Are you doing all you can to keep top freelancer talent happy and ‘warm’ on the bench? As companies pivot and drive demand for unique professional skill sets, dependency on freelancers and a contingent workforce is growing. In fact, according to recent data from Upwork, 73% of hiring managers indicate they plan to continue or increase their use of independent professional freelancers.
But that said, the way we’re managing those contingent workers has not evolved.
Recent data captured from JobBliss users shows that managers still rely on email, manual spreadsheet methods and piecemeal tools to find, engage and manage their valuable freelance talent. This old-school style of management leads to poor transparency, insufficient capacity and ability to execute, cost leakage and inability (on both sides) to plan for future work.
Furthermore, demand for highly skilled freelancers — especially in hot areas such as programming, UI/UX development, web design, social media video marketing, content writing and graphic design — is growing leaps and bounds. Top freelancers can pick and choose their work and command premium rates. So employers who depend on that freelance talent for project execution and who want to work with the best need to bring their A-game.
So what are some of the fatal mistakes employers make when managing their freelance talent?
Mistake #1 – Nickel and dime them
There is a reason that one freelancer will write 1,000 words of content for five dollars and another can charge $1000 for the same. It comes down to skill and quality of work. On the surface, dipping into the Fiverr talent pool looks tempting and for the inexperienced may seem like a rocking good deal, especially compared to a freelancer who is commanding much higher hourly rates. But the experienced manager will understand that it is not the hourly rate that matters.
An experienced, highly skilled freelancer will be able to deliver quality work back faster and with less oversight. It might shock you how efficiently they work because they have the required experience and skills.
Hire an inexperienced, less qualified or unknown freelancer and you may end up spending your time babysitting, slogging through multiple rounds of revision and re-doing poorly executed work. And that cheap hourly rate they are charging adds up. Or god forbid the person doing the work ghosts you and the project, leaving you in the lurch and trying to backfill.
I mean do you have time for that?
So do you want it fast and well done? That’s not going to be cheap. Do you want it cheap and fast? Well, expect the work to be poor in quality.
As the saying goes, you get what you pay for…
Now that said, there’s nothing wrong with doing due diligence regarding a freelancer’s proposed rate, especially if it is on the high end. That’s a jumping-off point for a conversation about their approach and the skills that justify that price tag. And you can verify the quality of their work by speaking with references and by reviewing their portfolio. Using a freelance management platform like JobBliss solves that problem easily because you can review the individual profiles of freelancers, compare rates and skills and see past project performance.
Mistake #2 – Have a bad business rap
The world is pretty small really and great freelancers have a strong network. Over my career in working with freelancers, some of my best talent has come through referrals from other freelancers who knew me, liked my company, liked the work. It’s similar in traditional employment circles. Despite what your website might say about your glorious employer brand, the reviews on GlassDoor tell the real truth. And the same goes for working with freelancers. Be assured, they are talking to their colleagues about your company and getting the real truth on what it is like to work for your organization. If you have a reputation for nickel and diming freelancers. If you treat your contingent workers poorly, If you don’t pay on time and don’t cover their out-of-pocket expenses, or you try to negotiate down their invoices at the time of payment, you are going to build one heck of a bad rap in the business.
Over my career in employing and working with freelancers, some of my very best talent has come through word-of-mouth referrals. Freelancers will offer up a colleague because they work well with them and they make a great team. So having a strong word-of-mouth reputation can go a long way in helping you build your contingent workforce bench.
So, don’t mistreat your freelancers. Advocate for them within your organization, Lead your internal team in relationship building, so they don’t feel threatened and understand the value that comes from external fresh thinking. Make sure, if your freelancers are working for others, that they are treated across your organization (hint: JobBliss can help here as well). Make sure finance pays their invoices on time. Don’t be territorial. Refer them to others in your network. Pick up the phone. Send an email. Let them know you care.
Mistake #3 – Treat them like mushrooms
I happen to love a good mushroom. They are tasty. They are medicinal. And in the opinion of some, they are the root of interconnected wellbeing. They are fascinating fungi. But to treat your valued freelancer as a mushroom means that you keep them in the dark and feed them $&*#.
Why would you do that?
According to our research at JobBliss, many freelancers cite feeling like an outsider as one of their top ten issues when working with clients. Contingent workers, by admission, are a very important and growing part of our workforce. These individuals should be accorded the same respect one gives to their internal employees. They contribute far more to you than simply a set of arms and legs required for execution. Senior, skilled freelancers bring perspective gained from serving multiple clients. They offer up fresh ideas, creativity and strategic thinking that can help your people grow and thrive. So to keep them on the outside of your organization seems foolish. In my UI/UX business my team enjoys a peer-like relationship with our client’s internal team members. We are considered a valuable extension of their talent. We are often brought in on and collaborate on planning. They regularly poll us for perspective and input on decisions. As a result, we can deliver better and more fully on our mandate. And we feel valued. That keeps the relationship on both sides strong and reciprocal.
Even if you don’t have a clear picture of what the future holds, and what projects will be greenlighted, I would encourage you to regularly communicate with your valued contingent workers. Check in on them. Get a handle on their current workload situation. Share with them your forecast (to the best of your ability – and FYI JobBliss can help with that) and just let them know that when it comes to future work, they are at the top of your list. It is not uncommon in our industry for a client to pay a low-level retainer to a freelancer or outsourced firm to “hold their place in line” for future work. This way, a team is continually engaged and kept warm and on the bench. It also means when the client’s project is greenlighted, those contingent workers are able to come up to speed and are ready to work sooner.
Mistake #4 – Give them only the boring stuff to do
Look, everyone has to do boring stuff now and then. That’s just the reality of life. But if you believe you can retain and engage a highly skilled freelancer by giving them the work that always falls to the bottom of your to-do list because YOU find it tedious, well you are likely going to accomplish two things. One, you are likely contributing to that bad rap we all want to avoid. Word will get around that you don’t value or use your top freelance talent to their full capacity. And two, you and your team will lose out because you aren’t tapping into the tremendous value and perspective senior contingent workers have to offer and that freelancer is likely to say no to your next project. I find it a crying shame that managers disregard or de-value the senior-level talent at their fingertips. Just because these individuals are not on staff full-time does not mean that they don’t care about your business or your project’s success. They chose to go into freelancing because they like problem-solving and interesting work. And because they often have many years of industry experience and skill, you can sit back and relax a little if you just let them contribute in a fulsome way. You and your team don’t know it all. And that’s ok. By surrounding yourself with a team of brilliant advisors who also can execute, your projects will go better, you and your team will get all the glory and heck ya, you just might get that promotion you’ve been bucking for.
If you are making any or all of these mistakes, you may be doing a better job of driving top freelancers away versus attracting them to work on your projects. Everyone’s looking for this kind of top talent these days. The freelancers you work with are likely working with six, eight, ten other companies and potentially your competitors. If they are getting better treatment elsewhere, guess who they’ll be choosing to work for next time?
Curious to know more about JobBliss and how it can help you avoid these fatal freelance management mistakes? Guess what, you can try it for free for 30 days. What are you waiting for?