What You Need To Know About Freelancers Before Hiring For Your Startup

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Whether you’re a brick and mortar or an online ecommerce guru, you must understand that freelance life looks very different than yours. While you spend your days doing everything from balancing the books, creating new marketing materials, handling customer calls, attending strategy meetings, etc…. Your freelancer has two main functions: find work, complete project. (Rinse and repeat.)

Everything about how a freelancer functions may seem foreign to you. When you understand it a bit better, you’ll be able to be a more gracious and effective employer.

They don’t work when you work

Even if you’re hustling outside of hours, you likely expect people to be around during the normal workday: 9-5. However, freelancers just don’t work this way, and there are a few key factors that come into play here:

  • Time zones. Have you ever said, “Let’s meet for a call at 2pm” to which your freelancer responded, “2pm in which time zone?” The good news is that you can look all over the world to find the best talent for your business; the bad news is that your schedules are unlikely to match up. Be conscious of all your team member’s locations and take that into account with communications and deadlines.

  • Client workload. Maybe your freelancer got into this kind of work because getting a day job was too hard. Maybe they did it because they love the flexibility and the control they now have over their own schedules. Regardless of the cause, unless your freelancer is a full 40-hour-a-week employee (in which case you have a team member, not a freelancer and need to pay taxes for them…. But I digress) they have other clients. This means they have other projects and must manage them all, so you’ve got to be flexible when setting times for meetings or deadlines for projects.

  • They value their freedom. Again, the freedom thing. Once you get into freelancing, it’s pretty tough to get back into a job where someone tells you what time to show up, what time to eat lunch, and what time to leave. While you might be most productive in the morning, your freelancer might get all of her work done around 2am because she likes to sleep until noon. Give her realistic deadlines that give her enough time to do work on her own terms.

They don’t work how you work

If you’re a startup founder, chances are that you’re a pretty ambitious individual. (But that’s just my best guess. I don’t know you.) And I’m going to guess—once again—that you probably expect excellence from the people you hire as well. It’s not an unreasonable request, but keep in mind that freelancers just don’t work the way you do.

  • They want to get it done. Freelancers aren’t personally invested into the success of your company. They can make more money if they get the work done quickly and move onto other projects. If you have instructions, edits, or changes that need to be made, avoid a whole lot of back and forth by being succinct in your communications and get things wrapped up efficiently.

  • They need clear direction. Once again, freelancers aren’t typically too invested in your success as a founder unless you’re going to keep hiring them for things. Clear communication is key in getting your projects completed in a timely and satisfactory manner.

  • They’re not you. This one is tough: we all expect the same level of quality from freelancers as we might produce if the task was ours. News flash: you hired that freelancer for a reason. (You needed the help!) Expect the quality and even the process to look and feel differently than it would if it were your task…. And be ok with it. Perfectionism can kill your business in many different ways, so insist on quality, but resist the urge to redo everything yourself, and coach/mentor your freelancer to get better results next time.

Tips for freelancers working with startup clients

Find companies who need you. I’ll be straight with you: I totally hate when people send me pitch messages on LinkedIn a solid 30 seconds after I’ve accepted their connection request. It’s like, “Were you actually interested in connecting with me or did you just want an easier way to reach me to try and pitch?”

Moral of the story: it’s easier to find work when people are actively looking for help. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and energy if you create some referral partnerships, actively contribute in groups on social media, and pitch to people on platforms where they are already seeking assistance.

The connections you create—when you do amazing work—will send new projects your way.

Deadlines matter. I can’t tell you how many times a freelancer has told me, “I got a flat tire” or “Something went wrong with my computer!” Girl, I get it. Sometimes these things happen and there’s not much you can do. However, when you’re throwing one of these at me every time a deadline comes around, the problem isn’t that life happens; it’s that you’re bad at time management.

While you may think it’s not a big deal, it matters a great deal to the people you have hired you. When you don’t deliver on time, the next part of the project has to be put on hold.

Communicate like it’s your job. When you work remotely, you’re accustomed to working on your own terms. And so, it can be hard to remember that the company who hired you has a whole team thing going on somewhere else. You can’t be stuck in your own little bubble if you expect a freelance gig to go smoothly; you must keep the lines of communication open. Don’t wait for the employer to come asking you.

Takeaways

There are so many reasons to hire freelancers for different aspects of your biz, and there are so many great freelancers out there! The more you know about how one another before you get started, the more you’ll be empathetic to the struggles and workstyles of the other party, which will lead to a much brighter working relationship.


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Meet the Author: Shauna Armitage

Shauna is a Marketing Director or Fractional CMO helping early-stage startups scale with effective strategies, creative solutions, and unparalleled integrity by making the most of small budgets for maximum impact.

As a vocal advocate for women in business, Shauna is on a mission to redefine what it looks like to be a working woman and to support other women doing the same. She spends her free time traveling with her husband and four kids while drinking Coca-Colas. Connect with her on Instagram at @shauna.armitage.


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