Whether you work with one freelancer or hundreds, chances are you’re familiar with communication clutter.
When I built my first business, I was working with more than 400 freelancers from all over the world, so you can imagine the issues created by time zone differences and language barriers.
It felt like there were freelance communication fires popping up all around me: not being able to understand email tone, missing emails or projects or being late on a deadline because there was a miscommunication. Many days, all my hours were spent putting them out.
Whether you currently work with freelancers or you’re planning to in the near future, you might encounter the same problems. You’re all trying to manage timelines, meetings and new business opportunities while remaining aware of quality, costs and deadlines. But you should know that you actually have a lot in common with your creative partners. You all want a healthy and productive working relationship, and you both aim to produce a positive result.
Above all, no one has time to deal with communication clutter -- much less damaged work relationships. Here are three tips to help foster effective interactions and value the freelance professionals you work with:
1. Escort the elephants out of the room.
Be upfront from the beginning about what you’re expecting and encourage open communication throughout the process. The best freelancers are honest about their schedules and skills and will let you know if a project is outside their scope of expertise or timetable. Then, you can choose to either give them a shot or go with someone with more time or knowledge.
Also, don’t let money be the elephant in the room. Talk shop from the beginning to set up the overall project cost, including when and how you will be paying. Prompt your freelancers to be open about the hours they’re working -- especially if they exceed the original estimate -- and be flexible about potentially paying more than you expected.
2. Become a sounding wall.
Once you’ve mapped out the specifics, set up regular check-in calls. Checking in regularly allows for collaboration. For creative projects that require writing, design or marketing, bouncing ideas off one another and asking questions can be critical to both a successful process and product.
Even two weekly calls can make a big difference as the project progresses. A Monday morning Skype call can set the tone for the rest of the week’s work. And a Friday afternoon text session may help you review the week’s progress. Find something that works for all parties, and stick to it.
3. Embrace feedback as your best friend.
Insist on 360-degree feedback. If you receive work from a freelancer that’s not up to par, don’t be afraid to share your disappointment. Freelance professionals want to be held accountable for their performance, so feedback can be their best friend. Even constructive criticism helps a freelance professional grow and improve.
On the other side, don’t be afraid to admit your role in a problematic situation. The tension you’re experiencing has likely been caused by a breakdown in the communication process. Take time to determine what went wrong, and own up to your part in it. An apology can go a long way toward keeping or mending a partnership with a valuable member of your creative team.
With the Internet creating an open marketplace for freelance professionals, it can feel easy to simply find a new partner if something isn’t working out. By following these simple tips, however, you can create healthy, long-lasting relationships between you and your freelance team to ensure that your communication bridge never falls apart -- and that your combined efforts become stronger.