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The Unconventional Guide to Work

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What Every Agency Ought to Know About Working With Freelancers

Outsourcing some of your agency work to freelancers can be an excellent idea. A freelancer can handle work overflow during busy periods, preventing you from the need to hire more staff. A freelancer might also have special skills required for a job that you can't fill in-house, such as content-writingand web development at a graphic design studio, etc.

But if you've never hired a freelancer before, it can be difficult to know where to begin. How do you find the perfect candidate? What skills do they need? How do you approach them about a project? How do you deal with copyright? Below, we've outlined the top 7 considerations you need to make when hiring a freelancer:

1. Get a Recommendation

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Freelancers are a dime a dozen these days, and it can be difficult to tell the wheat from the chaff in an initial meeting. Sure, their work might be stunning, but how will you know about their work habits? Do they meet deadlines? How much handholding do they need?

Ask other contacts in the agency or business world for a recommendation. Not only will they be able to point you in the direction of a skilled freelancer, but they'll also be able to give you anecdotal evidence of their work habits and talent.

Google their name, check out their Linkedin profile for recommendations and their background. Linkedin recommendations are extremely trustworthy and can help you in picking the right freelancer out of those top 3 that you may have selected.

2. Choosing Your Freelancer

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With a few recommendations in hand, you contact three freelancers and start the conversation about the project. They all seem competent with good portfolios. Which one do you choose?

What you're looking for is a good combination of price, style, personality, and process. A short in-person conversation, phone call or Skype convo will give you a good idea of which candidate you'd like to work with. Come prepared with a list of questions - you should strive to find out how the freelancer deals with feedback, what their process is like, and how effectively they communicate.

3. Define the Project Parameters

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The agency/freelancer relationship works much more symbiotically if you take the time before you approach them to outline the parameters of the job. This means having an idea of your key milestones, all the details of the deliverables (things like format, dimensions, colour scheme, word count, etc), and the in-house resources the freelancer can utilize.

4. Discuss the Budget

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Freelance pricing can be an elusive beast - every freelancer prices their services differently, and it can often seem as if they have no rhyme or reason for how they set prices.

Know the amount you have to spend before you go into the project. Find out how the freelancer charges - do they work on an hourly rate, or charge a per-project fee? What does their fee include? Be upfront from the beginning about your budget, but be prepared to negotiate on what you will get for that money.

5. Clear Communication Process

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Communication is key to a successful freelancer/agency relationship. Set up a single communication point through the agency - one person who talks to the freelancer - and make sure both parties understand the guidelines for communication, such as when replies to emails are expected. Problems arise when expectations aren't set properly and there isn't good communication through the project.

6. Freelancers and Copyright

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Copyright ownership and transfer of rights is a vital part of any agency/freelancer contract. As the agency, you can't sell a copyright on to a client unless the freelancer has signed over rights to you. Ignorance about copyright on the sides of both parties can result in costly legal fees for the client down the road.

Copyright law varies state-to-state and country-to-country, but it pays to have a (hopefully short and not too expensive) conversation with an intellectual property lawyer so that you understand the law as it applies to your situation. The Kunvay intellectual property blog has a useful piece explaining the ins and outs of US copyright law as it applies to agencies + freelancers. Before taking on a freelancer, the copyright issues need to be carefully outlined in the contract.

7. Create a Style Guide

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Image credit: Yale.edu

A style guide is a short document created for each project that outlines the formatting, language, colour scheme, brand elements, and other style aspects of the project. This is essential reading for all freelancers, as it ensures that what they're working on is aligned with the work being done in-house. The more information the freelancer is given about the project and the client, the better the job they will do.

Working with a freelancer can be a joy, or a nightmare. The key to a symbiotic relationship is communication - taking the time to carefully outline the project parameters, come up with an action plan, and openly discuss all aspects of the job, including price and copyright.

Has your agency ever hired a freelancer? Are you a freelancer who works with agencies? Share your experiences below.