With the growing number of freelancers in the workforce, it’s more important than ever to foster strong relationships with your freelancers.
It’s time to improve your freelancer relationships. Businesses, both big and small, are benefiting from the gig economy / liquid workforce to access specialized skills and advisors with deep expertise. By outsourcing specific projects to freelancers (rather than pay an annual salary to employees), companies can scale their business quickly and efficiently.
According to “Freelancing in America” (FIA), the most comprehensive study of the independent workforce, 57 million Americans freelanced in 2019. This is approximately 35% of the U.S. workforce and an increase of 3.7 million in the past five years.
With the growing number of contractors and freelancers in the workforce (and the oftentimes independent and remote nature of the work), it’s more important than ever for businesses to streamline the communication process and develop strong freelancer relationships. With Liquid — an all-in-one software solution for managing, onboarding, and paying your freelancers — it’s easier than ever to implement best practices to enhance the client-freelancer relationship.
Here are ten ways to improve freelancer relationships.
1. Be transparent about the SOW in the initial conversation with a freelancer.
When you begin a conversation with a freelancer, whether it’s on LinkedIn, over the phone, or via email, it’s essential to discuss the scope of the project — scope of work/statement of work (SOW) — and set clear guidelines. Transparency regarding the objective, rates, and timelines early in the conversation will help to protect your time and the contractor’s time. Once the guidelines are agreed upon by both parties, discuss the next steps, and move forward with the onboarding process.
2. Create and sign independent contractor agreements.
Contracts are crucial for any business deal in protecting both parties. A fully executed independent contractor agreement helps to prevent costly misunderstandings and is an important first step to improving your freelancer relationships. Within the Liquid workforce portal, you can create a Consulting Agreement by plugging in your company’s information such as EIN, address, etc. Other templated documents available within Liquid include confidentiality agreements (CA) and non-disclosure agreements (NDA). You also have the option to create custom contract templates within Liquid and request contractors to complete the appropriate IRS Form.
Once you’ve created the contracts, you have the opportunity to categorize them into custom onboarding packages specific to the types of freelancers you hire. For example, you may need a developer to sign a different contract than you would a designer. This feature makes it easy to request only the necessary documents, which makes the signing process easier for both parties. No more printing, signing, scanning, and emailing documents — with Liquid you can sign documents digitally, and store time-stamped versions all in one place for both parties.
Download Liquid’s Independent Contractor Agreement Checklist as a handy reference guide.
3. Finalize and sign off on a detailed SOW together.
Creating a project in Liquid allows both parties to clearly see everything discussed in the initial conversation, in writing, and formally sign off on all the details. Liquid’s Create a Project feature allows you to break up the project into tasks. This approach to breaking a project down into multiple deliverables will help to monitor tasks as they’re completed and stay on track to meet deadlines. The project acts as an SOW that can be formally agreed upon and referenced at any time.
Setting up multiple tasks will also help with the fee structure. Within each task, write a description of the work, the start date, due date, cost and fee structure, when and how it will be paid, and when the project is considered finished. This streamlined process is essential for clear, concise, and effective communication for both parties.
4. Schedule a kickoff call to review and provide all necessary information for the project.
Share login details, documents, folders and files, and any other information your freelancer may need as early in the project process as possible. When left without the necessary information, a contractor will be forced to slow down, reach out, and wait for a response every time they’re missing information. When a freelancer has everything they need upfront, they can take the project and run with it.
5. Discuss boundaries and agree on communication.
Set boundaries with your contractor upfront. Discuss your hours and your freelancer’s hours, time zone, and when and how to reach each other. Depending on the agreed-upon terms, a freelancer’s workweek may look quite different from the typical 9-5, Monday through Friday. If you don’t want to receive calls and messages over the weekend, set these limits upfront. It’s equally important to respect the contractor’s time, provide timely responses, and understand that they too are trying to find a work/life balance. Find times and forms of communication that are agreeable to both parties.
6. Discuss realistic timelines with freelancers.
Short timelines and quick turnaround times are pain points for a lot of freelancers. As the client, it’s important to remember that freelancers tend to juggle many different clients and projects at once. Discuss timelines and turnaround times with your new teammate to establish a realistic schedule that works for both of you. Quick turnaround times are okay as long as they’re communicated and agreed upon upfront.
While discussing timelines, discuss revision and standard turnaround times as well. Freelance writers, for instance, may require 24-48 hour turnaround times for alterations. If you work in a fast-paced industry where you always find yourself needing something yesterday, discuss this with the freelancer — and prepare for the possibility of a rush fee. Clear communications are key to improving your freelancer relationships.
7. Provide constructive feedback to freelancers throughout the life of the project.
As you work through the project with the freelancer, be sure to provide consistent feedback. Let the contractor know what they did well and what needs improvement. Providing feedback, both good and bad, will help your relationship because the freelancer will pick up on best practices. The more you share, the more information they have to work with and apply to the project moving forward.
While it may seem too time-consuming to provide thorough feedback, this type of communication and constructive criticism will help make both your and the freelancer’s job easier down the road. Create open communication and conversation and ask the freelancer if they have any feedback for you as well. An open dialogue will help foster a long-term relationship.
8. Show freelancers appreciation and offer words of encouragement.
Whether you’re working with contractors or an in-house team, everyone likes to hear words of encouragement and gratitude. If a freelance writer provides an article earlier than the due date, shoot them a simple “Thank you, I appreciate you” email. If a designer agrees to do the third round of revisions on a website at no additional cost, send them a handwritten note. This type of encouraging and positive communication will improve your freelancer relationship and inspire your independent contractor to work hard for you and always provide their best work.
9. Pay your freelancers on time.
Nothing will sour a freelancer/client relationship faster than an unpaid or late invoice. If the freelancer completed the project at the agreed-upon time, show them the respect they deserve and pay the invoice as agreed upon. Failing to pay a freelancer on time can put them into an uncomfortable financial situation. Liquid makes paying invoices on time easy. Within the dashboard, you’ll see the Invoice Number, To/From, Invoice Date, Due Amount, Incoming/Outgoing, and Status. Having to follow up on late payments isn’t comfortable for either party and will inevitably harm the relationship and likely make the freelancer hesitant to work with you again.
10. Debrief once the project is complete and discuss next steps.
When the project is finished, debrief. Discuss what you think went well, what needs improvement, and how you can work better together in the future. Getting on the same page after the initial project is complete is a great way to set standards and make future projects run even smoother.
The liquid workforce is benefiting both companies and individual workers. Freelancing allows individuals to control their rates, the projects they take on, who they work with, and in many instances when and where they work. Businesses that nurture and foster strong freelancer relationships are better equipped to compete in today’s rapidly evolving economy. Those who don’t will get left behind.
Note, we are not providing legal, tax, or payroll advice. Please consult your legal, tax, and payroll professionals. These are simply to serve as guidelines based on our own experiences.