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Building good relationships with Freelancers: Tips from The Pond's Talent Director

Since we’re in the creative people business, we thought we’d share a few tips on getting the most from your own relationship with freelancers. Tips that may sound obvious but do need reminding, based on what we’ve been seeing.

1. Pay freelancers what they are worth

Pay rates should mirror the freelancer’s skills and experience. As a general rule of thumb, a freelancer’s last full-time salary is their hourly rate, so if the freelancer in question was earning $120,000 the hourly rate would be $120 per hour. Pay ‘unders’ and they’ll go somewhere they feel more valued. Pay ‘overs’ and you’ll be wasting money and blow your budget. Most of the time people don't like talking about money, which makes it hard to get a long-term relationship off to a good financial one. 

What’s more getting a cheaper person who takes longer to do the job or to a lesser standard isn’t smart resourcing.

2. Pay on time and they’ll be early on Monday

One of the problems we see is that businesses don't set up clear and fair payment terms from the start of engagements, which often leads to issues. Big issues. Remember, a freelancer is not a form of credit or a way to increase cash flow. Pay them early if you can, 28 days is standard from completion of the work. If they ask for earlier payment don't feel obliged as this will effect your cash flow, especially if you have a few freelancers in the office. They are operating as a business after all, so it's okay to pay them like one.

3. Really understand their skill sets

One way of establishing a good reputation with freelancers in general is to understand what specialist skills they have and how you can best utilise them. If a freelancer’s skill set doesn’t match the brief, projects (especially digital ones) can go sour. 

Hirers in agencies have been known to call in their mates – after all better the devil you know and all that – without really thinking about their suitability. This of course stretches budgets, as jobs often take longer to perform. Conversations start with ‘who got this person in?’ A second freelancer often has to be dragged in to play Mr or Mrs Fixit, leaving the first creative feeling inadequate and or frustrated and ready to share their negative experience of the agency with other freelancers.

Every creative has specific key skills. You have to dig, to ask the right questions to find out just exactly what these are. This may mean reviewing more than one option but do you have the time to do so?

4. Build relationships with those in it for the long haul

‘Professional freelancers’ will see you as a regular client and treat you like one. The equity held by them will be retained and mean you won't have to get yet another person up to speed on the ins and outs of a client next time a brief comes in.

We say ‘professional’ because many creatives in the market are ‘in between’ jobs and actually looking for a full-time role. You may have them onboard for 3-4 weeks but that might be it: all the knowledge they have gained will be lost if they go full-time. And then you’ll have to go through all that hiring process again. Our advice is to build a relationship with creatives who are freelancing for the long haul. They will love you for it.

5. Write a clear brief before you pick up the phone

One way to gain the respect of freelancers is to have a clear and concise brief before you pick up the phone. What is the task and deliverables? Timings? Budget? Location? Many freelancers are booked in advance, so you need to take their workload into account. There’s no use ringing with the expectation that they will drop everything and be there at 9am for a tiny little job. If you are considerate and open to their schedule they will be more inclined to work late nights and weekends to get your jobs done.



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