In a fast changing economy many entrepreneurial business owners are looking to freelance workers to help them build their empires. The flexibility of working hours without the worry and cost of paying their tax and associated employees costs means that they are a valuable asset.
For the freelancer, working for such businesses provides a variety of work opportunities and relative freedom to choose their working hours and projects. So while this partnership seems like a perfect arrangement, managing freelance ‘employees’ does have its challenges.
If you are in this position or are considering it in the future we provide a few tips which may help you.
Be Clear About The Arrangement
One of the biggest challenges is the misunderstanding that can happen between the business owner and the freelancer. Communication can be difficult at the best of times and we all have our own view of the world which affects the way we interpret things. The more that can be done to clarify what is being asked of the freelancer and when it will be done, the better it will be for both parties.
The business owner or manager is very much focused on getting results and the freelancer wants to ensure that they do a good job so that they continue to receive work. This means that there tends to be a very transactional nature to the relationship between manager / owner and the freelance person working for them. In many ways the business has the ultimate sanction if things do not work out i.e. they will stop using the freelancer. On the other hand finding freelancers that you like to work with, means that business owners will usually stick to a few trusted people to do the work once they have found suitable ones.
One of the key issues for freelancers about this transactional arrangement is that like many human beings they need the social interaction and professional development usually available in full time employment. Although securing enough money to cover financial commitments is a reality for freelancers it does not mean that this is their primary focus. Recognition and praise are still important.
It is worth managers and business owners spending time finding out what type of work the freelancer prefers, their strengths, weaknesses and the work they really are not motivated to do. The nature of the freelancer’s job means that they may be required to accept assignments they would prefer not to. The impact on the freelancer can be great and may affect performance generally. When a manager is looking for a result this can be an issue for both sides. As in all walks of life, talking about it openly can clarify the situation and make it easier in the future.
When you have regular full time employees it is often easier to give immediate feedback and is expected as part of the normal day to day practice. When freelancers are working from home there is a physical barrier and infrequent contact which naturally causes communication to break down. This is why some companies that use freelancers deliberately organise meetings for them to come into the office to discuss issues and receive training or communication. It is also the prime opportunity to give and receive feedback on completed work that cannot quite be achieved as well over the phone or e-mail.
So if you currently have freelance ‘employees’ or are considering doing so, remember that freelancers still have the basic human needs of a regular employee. Consider how to get the best out of them and what you need from them. Avoid the typical transactional management style and treat them how they would like to be treated.
Head of Training
Originally published: 28 May, 2013
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