Working with Freelancers Tips

Read these 17 Working with Freelancers Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Freelance Design tips and hundreds of other topics.

Working with Freelancers Tips has been rated 3.0 out of 5 based on 280 ratings and 1 user reviews.

Communicating with Freelancers

Artisan Talent Tip: It's important to take time zones into consideration when hiring a freelance graphic designer. A Chicago graphic designer may start his or her day an hour earlier than a Boston designer. If you're a Chicago designer looking for graphic design work in another state, make sure to communicate the time zone differences with your prospective employer. Missing a conference call on account of time differences is not the impression you want to make. Keep your design career organized by switching your graphic design schedule to your employers' time zones.

What do I need to know about hiring a freelance designer?

Hiring a Freelance Designer

Professional freelance designers can keep costs down because they don't have to pay for overhead the way companies do. Furthermore, freelance designers who work out of their homes have been known to provide higher quality services than professionals in the more expensive design firms.

There are several sites where you can post a project for freelance designers to bid on. You can also see what other clients thought of a candidate's work. For even more feedback about candidates, many freelancers allow you to contact previous clients for references.

*Be as specific as possible when posting a project. This will ensure that you get the most accurate price for your project.


The Lure of Inexpensive Freelancers

Artisan Talent Tip: If design is a big part of what you do -- or if you simply want to appeal to sophisticated markets -- it's probably cost-effective to pay more for design that appeals to your target demographic. For instance, if you make high-end jewelry worn by Hollywood starlets, you'd probably want to hire a Los Angeles graphic designer with local knowledge and the experience to design your site.


Freelancers at a Distance

Artisan Talent Tip: You might find that the expertise you need is only available at a distance, or you might find that a designer in Kansas City charges much less than New York graphic designers. Whether it's for reasons of expertise (the best packaging designer is in a city far away) or cost (New York graphic designers cost more than designers in, say, Kansas City) communication is the key to making a long-distance freelancer relationship work.


In-House or Off-Site?

Artisan Talent Tip: The decision to bring a freelance designer onto your work site depends on space, software, team considerations and the nature of the job being assigned. Consider using an off-site freelancer if you are already cramped for space and workstations, need the freelancer to use software you don't have, don't want to upset existing staff by adding another person they need to train and work with, or need expertise that's not available in your local area.

How can I get started as a freelance writer in my community?

The Power of Networking

If you are interested in marketing yourself around town as a freelance writer, make up business cards with your contact information and distribute them at every event you attend. Post your information up on community bulletin boards and offer to write free stories for your weekly paper or community newsletters. A few published stories, even if you did not get paid, go a long way in beginning a portfolio of your work. These are all good ways to put out feelers and get your feet wet in the freelance industry.

When would I want to train a freelancer?

Training Freelancers

Sometimes you may find that it's worth investing in training a freelancer, even if that person is not a permanent member of your staff. These occasions include:

  • When you need certain expertise that is not available in your market.
  • When you need all staffers who use certain equipment to have safety training.
  • When you are introducing new equipment or software that the freelancer will need to use.
  • When you want to invest in a skilled freelancer with the hope of bringing him or her on permanently.
  • As a way of giving a valued freelancer a "raise" when your budget doesn't allow for higher freelance rates.

What if I want to a freelancer to fill a permanent opening?

Freelancers as Job Candidates

Smart employers sometimes give freelance designers a few short assignments when they are considering hiring a full-time person. Often these will be in-house, so the employer can observe the freelancer's people skills.

It's a good idea to be up-front with the freelancer about the possibility of permanent work -- without making any promises, of course. For one thing, you may find that the freelancer doesn't want to join your organization full-time, preferring an independent career.

Be aware that if you work through an agency and hire one of their freelancers as a full-timer, you will probably have to pay a fee. Your agency rep should explain this early in the process. Think of this fee as the price you pay for getting prescreened job candidates, rather than having to wade through dozens of applicants' design portfolios yourself.

How can I prevent problems with freelance payments?

Paying Freelancers

Freelance designers, like any other suppliers, should get paid according to their contract. Yet some businesses may feel that they can delay or ignore this obligation. Others may withhold all or part of a payment if there is a dispute over the quality or quantity of the work performed.

Good freelance contracts make provisions for these cases, providing a "kill fee" (usually half the contracted rate) if a project is completed but not used, and a late fee for the client who puts off payment.

If a freelancer or an agency asks you for these provisions, don't be alarmed. These requests mean you're more likely to be working with an experienced professional -- and therefore more likely to get good value for your money.

My freelancer wants a testimonial, but I don't want to give one. What can I do?

