Not too long ago, agencies hid freelancers behind the curtain as they quietly pumped out work. Today, success requires you to view freelancers as strategic assets. With the growing gig economy and technology making it so easy to work remotely, it is becoming irrelevant whether
a worker is a freelancer or belongs to permanent staff. Clients do not care who does the job — they want to know you have the experts available to produce quality work on time and within budget.
Here's why you need to create a freelancer strategy
Many agencies look to freelancers to provide cost-effective, quick labour. However, if you do not manage freelancers appropriately, they can cost more time and money than you realise. It takes time to find them, manage them, and to fix their work if something goes wrong. These hours add up and take away from your margins.
When you hire freelancers correctly, i.e. build them into your business model, your bottom line will benefit from the consistently superb quality work they produce. Freelancers add value. Most projects need a team of experts, and few (if any) agencies can have them all on their staff. Additionally, the best talent for the project may not be available locally.
Freelancers help you reduce overheads, increase specialisation and improve service levels. Providing higher-quality output and lower costs to clients is why you should be gearing your agency towards operating via freelance talent.
Developing an arsenal of trusted freelancers, who are well-coached in your company culture, and creating systems for scaling, can help your agency grow without straining your budget or sacrificing quality. Here are the top 8 things your agency should do to build your business model around freelancers:
1. Have a wide bench of talent
Instead of the same teams hiring the same freelancers, ensure you have a wide choice of freelancers on the bench which any team can access when they need specific talent.
2. Consider their rates, as well as their ratings & reputation
Thoroughly vet talent until you can trust their work is up to scratch and that they know how to deliver what you expect. Contact your peers to chat to them about their experiences with some of the freelancers you are considering adding to your bench of talent, or use online freelance resources where they are rated by the companies who have hired them before.
3. Develop relationships with them
To improve work consistency, shorten ramp-up time and minimise costs, build relationships with your go-to freelancers and ensure you always have a reliable pool of talent on hand.
4. Let freelancers know they are assets
You are hiring freelancers to add value, so treat them like they are valuable. To benefit from cost-effective, high-quality results, your freelancers must feel that their talent and experience are beneficial to your team.
5. Give them all the information they need
When a freelancer is empowered with all the information they need for a project, they become more dedicated and willing to collaborate on making said project successful. You can further assist them to develop a deeper understanding of the client and project by including them in relevant meetings and connecting them to the right people to answer their questions.
6. Communicate expectations clearly
Be upfront about what the work entails, what the deliverables are, and what success looks like for you. On the other side of the coin, invite the freelancer to express their expectations too, so that you know what they will be billing, have an idea of their availability, and any other essential details which may affect the project.
7. Bring contractors onboard earlier
Before your pitch to a new client / for a new project, bring your freelancers onboard to help shape the project scope with their specific expertise and assist in defining what success looks like, as well as to better estimate the rate your agency will charge for the work you are pitching.
8. Give them access to your tools
From day one, give your freelancers access to your collaboration tools, such as Asana or Slack. This promotes open communication, which helps them resolve issues efficiently and hold each other accountable.
The bottom line for agencies hiring freelancers is to find the best possible talent and use them wisely. By building a contingent workforce into your business model, you can increase your agency's immediate margins and ensure that the value of what you are offering grows over time.