Outsourcing? 6 Tips for Working with Freelancers

Cody McLain


There are a lot of good reasons to outsource: you want to reduce costs, free up internal resources, or simply want access to the global pool of talent. The internet...

There are a lot of good reasons to outsource: you want to reduce costs, free up internal resources, or simply want access to the global pool of talent. The internet makes it easier than ever to work with people all over the world, so you’re not limited to hiring only the people who live in your city. Instead of paying for the costs of hiring someone from abroad and moving them so they can work in your office, you can keep your working relationship entirely virtual.

Of course, this introduces some new complications, as you are not able to directly monitor what they’re doing as you would an in-house employee. Those complications are pretty easy to overcome though, and in many cases, the benefits of outsourcing tend to overshadow any growing pains you may experience in the beginning. In 2008, the global outsourcing market amounted to 87.5 billion U.S. dollars, and that number only continues to grow.

If you’re looking to start outsourcing work, here’s everything you need to know about building good relationships with freelancers.

Know What You Want

This should go without saying, but before you even contact a potential freelancer, you should have a clear idea of what you want. Beyond just the project brief, you should also have prepared a document that outlines your brand values, voice, and target audience. The more your freelancer knows about your company, the easier it will be for them to quickly adapt to your needs.

When you approach a freelancer with your project, have an outline of the job requirements, your expectations, and a reasonable timeline. Also determine the best way to work with someone for the first time. Should the task be outlined in writing, by email? Or would it be quicker and clearer to hop on a call? You may find that you want to talk in real time, as it’s easier to answer any questions that might arise.

Recognize Your Freelancer’s Unique Skills

You could hire a freelancer to do one job, only to discover during the course of them completing it that they have other untapped skils. For example, a freelancer you hire to write might have excellent project management skills and could take over the management of some aspects of your work. This would be especially valuable if you don’t have a full time project manager. Likewise, someone you hired to act as your personal assistant might show incredible strategic insight, and they can then be allowed to contribute to some of your company strategy. The point is to not box your freelancer in. Give them the opportunity to display all their skills, and then slowly increase their responsibility. Not only will this be incredibly beneficial for you, but it will help your freelancer feel valued.  

Give Your Freelancer More Time Than You Think Necessary

In the beginning of your new working relationship, you should set aside more time than you think necessary to make sure that the person you hire fully understands what you want done. You live and breathe your business, so you know exactly how something should be completed. You also have ideas of how you would do it. Even if you hire someone who is incredibly talented, they are not a mindreader, and it’s going to be impossible for them to do exactly what you want unless you tell them.

For the first few projects, give more time for the project to be completed so that you don’t feel inconvenienced if it takes your freelancer a few tries to get it perfect. This will also allow you to schedule regular check ins without it stalling the project. As your working relationship progresses, you will be able to give them more free reign and shorter deadlines.

Give Encouraging and Constructive Feedback Often

Think about your own relationships with clients. There are few things more frustrating than a client who only offers feedback when they’re unhappy, and even then can’t probably articulate what they don’t like. Your freelancer can’t meet your expectations if your expectations are vague. It’s important to remember that they don’t have to complete the task in exactly the way you would.

Is the task completed well? Did they take an interesting approach to it, one you wouldn’t have thought of yourself? Be sure to recognize when they’ve done something well. Positive reinforcement goes a long way in building healthy, long term working relationships.

Pay Your Freelancer What They’re Worth

For many businesses, outsourcing is a way to keep down costs and stay within budget. You absolutely shouldn’t be bankrupting yourself on working with freelancers! But that doesn’t mean that you should be looking to pay the lowest wages possible…because then you’ll find the freelancer who is willing to work for those wages. People who value their own work don’t work for clients who don’t also see their value.

Do some research on what a fair market rate is and be open to negotiating with your freelancer. It can be easier to go through a support company (might we suggest Support Ninja?) as they will do the work of not only finding you the right freelancer but working out fair payment. Often you’re saving a lot by not having someone in-house, particularly if your entire office is virtual, so you can spend a little more to retain the talent that’s going to keep your business in business. It goes without saying that you should pay your freelancer immediately upon receiving their work or according to the agreed upon terms.

Offer to Write Testimonials

Many freelancers rely on past work to get new work; referrals are a freelancer’s best friend. You may be worried about referring your freelancer to someone else in the industry as there’s the risk that they won’t be able to dedicate as much time to your project. However, most freelancer’s work on multiple projects simultaneously, and if you’ve followed all the previous points to build a good relationship, it’s unlikely that any freelancer would want to abandon that. They’ll probably be even more dedicated to your account if you give them the opportunity to find more work.

Even if you can’t offer a direct referral, do offer to write a testimony. Your freelancer can use this on their website or as evidence to prospective clients of their past work. Plenty of freelancers will have testimonial templates which just require that you answer a few questions, but if they don’t, you just have to write a couple of sentences on the work they’ve done for you. It will take you less than ten minutes and will do a lot for not only your freelancer’s career, but for your working relationship.

Outsourcing does not have to be complicated. As long as your intentional, set aside the right amount of time to explain your projects, and value the people you hire, you can end up having excellent virtual employees for years.