With employment figures dropping, marketing departments are in rapid decline. Over the past four months, marketers, PR executives, branding teams and copywriters have faced high levels of furloughs and redundancies throughout the country and as the industries slowly open up again, businesses are scrambling to find their replacements.
Coffee shops are ready to re-open, retail stores are stocking up, offices are opening their doors and physical spaces are accessible again, and it’s vital that businesses use fast, reactive marketing to help reach the public audience once more. So who do they turn to in their hour of need?
The freelance community presents a particularly appealing front after the long stretch of lockdown solitude. We offer a short term solution to a high priority problem, without the lengthy commitment of an employment contract, and we’re ready to respond at a moment’s notice. We can help you to re-connect with your audience in less than a week and we’ll charge a flat rate to do it.
So in this week’s blog post, I wanted to talk about what to expect when working with a freelancer, and most importantly, the six top reasons NOT to hire one.
You can’t afford one
Often, business owners and employers will underestimate just how much a freelance contractor will cost. Then, once that monthly invoice comes around, it can be a little bit of a shock to see just how much those hours of graphic design or those weeks of social marketing have cost you. But this isn’t because the freelancer is overpriced or expensive – often, the monthly invoice is high due to the sheer amount of work a freelancer has put into your project. Their rates won’t change, but if a client asks them to do more and more work then the total bill will add up.
Before you begin a project with a freelancer, make sure you have a set amount of budget and inform your contractor of it right from the start. If you can’t afford more than fifteen hours of work, don’t ask any more of them than fifteen hours. Every meeting, every hour spent editing a single sentence, every amend will all cost money (and time), so if you are working to a budget, make sure to be clear and conscience when communicating to your freelancer. Get it right the first time, and stick to your budget, because trust me, those late fees can really add up over time.
You don’t like their working style
Over the years, many freelancers will eventually develop a particular working style that suits their abilities and fits to their work ethics. Whether it be their hours of availability, their invoicing policy, their approach to projects or their preferred communication channels, there will often be differences between one contractor and another.
When choosing a freelancer for your business, make sure you really get a feel for how they work and for their style, before offering them the work. Often, client-contractor relationships can fall victim to this particular miscommunication – with one party asking for an approach that the other simply cannot deliver – and it can lead to expensive and frustrating problems further down the line.
Research your potential freelancer thoroughly, from their website to their portfolio to their social media. Find out more about how they work before committing to their process, and see if it truly aligns to the way you want the relationship to run. Firm, established guidelines on issues such as communication times, working hours, meeting dates and work deadlines can be a good way to set up a new working relationship, so always discuss them in advance before giving your project the go-ahead.
You haven’t researched their past work
Freelance portfolios exist for a reason. They are designed to highlight what a freelancer considers the best of their abilities, their strongest work and their most accomplished clients. They demonstrate their skills in a clear, effective manner to help future clients understand their style and the choices they make in delivering high-quality content.
Hiring a freelancer or a contractor without examining their past work can lead to nothing but frustration, confusion and missed opportunities for both parties. Perhaps the freelancer you’ve chosen hasn’t worked in your industry before, or they have no technical experience in this field. Perhaps they don’t have skills in graphic design or copywriting. Perhaps they’ve never worked with a client as large or as small as your business before. Experience and expertise matters, and without it, projects fail.
Take a good and thorough look at the case studies and testimonials your future freelancer is offering, and ask them questions about past clients if you’re unsure of anything. Don’t simply sign on to the first freelancer that pops up in your Google search result. Research the one that’s right for you and your business.
You don’t know what you want
Poor briefs are one of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to client-contractor relationships. Vague, fluffy briefs that lack specific targets, goals and instructions are incredibly difficult for a freelancer to decipher and can often result in work their neither party is particularly proud of.
Create a brief, with detailed guidelines and requirements, before you even consider hiring someone to complete it. Have a clear picture in your mind of what it is that you want, some notes on other similar projects you admire, even some pointers of things to avoid and type it all up into a solid brief that even a layman could understand.
It’s irresponsible of a client to expect a freelancer to anticipate the end result of a project they know nothing about, and every client is different so no two projects will be the same. Ask for exactly what you want, and then find someone who can give it to you.
You already have someone in your team doing the same job
Sometimes a business will hire a contractor to do a job that three of their employees are already doing. A manager will believe that a freelancer can fix their problems, can refresh their way of working, can take over from their flagging team. A boss will demand more hands on deck, without realising that too many cooks can spoil the marketing campaign.
Not only is this incredibly insulting to your team, but it also puts the freelancer into an awkward position too. It can cause rifts between employees, create tension between contractors and employees and results in mixed messages from your business marketing.
Instead, try and work with the team you already have. Don’t waste money on bringing in a ‘new face’ to turn things around, invest more into your employees and help them to create their best work. Get them into seminars, organise workshops, show them the accounts and businesses you love and highlight the areas you want to expand on. A freelancer can’t solve all of your marketing problems if the problem starts with you.
You’re looking for an employee, not a freelancer
There are many reasons that a person might become a freelancer. From lifestyle choices to professional preferences, their business is built on the ideals of working independently, self-motivation and a career path that suits their needs entirely.
As a client, it’s important to respect that before bringing a freelancer on board. You will not be hiring an employee, that can be disciplined, that can be demoted, that can be dragged into unnecessary meetings about office culture and team motivation. You are hiring an independent contractor based on their skills and abilities, not their contribution to the ‘office family’. This is a worker who will have a portfolio of other clients to work with, who will be dividing up their time between you and other businesses, who is there to professionally help and support your business.
Treat your freelancer with respect, and understand that they will have their own style of working, their own approach and their own ideas. They won’t follow the same company policies unless contractually obliged to do so, and they will be their own person when committing their time to you. Allow them the space to do so, and encourage other employees to do the same, and your working relationship will be a lot stronger for it.
Working with a freelancer for the first time can be a new experience for many businesses. But often it boils down to a few key rules – keep it simple, keep it clear, and if you’re unsure about something, just ask.
If you’re looking a freelancer to help you with your re-entry after lockdown, or you want to talk more about my experiences as a freelancer, feel free to get in touch.
Make sure you check out my last blog post here, and have a great week.