When your business needs intersect with the ideal freelancer for the job, there’s nothing better. Without adding overhead or staffing issues, you can dramatically improve your creative and business results, and those synergies will increase over time. Here are six simple ways you can motivate a freelancer to outperform on your projects over the longer haul:
- Referrals. Let’s start this discussion from the principle that there’s a big psychological difference between a referral freely given and one that is requested. (Think about your own experience in your business.) Referrals are essential to many a freelancer’s livelihood, because there’s significantly more ease and better odds in making a warm call than a cold one. To make the biggest impact try these ideas:
- Give a heads up. Notifying your freelancer that a call is coming (or that she should reach out to someone) allows her to put on their “game face” rather than being surprised. It makes you look better when someone can say, “John Q. Client said I should expect your call/give you a call” instead of “Uhh. Who are you and how did you find me?”
- Provide a basic 411. Shoot over a quick email or make a call to give the freelancer some idea of what the person is like and what the project is. Ideally, freelancers will want an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the prospect’s website and other publicly available information. This will also make you look better as the referring source!
- If you’re in doubt, ask first. On occasion, you’ll have an opportunity to connect a freelancer with someone you don’t know yourself, or for a project that might not be a fit. In such cases, it makes sense to inquire about availability and interest before initiating introductions. If your freelancer isn’t right, they may know someone who is, and you can eliminate a step.
- Testimonials. The rise of LinkedIn has made this a no-brainer. It takes just a few minutes for you to type a few summary thoughts into a freelancer’s interface, but the residual positive benefits can last a freelancer for years–which makes this is one of the best ways to motivate a freelancer. Not a LinkedIn fan? Write up a quick email praising a job well done, and let them know where they’re welcome to share it.
- Samples. Most freelancers appreciate a copy of the final work, whether it’s a pdf, magazine, book, whitepaper or brochure. They know you’re busy, however, and they don’t want to impose or nag–even when they’re very proud of what they’ve accomplished. So, make it an automatic part of your wrap-up process after a project has been completed. (Don’t forget to advise freelancers if it’s OK for them to feature the project in their online portfolio, or if it needs to be kept private.)
- Doing a favor. Sometimes, a quick, informal trade-out of services can be beneficial, particularly if your relationship is creative-to-creative. Examples: A writer can do a quick proofread of a graphic designer’s website; a web developer can help a photographer work through a glitch in WordPress; and an illustrator can let a writer use one of their images on a blog for free. Knowing that you’re there in a pinch will make the freelancer want to help you when you’ve got an emergency situation of your own.
- Social media. The more publicly you can give praise, the better–and social media offers numerous visible ways to motivate a freelancer:
- Tweet/re-tweet their content
- Link to their website or blog from your blog
- Share their Facebook/Google+ posts
- Handwritten notes. Call me old fashioned, but I am a diehard believer in the power of pen and paper. In my own business, I use handwritten notes extensively to thank prospects (even if I don’t get the job) and clients (when I receive a referral or a check). But the real impact of handwritten notes can be seen on my win wall: a large corkboard on which I’ve pinned notes from clients. This is a constant visible reminder, and a mental incentive to do so again in the future.
As a high school coach, I’ve learned over the years that you can’t do much to help an athlete who doesn’t have at least a flicker of internal fire–but there’s a lot you can do if there’s a spark. The same is true of independent creatives. Over time, you’ll determine the gestures that work best for individual freelancers based on what motivates them–and if you’re not sure, just ask.
This post is adapted from Jake Poinier’s Dr. Freelance guide, Help! My Freelancers Are Driving Me Crazy: 12 Keys to Driving Loyalty and Results from Your Creative Workforce–available on Amazon.