In recent years, there has been a real rise in people making their living from freelance work, and it can be a fantastic option for business owners who do not have the capital to recruit full time employees. Engaging with freelancers can require a different leadership style to employees, since they are motivated in a different way.
In this article, we set out some of our tips on how to engage and motivate your freelance workers.
One of the quickest way for a freelance relationship to fail is because of poor communication. By giving your freelancers clear and regular written instructions, there will be no room for confusion or misunderstandings. You should set out the pay, hours and project details clearly at the outset. Ideally, you will sign a contract to confirm all of these terms.
Over half of freelance workers have not been paid at some point in their career, so make it clear at the start how much and when they will be paid.
“Use technology to your advantage,” says Nancy Warner, a marketer at Writinity.com and Lastminutewriting.com. “You can create regular conversations by using messaging tools to stay in touch wherever they are. There are many file-storage tools on the market that let you collaborate on a real-time basis.”
You should also take time to explain to your freelancers the context for their work. Spend some time talking to them about the goals of your business and how their work contributes to that.
It is too easy for business owners to focus on building relationships with their in-house employees and neglect to do the same with their freelancers. This can create a feeling of imbalance, which is only emphasised when they aren’t invited to keep meetings or included in email conversations.
Make a real effort to get to know your freelancers, by sending out surveys or inviting them to social events. If both employees and freelancers can socialise together, this will help to build morale and overall productivity with the whole team. Whether you are just inviting them in to meet everyone, or taking everyone out for a celebration, it is important to make them feel like one of the team.
As we have discussed, freelancer workers tend to have different motivations to employees and have different needs. You should think about creating a separate onboarding strategy for them to address their concerns. You may even want to have a different vetting process at the outset to focus on the personality of the freelancer, rather than their hard skills. This is important, because it will impact their interaction with the rest of your team.
You may also wish to create a unique training plan for them to establish how this will work virtually.
Collaboration & Ownership
Freelancers, just like employees, want to collaborate on their work and know that their creations have a vital part to play in the success of the company.
“One tool that you can use to encourage this is ‘job sculpting’,” suggests Robyn Boutwell, a project manager at Draftbeyond.com and Researchpapersuk.com. “This is where you empower your freelance workers to make small changes to their roles and responsibilities to improve engagement and motivate them. For example, you could give your freelancer choice in how they structure their week, or input into the content of your website. This helps them to feel involved and appreciated.”
One of the reasons that freelancing is on the rise is that it is so flexible. It allows mothers to work during school hours and evenings, or students to work whilst travelling.
Because of this, one of the main frustrations for freelancers is when they are micromanaged on projects. Whilst you may be within your rights to watch closely in the early days, once you are confident in their abilities, leave them to it! Remember that freelancers must be very disciplined and self-motivated to succeed, so it is in their interests to deliver.
Pay Well & On Time
One way to engage a freelancer worker is to make sure that they are being compensated properly. Do your research to see what other freelancers are being paid in the industry for similar work. Always pay at least the market rate to demonstrate that their work is valued.
Some employers try to pay their freelancers on 60- or 90-day invoice terms like other suppliers, but this can frustrate the relationship. Make sure they are paid on time, in line with the original agreement.