Freelancer Testimonials

Often, a freelance designer will ask a client for a testimonial to help market his or her services. You'll find many freelancers using such testimonials on their own Web pages to bolster their marketing.

If you had a good experience with the freelancer, by all means agree to this. If you don't have time to write something yourself, let the freelancer write it and give you the opportunity to edit. You'll be doing that person a favor and promoting your own business as one that is aware of quality design.

If you are asked to give a testimonial for someone who you don't feel you can honestly recommend, you have a choice. One response is to be kind but honest: "I would like to recommend you, but based on your performance with our deadlines, I can't honestly do so." Another is simply to indicate that you don't feel you know the person well enough to give a recommendation.

Either of these approaches should be enough to send a smart freelancer looking elsewhere for a testimonial.

How often should I check in with a freelancer?

Communicating with Freelancers

A good freelancer will ask at the beginning of your relationship about how you prefer to keep in communication, what kind of updates you want on progress, and who she should contact in case questions or problems arise on the project.

If the freelancer doesn't ask, provide this information anyway. Good communication is key to the success of a freelancer relationship. This is especially true if you're working at a distance and can't see each other in person.

If the freelancer's project is important to your organization -- and it must be, or why are you paying for someone to do it? -- then it's worth taking the time to check in and ask "How's it going?" every week or so. You may also be able to provide information that helps the freelancer do the job to meet your precise needs.

What should be in a freelance design contract?

Contracts and Freelancing

An experienced freelance designer may have a standard contract for you, but if you hire a lot of freelancers, your organization will want to have its own contract available. This should be gone over by your organization's lawyer before you ask anyone to sign it.

The contract should include answers to these questions:

  • What is the specific work being assigned?
  • What is the deadline for that work?
  • What is the payment schedule for the project?
  • Who will own the copyright to the completed work?
Other issues you may want to address in the contract:
  • Ask the freelancer to warrant that the work is free of plagiarism and copyright violations, and to take responsibility for any claims that may arise.
  • Bind the freelancer to confidentiality regarding your organization's plans, strategies, customer lists, etc.

What do I need to know before I hire a freelancer?

Before You Hire a Freelancer

Freelance relationships go more smoothly when you, the client, go into them properly prepared. Before you place an advertisement or contact a freelance designer, you should be ready to answer these questions:

  • What specific work do you want done?
  • What is the goal of this work?
  • How does this project fit into your organizational goals?
  • What expertise is needed to do this work well?
  • What is your budget for this project?
  • What is your deadline for this project?
  • What is your plan for revisions and extras that may come up during the design process?

The kid next door can use Photoshop. Why should I pay a pro?

The Lure of Inexpensive Freelancers

When your organization has limited money for marketing, it's natural to ask "How can I get this done more cheaply?" With design work, though, it's true that you get what you pay for.

Sure, your brother's kid might be able to put up a Web site. Will it sell your product? Will it target the people most likely to buy from you? Will it stand as a professional, appealing representation of your organization? If you just need your customers to be able to find your phone number and directions to your store, the inexepnsive solution may be OK.

How can I be sure a distant freelancer is doing my job?

Freelancers at a Distance

You may be understandably leery of hiring freelancers who work hundreds or even thousands of miles from your site. How can you know they're working on your project? How do you know they'll do it right? Ideas for handling this relationship well include:

  • Start with one or two smaller projects to be sure the freelancer is reliable.
  • Ask questions to be sure the freelancer has all the equipment and software needed to complete the job.
  • Ask for references and call them.
  • Check in frequently to see how things are going.

Should I bring a freelance designer onto my work site?

In-House or Off-Site?

Bring a freelance designer onto your work site if you:

  • Have a suitable computer and desk available.
  • Are thinking of hiring a full-time person and want to use the freelance gig as a job tryout.
  • Want or need to be able to communicate frequently as the work is being done.
  • Want to include the freelancer in consultations with clients and non-design departments.

Where can I find freelancers?

Where the Freelancers Are

Whether you are looking to hire a freelancer or you are a freelancer looking for work, there are plenty of freelance sites online geared to match professionals with companies. Employers can search specific positions and scan resumes of professionals. Freelancers, in turn, can seek out work based on the positions that companies have posted. Full-time, in-house employment sites work in ways that are similar to freelance sites. In some cases, however, the freelance employment sites act as go-betweens, helping to sort out payment issues and common questions about the freelance hiring process.

Not finding the advice and tips you need on this Freelance Design Tip Site? Request a Tip Now!

Guru Spotlight
Patricia Walters-Fischer