As anyone freelancer will tell you, establishing a long-lasting relationship with clients is vital to their business since it keeps a consistent cash flow and helps them connect with potential clients. The same can be said of businesses who employ freelancers. Not only do they bring experience and a skillset that your business desperately needs, they can also help you cut down expenses since you don’t have to hire full-time employee or rent a large office to house all of your employees.

But, how can you develop a strong relationship with freelancers? You can start by following these pieces of advice.

Create a Culture That Embraces Freelancers

With no disrespect, freelancers, consultants, or contractors aren’t the people who are just dropping off your much-needed office supplies. These are individuals who are sharing their expertise and skills in order to help your business grow. With that in mind, you need to create a culture that makes them feel like a part of the team and not just a vendor who pops in and out.

For starters, you could allow them to have a bio on the company’s website or create a ‘virtual’ office if the work remotely that contains a photo and bio. This information can be shared with other team members so that everyone is aware of the freelancer. Another suggestion, if the freelancer is local, is to invite them to office events like the annual holiday office party.

Invest in Freelancers Early-On

Business owners typically turn to independent workers for two-main reasons; they either don’t have the knowledge to complete a project or they don’t have the time. Regardless of why you decide to hire a freelancer, you should work on creating long-lasting relationships with freelancers instead of just going through freelancer after freelancer. This prevents you from having to find freelancers who not only have the talent you’re seeking, but is someone that you know has a great work ethic, is trustworthy, and is easy to collaborate with.

Once you have a freelancer that you want to bring into the fold, don’t hesitate to share details like your company’s branding and tone, the products/services you provide, who your main competitors are, your long-term goals, and any other company guidelines.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Communication is vital for any relationship to blossom. This includes clearly describing the scope of work, goals, objectives, deadlines, and any other project needs with the freelancer so that they can jump right into the project. During the course of the project, don’t hesitate to have a weekly check-in to check the progress, address any concerns, and share results.

Besides monitoring the health of a project, frequent communication with freelancers allows you to gain valuable feedback from the freelancer like what their strengths are, what they’re passionate about, how balance work and life, and what they would do differently on the projects. This will allow to keep them engaged and happy so that they’ll productive on future projects.

One final word regarding communication. While email is a powerful communication tool, you don’t want to rely solely on that medium. If you live in close proximity to each other, meet up for lunch or a cup of coffee. If distance is a concern, schedule a Skype call or Hangout. These intimate meetings will strengthen the relationship that you’ve already established.

Request Estimates

What happens when expect a project to last 20 hours and the freelancer actually spends 50 hours on it? This could become a problem since you’re now over budget. What do you do when you anticipate a project to be completed in 2 weeks, but it takes 3 weeks to finish? You’re now past a deadline.

To prevent this happening in the future, always ask the freelancer for a quote or estimate so that you can budget and schedule deadlines accordingly. They’ve spent a lot of time determining their rates and questioning whether they charge hourly or by project, so they have a good understanding on how much they’re going to charge.

Practice the Golden Rule

You wouldn’t like it if a customer hasn’t paid you for you a product or service? You wouldn’t be too happy, would you? Then don’t treat your freelancer the same way. When they send you an invoice, pay it before the due date. Besides paying your freelancers in a timely manner, don’t forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ It’s just a simple courtesy that will make the freelancer feel important and will help cultivate a long-lasting relationship.

Create a Style Guide

Company style guides are common practice within most companies. If you’re not familiar with a style guide, it’s simple a text that defines items like your goals, voice and tone, expected grammar and mechanics, industry terms, and guidelines. If you want to review a great company style guide, use MailChimp’s Content Style Guide as a source of inspiration.

While company style guides are share with full-time employees, you also want to share this with freelancers so that everyone is on the same page during the course of a project.

Trust the Freelancer

Finally, don’t undermine the experience and talent of the freelancer. For example, you don’t want to question the work that a graphic designer, accountant, copywriter, or programmer brings to the table and constantly request tasks that aren’t feasible. Unless you have experience in these fields, the freelancer is the expert here and is completely capable of handling a project without you constantly interfering.

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Best known as an Entrepreneur and Connector. John was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine as well as a blogging expert by Forbes. He is the Founder and CEO of Due.

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