According to a recent study, 35% of the US workforce are freelancers.
I heard James Altucher say this somewhere. Maybe on a podcast.
He was talking about working with a staffing company that has seen incredible growth since 2008.
Things crashed. Many were laid off. Businesses really didn’t have a choice. They had to find ways to cut back and cutting workers was a big way to do it. And those that still had jobs had to pick up the slack.
And in the meantime the freelance economy took off. It had always been there, but it took off.
Companies still needed work done. But they didn’t want to necessarily guarantee the long-term prospects of the job. They also maybe couldn’t invest as much in training. So they answer was freelancing.
Freelancing seems to be a trend that will be at least a big part of the future economy. It seems that workers tend to like it. Businesses seem to like it.
The question for you is how can you effectively work with freelancers?
At GBW, our team is entirely made up of freelancers.
Here are some things I’ve learned over the last decade.
1. Build A Long-Term Pipeline
One of the first things I did when launching GBW was to put up a Write For Us page.
I probably lucked out, but maybe at the time I was thinking long-term. With this company and its blog and marketing efforts and just about everything I try to think long-term.
How will this pay off or affect the business in five, ten or whatever years.
But with the Write For Us page it brings in a steady stream of writers. Over time that page has ranked well for various Google searches. It’s been linked to from various freelancer directories and things of that nature. I don’t even know all the ways it brings in freelancers, but it does.
I also remember way back in college I knew a kid whose parents owned a plumbing business. In front of that business they had a sign that just said “Hiring” along with a phone number.
The kid said that his parents were, “Always hiring”. What he meant was that his parents were always willing to hire the right people. Or at lest put the right people on a list.
With freelancing and your business you want to start now by building a pipeline. Putting a page on your website. Putting information on your LinkedIn page.
You can find freelancers in the short-term by posting jobs, but also look to the long-term.
2. Use An Initial Test
One thing we’ve implemented at GBW that I really like is a trial post with new writers.
We haven’t always done that, but now we do.
We pay for it. It’s an investment. A lot of the writers pass the test. Some don’t, but that’s part of doing business.
We provide them with our guidelines. Then we see if it’s a good fit.
But even before that trial post we had a few little tests to see if things would be a good fit.
One was looking for how the person wrote their email. Chances are that if they’re professional with their email that they will be with their blog posts.
More with the first post we provide a due date. We pay attention to when the post is delivered. Early. Day of. 11:59 PM on the due date. Late.
Setup initial tests with your freelancers. It’s a good way to get red flags before you get too committed to anything.
3. Build Procedures, Look For Insight
Procedures are very important. You know that. You have them with your employees and probably with freelancers.
But I think that procedures should be fluid.
Obviously you don’t want to change them for the sake of changing them. But there are almost always better ways to do things. And often you’ll find that freelancers have great ideas for improving procedures or processes.
You bring something to the table, but so do freelancers. Ask them every three months or so what they would improve. What they would like to change. What is challenging them.
I like to reach out to the top performers once in awhile and just pick their brains.
4. Find The Motivation
It’s always good to find the motivation in the relationship between your business and the freelancer or freelancers.
At Ghost Blog Writers, we’re an agency. We provide the value of managing a blog for businesses. We manage everything relating to the blog.
Businesses can work directly with freelancers and maybe pay a little less and have more control over the process.
And freelancers can work directly with businesses to earn more money.
For freelancers, the trade off and motivation for working with us is that we have ready demand. They can gain a quick client. The trade off is that they’ll probably make a little less.
And with us they also get paid the same time every month. Always. Whether the client pays or not. That’s also a trade off for making less than they would working directly with a client.
It’s always good to know the motivations of the freelancer. When you do it’s easier to make sure you and they are happy.
5. Provide Positive Feedback
Positive feedback is a key.
There is a tendency to assume that people know what they’re doing well. And a lot of people think that constructive criticism is negative criticism or pointing out what people are doing wrong.
A lot of times we do it without ill intent. We think we’re helping.
But a lot of people don’t want to hear what they’re doing wrong all the time. And freelancers hear negative feedback a lot.
In our work at GBW I know that it happens. Writers can write 10 great posts and the only feedback they’ll get will be on the one or two negative things. The things they need to change.
It adds up over time.
But what I’ve found is that if you tell a freelancer what you like and what they did well that they’ll keep doing that.
It’s like, do these four things the way you’re doing them because I love it. And maybe change this one thing.
Sometimes it’s more powerful than money.
People often just want to know that they’re contributing to something. That they’re making a difference. That what they’re doing has meaning.
Money is obviously important. If you’re paying the most then you’ll be very appealing to the best freelancers.
But they also want to feel appreciated.
I remember when Reggie White came to the Green Bay Packers in free agency in 1993. It was a big deal.
At the time, Reggie and the team made it seem like divine intervention. Like he was coming to Green Bay because it was simply where he was most appreciated.
Well, that was true, but Green Bay also offered the most money.
But the two things go hand in hand. You have to let your freelancers know that they’re important to you.
7. Empower & Trust
This kind of goes back to procedures a little bit.
At GBW, we trust our writers to be good with spelling and grammar and on-time delivery. We track on-time delivery. We track feedback from clients for issues with revisions and things like that.
But we try to trust our team as much as possible.
And what I’ve found is that 95% of the time people will come through. They’ll fulfill your trust. They’ll prove your right for trusting them.
It’s that 5% that can leave a bad taste in your mouth, though. But you have to realize that one bad experience shouldn’t ruin all the good.
Freelancing is a big trend in the workforce world today. If you’re in business you’ve probably already worked with freelancers.
But if you’re looking to do more of it in the future then the tips above should help. These are things that have worked well for us at GBW for nearly a decade.