So now you’ve done a trial project, have gone through proposals, completed reference checks and found the right freelancer. Great! You’re probably thinking that it’s now time to get your project moving forward as soon as possible and you want the freelancer to get to work immediately.
Although it is essential to start as soon as possible, providing a complete onboarding process is crucial for the success of the project (and the success of your business later on).
Because the idea of freelance workers is a relatively new phenomenon, many businesses ignore the onboarding process entirely resulting in constant headaches.
Hence, it’s important to spend time onboarding the freelancer. Moreover, onboarding isn’t just about telling the freelancer what the project scope is – it’s about connecting them to your company, building loyalty, decreasing turnover rate, and helping them feel like they’re a part of your company from the start.
Although it might seem counterintuitive to onboard a specialist, you shouldn’t skip this phase. Onboarding is vital to set the foundation for your upcoming collaboration.
When freelancers start working with you, they usually have no idea how you run your business, what your brand tone is like, what your objectives are, how often you want to communicate, and what is expected from them. Moreover, unlike full-time employees, they can’t just pop their head around the corner to ask their co-worker questions. The result? They will either bombard you with emails asking you questions or shy away from that and do what they think is best.
Both cases aren’t ideal situations. You have to understand that independently working might make the freelancer feel like “an outsider”, and when they get out of sync, it affects your brand directly and can pose a threat to your business.
By giving the freelancer a general idea of how their task is part of a much bigger “goal” or “vision” for the brand, you essentially provide them with a sense of belonging and motivation to perfect the submission. You can’t have them not understand what your mission, vision, values, and goals are and expect them to submit work that aligns with all of that.
When you set clear expectations, you make sure that the freelancer exactly delivers what you want from them and it sets a foundation for smooth communication between both parties.
Employee engagement is one of the top contributors to the success of an organization and the retention of employees. It is the same with freelancers. By introducing the freelancer to the company, they’ll have a clear understanding of job expectations and a clear understanding of what it takes for the success of the company.
One of the main benefits of onboarding freelancers is the fact that it allows them to ask questions and learn about the processes. This step will eliminate the need to send multiple emails due to misunderstandings.
Freelancers who are onboarded well are much more likely to stay, and the turnover rate drastically decreases.
Onboarding starts as early as possible, and you have the option of starting the process from the minute on you create your project brief. Advisable simplifies the entire process by sharing your brief (that contains much information needed for onboarding freelancers) with the right candidates and screening them, thus saving you time.
There are significant differences between the onboarding processes of freelancers and full-time employees. But how do both workflows differ in detail?
Most companies onboard their new employees for the sole purpose of helping them “grasp” what the company is all about and trying to fit them into the company’s culture. For freelancers, the primary goal of onboarding should be efficiency. The onboarding process should focus on how you can get the freelancer to be as productive and as efficient as possible by providing them with all the needed information to save you both time and effort.
Onboarding full-timers can easily be a multi-week process, but onboarding a freelancer does not need that same length of commitment at all.
Freelancers can usually begin as soon as possible, and you won’t need to wait for them to leave their previous company.
Bringing aboard a new full-time employee usually means a new desk, computer, phone, benefits, and much more. For a freelancer, in most cases, there are no significant extra costs (except your time to onboard them).
When it comes to planning your onboarding process, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can use the following workflow to bring your freelancers aboard.
The first step is choosing the right freelancer and making sure that you have selected the person with the right experience and a portfolio that matches your brand.
Onboarding should start as early as the interview. There should be a small section (usually found in the project brief) that includes information about your company and its culture and explains what you expect from the freelancer.
Once you’ve chosen the freelancer, make sure to collect all of their contact details so you can keep an open line of communication. That includes email, phone number, what their available working hours are or if they are they free on weekends.
Make a list of any paperwork you might need them to sign. Will you have an NDA? Do they need to sign a contract? Have they signed Form W-9 for freelancers? Make sure the contract states everything needed from them.
Let the freelancer know how you would like to pay and agree on a payment method that works for both of you.
Set aside some time so you can both have a conversation about what is expected from the freelancer if there are any special requirements.
The document should include all the details that are necessary for the successful completion of the project. The more specific you are, the more time you save yourself. Make sure all desired outcomes are set out clearly, as well.
We recommend saving yourself some time by creating workflow sheets, rough mockups, or actual documentation on how to get the job done.
Talk about how often you are available, how you are communicating, whether you use tools like Slack to stay updated, and who they can contact in case they have any questions.
Let the freelancers know about your objectives, what their responsibilities are, what tools and systems they need to use, timetables for team meetings, time zones and what you generally expect from them.
If your company prefers to use specific tools (whether they’re project management tools, communication tools or technical ones), you need to lay that out from that start. If the freelancer does not know how to use them, make sure you either send them tutorials, a manual or teach them. Make a checklist of all tools your company uses that they will need to know how to use.
A freelancer will not be as productive as you want them to be without proper training. It helps if you train them by letting them know how to do their job, what equipment to use, and so on.
It’s important to communicate the mission and vision of your company to the freelancer. Either do that by sending them “a brand kit”, guidelines, a marketing strategy, or a brand guide.
The onboarding process shouldn’t take much time but should still prepare your freelancer for the upcoming project(s). Following these tips will optimize the onboarding experience.
If the work requires any communication with the rest of the team, make sure you connect them with the team, so they feel appreciated and trusted from the start. This might involve adding them to a guest channel on Slack so you can keep all communication in the one place.
It’s much better to send all needed information in huge chunks instead of many small emails because freelancers usually have other clients as well that they need to keep up with. It’ll be better not to confuse and overwhelm them with a lot of different documents.
While onboarding, make sure your specialists have access to whatever software you’re using. For example, if they need to post blog articles on WordPress, make sure they have the credentials ready.
Freelancers usually shy away from asking too many questions, so make sure you always encourage them to ask questions and let them know that you are available in case they needed clarification on anything.
Let them know who’s responsible for what, provide them with a list of all the people they will be in contact with and maybe have one team meeting via Skype.
Make sure you check in every once in a while. Don’t let the onboarding process be the last they hear from you.
It’s important to be crystal clear when it comes to your project, your expectations, and the tasks expected of them.
Understand the existence of possible cultural differences, define any abbreviations they need to know and try to work around different time zones.