In this time of media uncertainty, let me be upfront, I’ve got a bias here. As a freelancer who has worked with nightmarish clients (those horror stories are for a different post) I want to make some recommendations on how you—the brand, the manager, or the representative can be a great client to your freelancers.

Often, the burden of a great working relationship lands on the freelancer. But as with any successful relationship, it’s a two-way street. Freelancers have to be on top of their game,

Are you tempted to brush this off because your business doesn’t hire contractors or freelancers? Think again. According to research conducted by Intuit, “In the U.S. alone, contingent workers will exceed 40 percent of the workforce by 2020.” On top of that, “80 percent of large corporations [are] planning to substantially increase their use of a flexible workforce.”

Welcome to the gig economy. Best get on board before it’s too late. But before you get on board (or stay on board), here are a few tips to make your client-freelancer relationship a success.

Know what you want

I’ve stared at this tip for 15 minutes trying to figure out how to explain it. It’s obvious, right? When you hire a contractor, you should know what you want from them. But so often, clients don’t know what they want.

I’m not saying you need to have all the details worked out, but at least have an idea. I’m a freelance writer and I’ve had clients reach out to me to ask for content. Yep, content. Please be more specific—there are blogs, white papers, website copy, and social media posts. All are “content.”

Try to at least know what direction you’re headed in before interviewing a contractor. And if you’re not sure, at least consider their advice and recommendations.

Be open to suggestions

Contractors are experts. We’re highly specialized in both a niche and a wide area of expertise. When you’re hiring a contractor, they’re someone you work with, not a subordinate.

To some clients that I work with We don’t work together for long. The really great clients understand that I’m a content creation expert. I’m constantly reading, examining tone, considering how to attract an audience, and searching for grammar mistakes. There’s always more to what a contractor does than what’s obvious on the surface.

The really great clients understand that I’m a content creation expert. I’m constantly reading, examining tone, considering how to attract an audience, and searching for grammar mistakes.

It can take time to build trust in your relationship with your contractor, but try to remember that they build their business on what they do, with no safety net. You’ve hired the contractor for their expertise, listen to it.

Communicate

Communication is major when working with a contractor. As most freelancers are remote, communication can seem more difficult than in an office environment where you bump into each other over the coffee pot.

Technology is making communication with contractors much easier, but it takes thoughtfulness. Check-in with contractors over video calls, email, Slack, or another messaging service. Whatever way works for you both. If you have concerns, voice them as quickly and as professionally as possible so the contractor can address them.

A contract is essential when working with contractors. As well, there should always be a paper trail. A contract should be written down, not verbal. Make sure that your contract protects both your company and the contractor by including:

  • The scope of the project

  • Your budget

  • The payment schedule, including a penalty for late payment

  • Deadlines or submission requirements, and yes, a penalty for late submissions

  • Non-compete clause

  • Non-disclosure agreement

  • The process necessary for editing or re-dos

  • Any other legal or protective clauses you think are necessary.

Protect your future self from potential problems!

Take time for onboarding

I always communicate to my clients that there’s a start-up cost to working with a contractor. In my world of content creation, that means that it takes me writing a few blogs to truly understand the tone desired and the client’s style. This can be a frustrating period for the contractor and the client, but consistent and empathetic communication will lead you through.

The more information a client can give me in the beginning, the shorter this period of time. And, once we’ve worked together for a while, that start-up cost goes away. The longer I work with a client, the faster and better I get at producing their content.

Know what success looks like

What does success look like? Defining success should be a collaborative process between you and the freelancer, as it gives you both a clear goal.

If you don’t set goals or define success, you can’t meet it. Defining success also protects you and the freelancer from disappointment and misinterpretation of deliverables.

Success might be defined as:

  • New followers on social media

  • Blogs delivered per week

  • New project completed in a set period of time

  • Creating a more efficient workflow.

This clause can even be included in the contract. It’s always better to have these ideas written down for later reference or if there is a problem.

Look at deliverables, not time spent online

There’s an inherent cultural bias that makes working with contractors difficult for some employers. We are not in front of you all the time.

There’s an inherent cultural bias that makes working with contractors difficult for some employers. We are not in front of you all the time.

One of the major benefits of being a contractor is that you don’t have to hold regular office hours. Sometimes I work weekends, sometimes late at night, and that means I can take a two-hour lunch on Monday or go to the gym in the middle of a Wednesday. It also opens the door for me to travel.

That also means that I’m not constantly online or available to my clients. Understand that when you work with a contractor, they may work odd hours. I also work with multiple clients, which means I may not always be available to a certain client as I’m working on something else.

When you define success with your contractor, make sure you use their work as evaluation, not how accessible they are or how often they’re “online.”

Benefits of working with contractors

If you’re still not convinced that working with a freelancer is right for you, let me provide a nudge.

When you work with a contractor, you’re working with someone who has a highly-specialized field of knowledge—be it Millennials, start-ups, contact centers, or online etiquette.

Another benefit to working with freelancers is that you can hire the best, no matter where they live. Contract workers are location independent and technology makes this almost irrelevant for most companies. And having freelancers in different locations can open up your realm of material. Instead of having only a San Franciscan’s perspective, you can also glean insight from an Austinite, a Chicagoan,

Having freelancers in different locations can open up your realm of material. Instead of having only a San Franciscan’s perspective, you can also glean insight from an Austinite, a Chicagoan, or an Aussie.

When you work with a contractor who has specialized knowledge, they’re likely able to work faster and more efficiently. Thus, more cost-effectively.

These experts also save your company money because you’re getting their expertise for a period of time or for a project, not full-time. Contractors often charge more per hour than you’d pay a typical employee, but you get to avoid a lot of other costs—health benefits, retirement, onboarding, and taxes. Think of the savings!

The world of work is changing, the gig economy is in full-swing and will continue to grow for the predictable future. Jump on board. You might be surprised how a contractor can benefit your business.

Page Grossman became an entrepreneur at 22, knowing that she never wanted to settle down in a cubicle. With a degree in journalism, some money in a savings account, and Millennial-spirit, Page founded her own freelance writing business. Page writes about creating an intentional lifestyle through travel, finances, entrepreneurship, health, fitness, and nutrition. Depending on the day, you can find her writing for various blogs, slaying SEO, researching grammar questions, banishing the Lorem Ipsum, fostering kittens, and traveling the world on Instagram.