4 Potential Challenges of Working with Freelancers and How to Overcome Them

By Diane Domeyer, Executive Director, The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms.

If you’re like the majority of creative managers, your company uses freelancers. And for good reason. Hiring a mix of full-time and project professionals enables companies to keep costs down and access specialized skills needed for new business initiatives. Today, freelancers make up an average of 14 percent of U.S. creative teams, according to a recent survey of advertising and marketing executives by The Creative Group.

What’s more, many are doing higher quality work than before. Of the executives interviewed, 39 percent said the caliber of freelance talent has grown stronger. This increase may be due to the many top-notch designers who are embracing the gig economy at a time when social media, digital portfolios and free website builders have made it easy for individuals to market their services and build their clientele.

Project professionals can save businesses money and provide them with a competitive edge, but it takes a little legwork to build productive relationships with them. Here are some common obstacles managers shared with us, followed by tips for overcoming them.

Challenge #1: Making Them Feel Like Part Of The Team

Freelancers are in that funny gray area. They’re temporary professionals, yet they need all the background that full-time employees have if they are to deliver quality work. A quarter of creative executives admitted they find it difficult to integrate freelancers with the in-house team.

Solution: Orientation isn’t just for full-time staff. Solid onboarding is especially important if the relationship will be long-term. This means providing them with information about not just the project but also your organization and its culture. Give freelancers a company email address if they’ll be communicating with clients. Introduce them to the team as you would any new hire, talking up their work history and expertise. Invite those who are based in the office to staff meetings and social events. Add them to the office email list so they’ll know when free food is available in the break room. Ultimately, your goal should be to treat full-time and project workers as equal contributors to the team.

Challenge #2: Negotiating Pay Rates

Twenty-two percent of the executives we surveyed felt negotiating payment is the toughest aspect of working with freelancers. Set rates too low, and you won’t attract top talent. And while you may want to offer top dollar to attract the cream of the crop, you have to keep an eye on the budget.

Solution: To arrive at a reasonable yet competitive rate, use resources like The Creative Group 2018 Salary Guide to benchmark what you pay. This annual report lists starting salaries for more than 80 creative positions in the U.S. and Canada, based on actual placements made by The Creative Group.

And don’t be caught off-guard if a candidate asks for higher pay. Make sure you are prepared to negotiate compensation with freelancers by doing your research, knowing your limit and offering non-monetary benefits where possible.

Challenge #3: Finding Skilled Freelancers

With all the creative talent out there, you know the ones you need for your project are out there — somewhere. But how do you find them? Where do you start? This was the top concern for 19 percent of the respondents.

Solution: The internet is filled with job boards and forums designed to connect freelancers and clients. Social media is another way to put out the word. To save yourself the time and hassle of finding talent, though, work with a staffing agency. Specialized recruiters can handle much or all the sifting and vetting for you, leaving you with more time to focus on other business priorities.

Challenge #4: Communicating or Collaborating Effectively With Them

Many freelancers work remotely, which means you don’t have the regular face time that you do with in-house team members. Of the creative executives surveyed, 19 percent felt the greatest challenge of working with freelancers is communicating and collaborating effectively with them.

Solution: The key to working well with project professionals is to treat them as you would anyone else on your creative team. Give them full access to workplace communication and collaboration tools. Freelancers also have questions and creative ideas, so include them in departmental meetings. And don’t forget about providing them with regular feedback, virtually or in person. The more points of contact you have with them and they have with you, the stronger the relationship will be.

Gig workers are here to stay, and it pays to tap into this market. Learn how to make the most of freelancers’ talents, and you’ll increase the caliber and productivity of your creative team.