We all know communication is central to the success of any relationship. So why, then, do so many companies and HR managers have trouble setting effective communication parameters with freelance talent?
Part of it could be that most companies simply do not know how to manage agile talent (sometimes referred to as freelancers, 1099s, consultants, contractors, etc.) and thus resort to guesswork in establishing communication guidelines. Part of it could be that a majority of companies vastly underestimate the importance of positive communication toward productivity.
Whatever the reason, it is time that companies caught on to the notion that the difference between good and great communication can make or break a project. At 10x Management, the first tech talent agency, we have become skilled at facilitating communication between our freelancers and our customers.
Exerting too much control can also raise questions about proper classification. See “A Growing Dilemma: Should You Hire A Part-Timer Or A Contractor?”
Here is a list of what separates the good companies from the great when it comes to communicating with freelance talent, and steps on how to take your company to the next level.
1. Agree on communications framework
- Good companies dictate when communication will take place.
- Great companies mutually agree with their freelancers on when communication will take place and through what medium. A good HR manager will ensure that these frameworks are established from the outset.
At 10x, we prefer to have these agreements written and both parties approve them via email at the beginning of each engagement so everyone is on the same page and can clearly track areas of deficiency.
2. Sometimes less is more
- Good companies communicate regularly and effectively.
- Great companies inquire and understand the best means and frequency to communicate with their freelancer and customize their approach to the needs of each engagement.
Great companies know that freelancers do not need to be in every meeting and on every call to understand the nuances of a project. I can remember one project in particular where a developer would call me and say, “There has been a lot of unnecessary back and forth about each step,” and he felt like he was losing productivity because of it.
You need to understand what motivates your freelancer and what keeps him/her productive. Talking every day might be a good idea for some freelancers on some projects, but it might hinder others. Find a balance between what makes the manager comfortable and what makes the freelancer productive. Just like everything else, personalize this to the freelancer and the engagement. This is presumably how you recommend handling your full-time employees as well. It is also crucial to understand the concept of productivity in the flow state as it relates to building technology.
3. Single point of contact
- Good companies establish a system of reporting in order to convey information to the freelancer.
Great companies establish a single point of contact that conveys priorities and information to the freelancer.
If a freelancer has three people she needs to report to and they all have different goals and priorities, there is no way she can succeed. #TooManyChefs
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4. Ask for what you want
- Good companies communicate about the project in general and the progress being made.
- Great companies are clear about the kinds of things on which they want to be updated and adapt their approach based on the phase and nature of the project.
If there is something that you need to be updated on, then by all means you should inquire about that from your freelancer. However, don’t get updates for the sake of getting updates. Be specific about what you want and otherwise trust that your freelancer is on top of the project and will be updating you in accordance with the plan you made from the start.
5. Treat the freelancer as an expert
- Good companies dictate tasks to the freelancer.
- Great companies take into account the expertise of the freelancer and allow for questions and change of course if necessary.
If your freelancer has an opinion, that is a good thing. Unless you know the specifics of your project down to the last comma and period, you should not get frustrated with a freelancer’s attempt to understand why a decision is being made. In this instance, the freelancer might communicate the reasons why they believe the approach being requested is inferior to another method. If a revelation occurs because of this, you will be thankful that the freelancer spoke up.
Make sure you create an environment that is conducive to discussion and dissenting opinions. If you hired the right expert, those opinions (including and maybe especially the ones that you don’t want to hear) are a big part of what you are buying.
Good communication makes the difference
Never underestimate the power of great communication to bolster your next project. We have made a career out of facilitating communication practices between companies and freelance talent. When the effectiveness of your communication is maximized, productivity increases and time is saved.
When you’re hiring your next freelancer, remember to customize your approach and find a balance between what works best for both of you in order to get the most out of the engagement