How to help your freelancer help you – from discovery call to feedback
I’ve shared a few blogs with you about finding the right freelancer for you and your business, including the places to look for them and signs to look out for if they’re likely to be good, or a disaster.
But something I haven’t touched on so deeply is how to actually work with your freelancer to get the best results possible.
I know from talking with my followers that sometimes working with someone new can feel amazing to begin with but end up turning into a nightmare due to miscommunication or differing working methods. While that isn’t the fault of you or the freelancer, there are things you can do at each stage of your new working relationship to have a smooth journey from hiring to project completion.
Be clear on the work you want them to do
Want to hire someone to help you with SEO? Great, is it the content or the technical side you want them to work on? Or is it an audit and strategy for you to implement that you’re after rather than a done for you service?
Need a virtual assistant to help with your business for 10 hours a week. Fab. What do you want them to do for those hours?
Being clear on what you want to achieve out of your freelancing partnership is paramount to getting the results you’re looking for. I’m not talking about the finely tuned details of how things should be done (trust me, leave that to the freelancer, they know what they’re doing!) but a simple list of goals, objectives, and how you envision them.
Having a clear plan in mind will help you shortlist freelancers that can help, such as finding a content-based SEO manager or a technical one; or a customer service VA rather than an online business manager.
Thrash out the details in the discovery phase
This is probably the most important part of your hiring process and starting a good working relationship with your chosen freelancer.
It’s important that you have a rapport with who you’re outsourcing to.
That doesn’t mean you have to be best buddies, but it is important that you get along. If you feel a sense of dread at the thought of talking to them or avoid reaching out because your gut instinct tells you that something isn’t right; what’s it going to be like later when your business is reliant on them?
Remember that you are not interviewing an employee here. This time is for both of you to get to know one another, to ask each other questions, and figure out if you can make working together a success. It’s not unusual for you to be turned down by the freelancer if they feel you’re not a good fit!
Once you both feel happy and decide to work together, discuss the project/tasks at length, and ask them how they plan on doing things. You might be tempted to micromanage or the opposite, leave everything to them with an “I don’t care how; just do” approach but you really need to be clear on the work to be done and how it’s going to be done now.
It’s often when you weren’t clear enough at this stage that a dream partnership can deteriorate into a nightmare.
Double-check their quote and scope of work
Do you tend to skip to the end and check the figure you’re paying, or do you read through all the terms, the outline of what they’ll be doing for you and check the milestones/deadlines too?
This is the final stage where you should be absolutely clear on the work being done and what your project/tasks will look like at the end of it. i.e. technical SEO will be improved by doing x, y, and z by this deadline; or a 10-hour monthly retainer will be used for inbox management, customer service emails, and feedback follow-up calls.
If something seems to be missing – ask!
If something is in there you don’t understand – ask!
Did you agree something, but it looks different here – ask!
Asking now is the key to getting the results you’re looking for. Don’t just sign and hope for the best!
Respect their boundaries
Remember when I said you’re not hiring an employee?
A freelancer is an experienced professional who has perfected their working methods over time and past projects to get the results you’re looking for. Micromanaging isn’t going to make them work better or harder, if anything it’ll interfere with their processes and make it harder for them to get the results you’re hoping to achieve.
Some freelancers don’t mind being contacted late at night whereas others have strict working times, such as school hours only. Whichever the case might be, do observe their working hours and any other boundaries they might put in place, like preferring to be contacted via email rather than social media messaging.
These boundaries aren’t designed to put you at a distance and make you feel like you have no control but ensuring that your freelancer can focus on their work when they need to. Being distracted by multiple daily emails or being asked questions as they’re getting the family dinner ready isn’t going to be helpful in the long run.
If things aren’t going well – don’t wait to tell them!
Don’t wait until the end of the project to bring it up with them, or until their bill arrives.
They may be unaware of any issues and be horrified that you’re not happy, or there may be a misunderstanding over something that can be quickly sorted out. Alternatively, if things aren’t going to plan because you’ve hired the wrong freelancer, ending things quickly and before you’re too far into the project is the sensible route to take.
Setting milestones is a good way to handle a project where they may go away and do their work and you don’t really hear from them until near completion. Setting mini-goals as milestones can ensure you’re both on the same page with the project and happy with the way things are going.
Do provide feedback at the end – good, bad, or indifferent
Feedback is important for every freelancer.
Even if they got things amazingly right, there may be things they could improve on but if you really can’t think of anything; still let them know how you feel!
If things could have been better, try to be constructive with your feedback and do ask yourself if you could have done anything differently to get a better result. Evaluating things and providing feedback at the end is as much for your benefit as theirs, as you can learn from your mistakes and remember them for the next time you’re ready to hire another freelancer.