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Freelancers. A blessing or a curse? How to work with freelancers?
We often face different opinions on freelancers in our work. Some people fear them like plague, others hire them and сomplete the orders successfully. From time to time we hire freelancers if we require some specific expertise or need to expand the development team. And we dare to say that a freelancer will save your money as well as your nervous system. If you know how to deal with them.
Freelancers are children
A freelancer does not understand you. Just face it. It is not because they are bad, but because people in general do not understand each other. We speak the same language, but mean different things.
You can tell a freelance designer to “Draw a pretty website”, but none of you understands what it means. If you let a freelancer go after these words, he will not manage to do anything.
You may tell a freelance programmer to “Implement a payment gateway” on your website, but you do not specify whether you need e-money, order statistics, e-mail confirmation and storing the payment data. It seems obvious to you. However, it is not obvious to your freelancer.
You say that your mixing tap is leaky, but you do not specify that you do not want to replace it.
Always act on the premise that your executor did not understand the task. It will save your time in the future.
Of course, the executor is responsible for clearly understanding the task. An experienced freelancer will not let you go until you explain the task in all its details. A good executor requires a million clarifications, makes up a vision of the solution and finally makes you accept it. If you are not irritated by your freelancer delving into every detail, you are dealing with the inexperienced one.
That is why you should not wait until his lack of experience turns into your problem. Correct the situation.
- Define the problem that a freelancer should solve. You don’t need a website, you need to sell the goods; you don’t need an article, you need to create reputation; you don’t need wedding photos, you need great memories. Allocate some time to think about the problem instead of the solution. Why do you need a website?
- Discuss the problem with the freelancer. Ask how he would solve it. Maybe the freelancer suggests a better solution. However, this trick has a pleasant side effect: a freelancer realizes that you respect him as an expert. This will help in your further relationship.
- Discuss the solution. Ask the freelancer to explain to you all the stages verbally. Be meticulous: “What will the user see here? How is it designed? What is the next step?” If a freelancer does not present the solution in detail, you will fail. Make him think about all the details before you discuss the price. Any hushed up question is an abyss that your project will fall into. Find these questions and clarify them.
- Describe the solution. Ask the freelancer to make up tasks for himself, considering all discussed questions. This may seem unnecessary, the executor will be grizzling and saying “Oh, why do we need to do this? It is already obvious…” Treat him carefully, as a kid but do not stop proving your point: understanding the task should appear on paper. If there is no understanding – there is no project.
- Reread the vision and make sure that everything looks the way you want. If something is blurred or does not even partially meet the expectations, correct this with the freelancer.
Conclusion: Some people say that a client should not think about his task since it is a job of a freelancer to clarify everything. This is nonsense. A project is a partnership. Everyone should work hard. If a client sees that the executor does not understand the task, he should step in and put things in order. Taking comfort and thinking that “it is not your responsibility” is an irresponsible approach.
Monitor the term
Freelancer will definitely fail to meet the deadline. If a freelancer meets the deadline, he might have already started his own agency and hired a couple of managers. Both young and experienced freelancers are a perfect example of irresponsibleness. But it is not personal qualities that matter, it is the way they organize their work.
Freelancer faces 3-4 parallel orders at any given moment. As soon as he finishes one project, there goes another one. This is how he provides himself with minimal earnings. A freelancer cannot but take several parallel projects – this is how he makes a living.
Then there goes another freelancer principle – the most pressing tasks are the most urgent ones.
To start making your task today, a freelancer should know that tomorrow is the time of delivery and if he fails to make a delivery – he will feel pain, shame and hunger. That is why today he puts all the orders aside and devotes his time to yours. And tomorrow (or on Monday at most ) you will have a great result.
To get a good result in time, you should keep the freelancer in the state of frantic rush. To do this you need to:
- Set milestones with the freelancer. Preferably every 2-3 days. Suggest him to do this himself. It is important since a freelancer should make a promise. When you impose the terms on him, he will not be bound by moral obligations.
- Follow the milestones and express your dissatisfaction openly if the freelancer is running out of time. The freelancer should be ashamed that he did not keep his promise.
- Remind about the milestones. Accept the fact that freelancer has no time to control the terms – he has at least three clients like you. Act as a manager and calmly but insistently remind him that he is having a milestone in 2 days.
- If the project is long, bind payments and work stages. But remember that in most cases a freelancer is not afraid of losing money: he thinks that he could have worked with 10 simple clients instead of the hard one. Do not mention money in your discussion.
Conclusion: accept the fact that a freelancer has no time to monitor the terms.
Treat your freelancer as a gifted child. He does his job perfectly, but he lacks discipline. Take it for granted.
This implies that:
If the freelancer does not call you during the day, he did nothing on your project today. If it’s bad for you – call him yourself.
If the freelancer says that “everything is almost done and he needs some time to stabilize the algorithm” – he probably hasn’t even started working. He’d better told it in the beginning instead of the day before the deadline.
Keep a constant contact with the freelancer, do not let him go. Project milestones should keep him fit, he should feel your constant presence.
Do not expect the freelancer to tell you that he is running out of time because of bad planning and ask to make up a new plan. If he did so – you managed to found a unique example and should always work with him. This is a grown-up, serious and smart freelancer that can hardly be even called a freelancer. This is a partner, professional and a very clever person. Such specialists are hard to find.
In most cases a freelancer will tell you about floods in his apartment, hospital visits, internet connection issues and funeral banquets. It’s a shame to put pressure on the worker when such things happen in his life, but you know that nothing has happened, don’t you?
Conclusion: If a freelancer uses “reasonable excuses”, he is definitely in deep crisis. Most likely he is busy working on other projects. Try to understand the situation and act as a grown-up – make up a new plan together and let the freelancer suggest new terms.
Try to ask him:
– Matt, what if you don’t manage to finish in time? What will we do?
Let him suggest his own punishment.
Freelancer is a gifted child. If he were more grown-up and concentrated, he would have already started his own business. Do not expect adult behavior from him, as well as admitting his fault or making a timely warning. He is busy surviving.
Lies, procrastination, turned off phone, elusion, excessive promises, wish to appear better than he really is can be considered as the essential elements of freelancer’s behavior and should not be taken seriously.
Just as every child, a freelancer can be influenced upon with the help of yelling and rudeness, pressure and threatening not to pay him. However, these measures won’t be effective for too long – it is easier for a freelancer to lay low than to deal with a tyrant. Be wiser – try to overwhelm him with your insistence, respect and attention. Set an example. Be respectable and the freelancer will not want to deceive you.
Drawing a final conclusion
Stick to the conviction that freelancer is a child in his profession. It is difficult for him not to let you down. Become a wise mentor and you will see how productive a freelancer can be.