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3 Guidelines for Working with Freelancers

3 Guidelines for Working with Freelancers

By Alan Margulis

Recently, we provided tips on How to Find the Right Freelancers for Your Small Business. In that post, we recommended online and local resources for finding and evaluating web developers, designers, copywriters, video editors, SEO specialists, and other creative talent.

Once you have identified qualified freelancers to work on your projects, know that the best freelancers—including yours—are in high demand. They take great pride in doing their work well, including meeting your specifications and objectives. They build their clientele largely through word of mouth, and often, they have to choose between clients and projects. For these reasons, it pays to establish a productive relationship built on mutual understanding and respect.

Here are a few guidelines for working effectively with your freelancers and keeping that relationship going strong:

  1. Define Each Project’s Scope: For any freelancer, the most desirable clients provide clear instructions and full project details upfront. These include:
    • Creative brief: This is a written document that defines what the project is, who it is for, why it is being done, what “deliverables” need to be created, and how the finished work will be used. It contains critical information about the project objectives, background of the company and product or service, audience(s), competitors, selling proposition, tone, and any other important details.
    • Project schedule: Define the component parts of the project, and deadlines for each version or draft, as well as any minor deliverables involved in the project.
    • Key contacts: Who will be the project manager on your end, and who are the subject matter experts and other contributors? Define the relationships your freelancer will have with these contacts, whether they are supervisory, collaborative, or advisory.
  2. Provide written brand standards: There are many visual and verbal cues that shape your brand’s “voice” in the marketplace. Freelancers need a set of clear parameters to properly use and communicate the message of your brand, and to build on its identity. The brand standards document can range from five pages to several hundred. Yours will likely be brief, and should include:
    • Logo specifications: Define the versions, colors, sizes, and correct and incorrect examples of usage.
    • Colors: Consistency in your use of colors builds valuable brand equity in the marketplace. Just think of Home Depot’s bright orange or Chase Bank’s blue and grey. Keep the number of colors you use to a minimum to build recognition.
    • Fonts and typography: These are rules for how to use typography in design, such as typefaces that are used in big type headlines or small type copy.
    • Images: These guidelines determine the types and styles of images to use, and when and how to use them.
    • Text and tone: Define the rules for acceptable language, including whether it’s formal or conversational and concise or wordy.
  3. Evaluate freelancers like employees: Freelancers are motivated by feedback and recognition. They need to understand if their work is hitting the mark creatively and against established performance metrics. Review their work in stages, provide input from multiple voices within your organization, and offer a final critique of each finished project.

Our clients often tell us that it helps to think of freelancers as remote employees. To that end, you will also want to keep internal evaluations of your freelancers’ quality of work and outcomes against objectives. Keep these evaluations in each freelancer’s file, so that you can match the best-suited talent to each of your future projects.

Working with creative freelancers and seeing your vision come to fruition in their work is highly rewarding. These guidelines, combined with your prompt payment for services rendered, will enable you to build strong relationships with talented and dependable freelancers.

Alan Margulis

About the author

Alan is an accomplished copywriter with two decades of experience in content marketing, nurture stream, and direct response writing. He has done extensive work in a wide range of industries, from software and academia to staffing and entrepreneurial.

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