Do you use freelance talent: writers, consultants, developers, or other forms of freelance talent? It’s an excellent way to absorb ebbs and flows in activity. It is also good for those special situations when a particular talent or skill makes the difference between good and great. A freelancer can bring fresh ideas and perspective to bear on problems or challenges faced by your business. So, assuming you use freelancers, the question becomes,

“How do I get the most out of freelance talent?”

Over the years we have identified six best practices that help us work with freelance talent. They are tightly intertwined and they are all important. Follow them and you will get great work.

1) Brief them well.

As talented as they may be, they can’t read your mind. A good brief has a number of benefits to you and the freelancer. By taking the time to craft a thorough brief you are much more likely to get a good product and avoid expensive rework. For the freelancer, a clear brief with understandable objectives, requirements and specific deliverables helps them manage their time and resources.

To speed up, slow down.

2) Treat them with respect.

Freelancers are people, they are also professionals running micro businesses with multiple priorities and limited resources. Respect them as the professionals and business people they are by taking the time to write a good brief. Did I mention how important the brief is?

Listen respectfully to their advice and feedback throughout the process. You hired them for their expertise. That same expertise may take you to areas you hadn’t considered, which may make you uncomfortable. This is OK. You don’t have to agree with everything but, if you disagree, be respectful and tell them why.

3) Don’t quibble over price.

If you want the best work from a freelancer don’t try to knock down the price they charge. If this is what they charge, it’s what they have been getting, and it reflects their professional worth. Accept it and trust that they will deliver value for the price. Do this and they will work extra hard for you and you will get a lot more than you’re paying for. If their price is beyond your budget that’s OK. Tell them, and look for someone in your price range.

When the project is finished, if you think the price was too much for what was delivered, tell them why you didn’t see the value you expected. They’re professionals, you won’t hurt their feelings. And, if they exceeded your expectations, give them a bonus. It says a lot.

Finally, pay them on time. Most freelancers are accustomed to net 30 days. Whatever you agree to, stick to it. Never let an invoice go past due. Freelancers are micro businesses, holes in cash flow have a huge impact.

4) Be loyal.

When you find freelance talent that suits your needs keep sending them work. If you are loyal to them they will be loyal to you. Situations will arise when you will be reaching into a hat for a rabbit. Freelance talent is more likely to bump a job to help you find the rabbit if they know the favor will be returned and if they know that their invoice will be paid on time.

Tell your friends and colleagues about the freelancers you work with. You want them to be busy so they are still freelancing the next time you need them. And since you showed your loyalty by making referrals they will find the time to take on your project.

5) Trust them.

Things will go wrong. Accept that an error or communication breakdown has occurred. They didn’t start your project with the intention of making a mistake. This doesn’t mean you ignore the issue. Part of gaining mutual trust is honest feedback. Talk to them about what happened. Dig into the root cause. They’re professionals, they can handle it. You will both benefit from understanding what went wrong.

Don’t, under any circumstances, make the freelancer the whipping boy for challenges that arise. They need to know you have their back. This works both ways. When there is mutual trust, a freelancer will alert you to an issue they see, before it becomes an issue everyone sees.

Whenever possible, let the freelancer produce their work. The fine line between work being great, and creating something exceptional, lies in the execution. Trust them and pay them to see the project through. It tells them you believe in great work and you believe in them. The next time they work with you they will do an even better job.

6) Thank them when the job is done.

The easiest thing on the list but the one most often overlooked. When the job is completed say “thank you.” Let them know the status of the job, provide feedback on how the project went, give them samples of the finished work. Everyone gains from this simple, zero cost, low effort gesture.