If your startup or local small business can’t afford an agency to handle creative needs such as your logo design, bio video, website build, social media strategy, or photo needs, you might decide to hire a creative freelancer.
This is almost certain to be someone who comes to you by way of referral. A peer in business knows someone, or one of your new employees has a friend who does whatever it is you’re looking for. On faith, you meet with this freelancer, and if the price seems good, then you probably feel safe giving him or her a chance.
Creatives and young freelancers tend to think differently and play by an entirely different set of rules than the rest of us are used to. This can make working with one a stressful experience, unless of course you are mentally prepared ahead of time.
While in an ideal world any freelancers you work with will have rhythms and systems in place to hold themselves accountable, since you can’t always count on this, here are 3 tips for making sure the work you need gets done, and gets done at the level you’re hoping for.
#1: Keep your projects short
Creative inspiration is like an interpretive dancer—it’s always changing things up, and it has to keep moving.
A creative might be very excited about your proposal up front, and a week later receive another proposal that’s equally exciting from somebody else—and although yours came first, the enthusiasm she had about it could become a thing of the past.
If you’re working with a freelance creative on a web design, a logo design, a photo project, or anything else, be specific up front about when you need the work done. If you don’t have a specific timeline, make one up… and try to keep it short.
#2: Schedule regular check-ins
When working with a creative freelancer, one way to keep the excitement alive (and to ensure the work gets done) is to schedule regular check-in points with specific expectations for each.
This does two things: One, it gets the creative to consistently return to the project. Even if he is up until midnight working on the project before each check-in, the work will get done.
Two, and maybe more importantly, it reinvigorates creative possibility for the freelancer, and this makes him or her want to dedicate more time to it. After hearing your feedback and envisioning next steps, the creative is likely to go back to the studio and get right to work on your project.
Set the check-in expectations up front, if you can, rather than as you go. Clear communication is key for this step.
#3: Pay consistently
Creatives are often underpaid, or paid late, and sometimes they get stiffed entirely. Stress does not help creativity or productivity—when any person can’t pay the bills or get food on the table, every other aspect of his or her life suffers.
Furthermore, when it comes to businesses that hire freelancers, those who do pay get more attention and higher quality work, as a rule.
Every creative will have a different pay structure—perhaps 50% up front, 50% on delivery, or a minimum deposit for all contracts—but you can usually negotiate this. If a creative is paid a specific amount at every check-in, for instance, he is likely to stay motivated to output his best work.
When you hear the quote for the work, propose a pay structure that will keep your creative on-task, and you can expect the highest version of his talent, and for your project to be delivered on time.
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