Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Rethinking the Freelance Life, Part Two: The Way Clients Work with Us

Last week, I wrote about how freelancers could benefit from re-framing the way they think about their relationships with clients. This week, we look at the other end of the relationship: clients.

The motivations to hire a freelancer vary on a case by case basis, but usually a client chooses to hire a freelancer for one of the following reasons:

  1. The client needs to supplement an existing team with an additional resource for a short period of time.
  2. The client has a long term need for a resource but that need doesn't necessarily require full-time employment.
  3. The client needs the fresh perspective of an outside consultant to shake-up the status quo of the company.
  4. The client is a small business owner and hiring a full-time resource doesn't make sense financially.
And all of these are reasonable justifications for seeking out a freelancer. To make the most of your investment in a freelancer, from the vantage point of a client, the way you think about your relationship with that freelancer is critical. Thinking of freelancers as vendors is tempting. In many cases, they provide short term support on a project by project basis, so the exchange often feels like a purchase of goods.

This is a missed opportunity for everyone involved and can hurt your bottom line. When you think of a freelancer as a vendor rather than a partner or a team member, you undermine the potential of your collaboration from the very start. When you treat a freelancer as a partner in your success, you set the stage for a meaningful, productive relationship. Consider these points:
  • Integrating a freelancer into your team and making him or her feel as though they are a stakeholder in the success of your business helps to make the work more meaningful for the freelancer. Essentially, if you make a freelancer feel like he or she matters, you will see that passion shine through in the final product.
  • Freelancers have the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects and within a number of companies, giving them unique perspectives on problems and challenges. Given the opportunity, a freelancer could bring a new solution to the table that moves the needle.
  • Don't be afraid of a freelancer that challenges the way your team thinks (in a respectful way of course). If you ask a freelancer for his or her opinion or thoughts, be willing to consider new ideas, even if they scare at you first.
  • Though the project at hand might have your immediate focus, engage freelancers as though you plan to hire them again in the future. You never know when you might need them, and you're better off working with someone that is familiar with you, with how your business works, and with your goals instead of starting over with a new resource.
For these points to ring true, for them to be viable options, requires a high level of trust. You wouldn't trust just anyone to contribute to the direction of your business, and you shouldn't. Engaging the right freelancers sets the stage for the points outlined above, so be just as rigorous with your freelance selection process as you are with your full-time hiring process.

Ultimately, you hire freelancers because you want to make a difference in your business. Don't forget to empower them to make that difference.

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