Working with freelancers

Freelancers can be a great way to plug into talent for a short period or project without having to hire someone on a full-time basis – here’s how to get the most out of the relationship.

1. Agree to specific deadlines ahead of time
Since freelancers juggle multiple clients at the same time, your work can get relegated to the back of the line if your dates aren’t clear. Factor in time for reviewing the work and allow for back and forth and adjustments.

2. Give a full brief
Be clear on exactly what you want from the onset. Though you probably want the freelancer’s talents and ideas to add spice to the project, you’ll save a lot of time if you provide clear direction. For instance, if you are commissioning an advertorial, be clear about what angle you wish to highlight so that you don’t have to overhaul much later, or if you are having a logo designed, indicate colour preferences and style. Don’t bank on being “pleasantly surprised” – the gamble can pay off or go horribly wrong.

3. Communicate and get updates
Check in on how the project is progressing. Just because freelancers work remotely and are not in-house doesn’t mean they don’t need support or input from you. Ensure the success of your project by effectively managing all your resources, including freelancers.

4. Start small
If you are hiring a freelancer for the first time, start with a smaller project so that you can get more insight on their working style, quality of work and reliability. Try to keep the project short and within a reasonable budget. The freelancer may have a great portfolio or come via referral, but you may find that you don’t gel, so minimise your risk with a small project.

5. Agree everything in writing
You can either have a full-blown contract with multiple clauses or a short agreement, but whatever the case, have a written understanding. Have a written brief in addition to what you may communicate face to face or in phone conversations. Be explicit about what you are paying for, what the deposit (if you make one) will cover, what your obligations are in terms of supplying things like art work, text or other information, as well as those of the freelancer. Also stipulate that payment is dependent on your approval.

6. Be clear about who owns the final product
In some cases, the ownership is transferred upon payment, but in some instances, the artist or creator owns the work. Be clear about this and arrange a buy-out of the work if necessary. You should also discuss how and when the freelancer can display the project in their portfolio.

Puseletso Mompei is a communications consultant and trainer. She offers communications and media training for corporate executives, spokespersons, managers, entrepreneurs, government officials, diplomats, academia and public relations officers. Contact her at, or visit for more information.