In recent years, freelancing has emerged as a viable career option for many individuals ranging from IT specialists to PhD writing editors. The emergence of freelancing has also proved to be a major boon for SMEs, as they can now get their work done as per their requirements without hiring individuals permanently. Freelancers provide these companies with the option of hiring them on a project basis, thus helping them in saving costs. However, managing freelancers is not always a straightforward task. Companies need to be tactful in order to get the most out of them. So here are 8 secrets which could help SMEs in managing their freelancer workforce:
Encourage two-way communication
Communication is one of the most important factors that can determine whether SMEs are able to work together with freelancers. Additionally, communication should always be a two-way street. SME owners should not be the only one providing feedback to their freelancer workforce. They should also get the opportunity to talk to the company regarding the business. SMEs often make the mistake of not bothering about the needs of the freelancers. They should be the ones to encourage freelancers to ask questions on a regular basis.
Treat them like partners
SMEs should treat their freelancer workforce like their partners. This means that there should be no hierarchy, and both sides should be working together towards common goals. In addition, SME owners should always make an effort to be transparent and open with their freelancer workforce. They need to keep the freelancers in the loop in terms of the company’s goals, expansion plans, as well as any change in working mechanisms. This would send across a message to the freelancers that they are not workers and are actually partners.
Set the right expectations
SME owners also need to set the right expectations when it comes to freelancers. From day one, the roles of the freelancers need to be clear. In addition, they need to be welcomed appropriately. If SME owners need to do a bit of hand-holding in the initial days, so be it. However, in the long run, freelancers need to be informed that they should take complete ownership of their work. Setting the right expectations proves to be beneficial for the freelancers as well as the SME.
Do not micromanage
One of the most important aspects of managing a freelancer workforce is to make sure that business owners are not micromanaging things. This can prove to be a major point of conflict. It is always better to allow the freelancers the freedom to work according to their own comfort. At the same time, this does not mean that freelancers do not need to be managed. The ideal situation is to make sure that nobody is managing them but not interfering with their work. Micromanaging can give them a sense that they are not trusted sufficiently. Therefore, it is important to provide them with some degree of freedom and, at the same time, motivate them to do assignments more effectively.
Build strong relationships
As is the case with any employee or contractor, SME owners need to develop interpersonal relationships with their freelancer workforce. The best way to do this is to understand the needs and constraints of the freelancers. Many freelancers choose this field because of certain constraints. It is important for SME owners to build a strong understanding of these constraints and plan projects accordingly. Building strong relationships also means that your workforce would be willing to go out of the way to help you in case a need arises. Such a situation could prove to be invaluable.
Match your budgets
Another key aspect of managing a freelancer workforce is to ensure that the budgets are well defined in advance. This is because budgetary conflicts can prove to be extremely dangerous for an SME. In many cases, SMEs have small budgets, and they want to make the most of them. In order to do so, it is best to have an open conversation regarding project budgets with the freelancers. This would negate the chances of a conflict and make sure that there is enhanced transparency. SME owners could also point out examples of previous projects in order to arrive at the appropriate budget for a project.
SME owners also need to think about developing the skills and knowledge levels of their freelancer workforce. Each freelancer has his/her own expectations in terms of their growth and development. SMEs need to have a comprehensive plan in place such that it can help in skill building as well as improving their knowledge. Such a coherent development plan would motivate the freelancers and make them more likely to stick to the organisation. This could help an SME in the long run by reducing hiring and onboarding costs. Coherent development is something that always pays in the long run.
One of the biggest secrets of managing a freelancer workforce is to remain truthful with them. SME owners that are truthful about the length of their association with the freelancers, as well as the frequency of new projects, are more likely to retain them for longer periods of time. In addition to this, by remaining truthful, SME owners can develop a good reputation in the job market. This can help them in attracting more skilled workers, thereby becoming the employer of choice. Thus, remaining truthful is a great way to attract and retain the best contractors.
Anna Clarke is the owner of online writing company 15 Writers. She is a successful entrepreneur with over 20 years’ experience in freelancing, academic dissertation writing consulting, specialising in Business, Economics, Finance, Marketing and Management.