5 Ways to Treat Your Freelancer Like a Valued Employee

freelancer valued employee

You probably hire freelancers because they are cheaper than hiring in-house, full-time staff, so you might not think about your freelancers as employees. But, when you are hiring a freelancer, you want to focus on retention.

As a freelancer, every new client relationship is a learning curve for both of us. Sometimes the fit is easy and sometimes it takes a little bit of finagling. Regardless, when the voice and style is pinpointed, the work is better for both of us; the result is ideal for the client’s needs and preferences without a lot of back-and-forth, while the process is far less guesswork for me.

Hire a Freelancer to be Part of the Team

I have worked as a freelance illustrator, graphic designer, therapeutic art instructor, photographer and writer. In every area it is the same—I work with those who appreciate what I do, and I avoid clients that take advantage.

I think it’s easy for clients to forget that there is a person working on the other end of the computer. Freelance work is not automated by a program. For every assignment, there is someone working to navigate the instructions and understand the direction you want. For every message or review, there is someone on the other end whose day is impacted in some way.

Some clients are amazing, while others are almost not part of the process. Both of these relationships are fine with me. But there are also the clients that have incredible expectations they don’t express well and they aren’t willing to pay for. Those are the clients that probably have a very high turnover rate with their freelancers and probably have trouble getting consistent content.

Always Keep it Professional

You are coming to a freelancer to get a job done. Your time is valuable and you are paying money to get content created. But, trust me—no one wants to waste their time here. If your writer misunderstands your instructions or makes a mistake, treating your freelancer with professionalism can go a long ways towards a relationship that benefits you. If we have to fix a mistake or rework something to get it in the right direction, we lose time too. And, as professionals, we are expected to be courteous, even when clients are extremely rude and demanding. But, don’t be that rude client. You can catch more flies with honey than than vinegar.

Don’t Expect Normal Hours From a Freelancer

We do not clock in. That means that our office hours range wildly and may not be every business day. This is good for you, because it means that we are working even late at night or on the weekends. It also means we may not always respond within a few hours during the business day. Many of us have other jobs or things that we are doing during those times. There is a reason we work as freelancers.

That being said, many of us do at least check in throughout the day. But sometimes I check in until 9am and then come back after 9pm.

Think Through Your Instructions and Expectations

While most of us don’t mind communication with clients, we are not getting paid to go back and forth with you. So, treat your freelancers like their time is valuable to you. Clients that are hardest to work for:

  • Have no clue what they want (but still have very strong preferences)
  • Give little instruction (but a very specific direction or goal they don’t disclose)
  • Give a ton of instructions they haven’t whittled down at all (we have to wade through all the clutter to figure out what they are really looking for).

The best clients are the ones who can provide a few key examples, explain the content subject and give an example of the voice they use for their brand (usually a current blog page or website page they are happy with). Some clients even provide outlines or research to include if they are very specific about what they are going for. These clients usually end up happy with what they get because the writer understands the purpose and direction of the article.

Give the Positive Feedback Too

This is totally a bonus, but feel free to tell your freelancer when they get you exactly the work you need. Of course our goal is to provide what you are paying for, but we usually hear when things are wrong. Hearing I am hitting the mark keeps me going in the right direction. Without any feedback, I always wonder if I should be doing things differently at all. Sometimes I even have clients elect to pay a bonus, which is certainly a plus!

Overall, if you treat your freelancer like a part of your team, you will reap the benefits of an employee you pay by the project. So, find freelancers you love and keep them on board for a stronger remote team.

Alethea M graduated from the University of Saint Francis in 2009 with a B.A., double-majoring in Communication Arts and Graphic Design and double-focusing in Illustration and Computer Arts. She photographed the Saint Francis football team for a paid work study all four years she spent at the school. Immediately after graduating, she got a job at a non-profit company teaching art to young children and running their art program. She moved on to work as a copywriter and graphic designer for another non-profit company in Indiana as a Marketing Assistant for two years. She now spends her time as a wife, mother, freelance writer, and photographer.


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