensive agency or a full-time employee, you can hire a specific person who specializes in a specific skillset that you need for a set amount of time. Yes, please!
But as many managers are finding out, collaborating with freelancers isn’t the same as working with your part- or full-time team members. Matthew Mottola joins me to explain how hiring the right freelancer can be the best tool in a manager’s toolbox, if you do it right. Matthew is a leader in the ethical remote freelance economy. He is the author of The Human Cloud and CEO of Venture L, a platform to support freelancers to grow their businesses. Here, Matthew shares with us the Top 6 things every manager must keep in mind when working with freelancers.
1. THEY MAY LAST LONGER THAN YOUR REGULAR EMPLOYEES
At first glance, freelancers might feel more disposable. Unlike full time employees, you hire them with a specific project and then cut ties when you’re done. But not all freelancers need to be temporary!
When you find a freelancer you really jive with, you might decide to use their skills for future projects. These projects may be within your current company or with a different organization you work for years down the line. The opportunity to bring freelancers along to new projects differs from your relationship with your salaried workers, who may be tied to organization and not able to follow you to future endeavors.
Matthew still works with some of the original freelancers he first collaborated with over a decade ago. So treat your freelancers well, because you never know how long you will want them around!
2. THEY’RE VETTING YOU
One of the perks of working with freelancers is they don’t put up with poor clients. Freelancers cherish the flexibility of finding another gig if they find themselves in an unhealthy work culture.
As a bonus, freelancers may be more likely to give managers critical, important feedback on making their workplaces a better place. This is likely because they have less fear of losing their job as a traditional full or part-time employee does. Be sure to give them feedback as well. Even if they’re not permanent members of your team who will go through your standard performance or feedback system, everyone appreciates growth opportunities.
3. YOU DON’T NEED TO MICROMANAGE THEM
The number one mistake Matthew sees managers make is in micromanaging their freelancers. Be clear about the problem you’ve hired them to work on and your vision of success, and then get out of the way. Trust them to make the right decisions. Having freedom to figure it out is a perk most freelancers cherish. By micromanaging or being overbearing, you risk them cutting ties with you in the future and missing out on the benefits of a long-term freelancing relationship.
Oftentimes managers micromanage because they want to maintain a sense of authority. Freelancers are experts. That’s why you hire them; they know things you don’t. And, most are good at their jobs or they wouldn’t survive as freelancers. Let your freelancers teach you things. Be honest with them about what you don’t understand. That’s what they’re there for.
4. START SMALL AND BUILD UP
Don’t throw everything at your new freelancer at once. If you want them to build a deck of fifteen slides, for example, start with having them create three. Check in once those are completed to make sure you’re on the same page about the quality of their work. Good freelancers should also know how to tell you if what you’re asking for is outside the scope of their ability or beyond their current capacity.
5. DO LESS ONBOARDING, MORE RELATIONSHIP BUILDING
Freelancers often just jump into their role. There’s not the same type of onboarding procedures. This can be a relief for managers overloaded with other work to do. Just start working together and building your outcomes. The trust and understanding of the culture will develop from spending time working together.
That being said, don’t ignore the relationship. You’re both human first and colleagues second.
6. GIVE FREELANCERS OPPORTUNITIES TO USE THEIR VOICE
Since freelancers aren’t full-time employees, their role on your team is different. They aren’t required, for example, to be at company-wide events or team-building gatherings. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t want to bring them into the fold as much as possible. For one thing, they will be happier and more likely to succeed and stay on for future projects if they feel a sense of belonging.
Give your freelancer opportunities to pitch new ideas. Their outside perspective can bring something fresh to your team’s conversations.
Freelancers are part of the workforce, and will become increasingly more so in the future. If you build a good working relationship, your favorite freelancers might be in your work life for decades to come! Because of that, your relationship with your freelancers is just as - or even more - important than what you have with your full-time employees. Managers who know how to work well with freelancers will find them to be the greatest blessing for their team’s growth.
KEEP UP WITH MATTHEW
Get Matthew’s Leadership Deck To Hire Freelancers and his Worksheets To Identify The Work And Hire Your First Freelancer when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.
This article was based on episode 188 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.