How to Manage Freelancers

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Manage“I offered Richard the service of my Free Lances, and he refused them … thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment,” Sir Walter Scott wrote in his classic novel, Ivanhoe. Scott (allegedly) coined the term “free lances” to mean people with no particular allegiance who would sell their services to anyone — and thus, we get the modern word, “freelance.”

Though the word itself is about two hundred years old, the act of freelancing is in its prime these days: 34 percent of the national workforce is doing it, and 80 percent of non-freelancers admit they are willing to give freelancing a whirl to make extra money.

As more and more people turn to freelancing, more and more organizations are faced with the challenge of working with these non-traditional laborers. Their needs are far different from — yet somewhat similar to — the traditional full-time employee. For this reason, I offer some solutions for onboarding and managing freelance workforces.

Maintaining Organizational Culture

A Columbia University study found that companies with strong company cultures have average turnover rates of 13.9 percent, compared to companies with weak company cultures, which see average turnover rates of  about 48.4 percent. Ouch.

Managers shouldn’t underestimate the importance of company culture, especially if they’re trying to keep turnover rates low. Since freelancers have the freedom of working where and when they prefer, it may seem impossible to maintain strong company cultures when so many members of the organization’s workforce aren’t in the office together.

How are we supposed to maintain relationships with people absent from the office? Company culture starts with managers and blossoms from there. A manager must know every corner of their company to properly create an effective work environment. Being aligned with the organization’s values and visions will aid managers in transmitting those values and concepts to their freelancers. Losing sight of these concepts could leave freelancers in the dust and unsure of where to take the projects assigned to them. While it is a freelancer’s job to do their research on a company, it’s always safest for managers to reinforce the values, goals, and vision of their companies. This ensure that freelancers understand the culture at the organization.

Welcome to the Team!

On average, it costs companies about $11,000 to fill a vacant position left behind by a former employee who was not onboarded properly. Reducing turnover rates is as easy as making employees feel welcome when they begin working for a company. While freelancers work for themselves and reserve the right to not be micromanaged by their clients, it is crucial for companies that work with freelancers to “onboard” them correctly, if only to establish long-lasting working relationships.

Because freelancers don’t work in the office with other employees, they often feel distant from the companies with which they are working. This problem has a very simple solution. When managers assign new projects to freelancers, they should inform the freelancers what the assignment entails and exactly why the project matters. Being open about the company’s end goal and past successes can give freelancers a better understanding of what the managers would like to see in fnished projects.

Companies may want to also consider inviting freelancers to meetings and holiday parties as well. This will make them feel like part of the team, rather than extra hands doing side work.

Congratulations! You’re Awesome!

According to research from Aon Hewitt, positive recognition of employee performance is one of the key drivers of employee engagement. Who knew telling your employees they’re killer and praising them for their hard work could pay off so much?

Positive reinforcement can be tricky with freelancers, but it’s not impossible. One way to effectively display appreciation is to tell freelancers how their completed projects are impacting company success. This not only raises freelancers’ confidence in their work, but also it increases their motivation to succeed in future projects. If managers don’t tell their freelancers how their labor helps the company achieve its goals, freelancers won’t know whether or not they are on the right track.

As freelancing becomes more popular among the best and brightest job seekers in the employment market, companies can’t afford to sleep on freelance talent. Keep up with the times and hire a freelancer today!

By Noelle Murphy