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Locating and Working With Creative Freelancers
By Eric Kimble

Companies turn to freelancers for a number of reasons. Whether it's to bring in experts who can handle special projects, compensate for personnel on leave or prevent existing staff from feeling burned out during times when workloads are heavy, many organizations find freelancers to be valuable, reliable resources for their ever-changing employment needs. And the trend is on the rise: In a survey by Robert Half International, 46 percent of executives polled said they use more project professionals today than five years ago.

By hiring freelance creative professionals, employers can avoid the costly, disruptive and morale-lowering cycle of over-hiring and layoffs that can occur when work demands inevitably fluctuate over time. Relying on consultants also gives businesses the opportunity to assess a potential employee's on-the-job performance before extending a full-time offer. Most importantly, perhaps, this approach helps companies determine whether the workload really justifies a full-time hire.

But how do you locate freelance professionals and get the most out of the relationships with them? Following is some advice:

Select the Right Partner
Locating a highly skilled freelance professional isn't easy. If you're hiring a creative consultant on your own, it's important you possess the experience, knowledge and connections to find appropriately skilled professionals for your assignments. If you don't have the time or expertise to hire a freelance professional, staffing firms are an excellent source for locating experienced creatives. To locate the best talent, you should partner with a staffing firm that caters specifically to the creative industry. Referrals from colleagues, professional associations or your local chamber of commerce are good starting points.

Consult Current Employees
While searching for the right freelancer, let existing staff know why a consultant is being sought for the organization and how he or she is expected to benefit the firm. Also, solicit staff input on any special skills or qualifications they think will be valuable for the project professional to possess. Since employees are the ones working on the ìfront lines,î they may have insight as to exactly what is needed from a freelance creative. By having an open discussion about the need for extra support, employees will likely be more accepting of the new team member and willing to help him or her adapt and succeed.

Set Clear Objectives
Build an effective relationship with the freelancer by offering as much information as possible about your requirements. Consider drafting a ìjob profileî that details the scope and objectives of the project, the consultant's responsibilities, and his or her role in the department and organization. Be up-front about any special requirements or potential challenges related to the assignment, such as occasional weekend work or a manager who expects frequent project updates and interaction. Remember to incorporate any useful feedback gathered from existing staff.

Set the Freelancer up for Success
Most freelancers are adept at adjusting to new work environments and demands, but they need to be equipped with the tools to succeed. Once an individual joins your team, present him or her with a thorough overview of the work ahead, company policies and your expectations.

Make sure you set up the new hire's workspace in advance with a computer, phone, office supplies and any other essential materials. To minimize misunderstandings and help the person better meet your objectives, make a point to keep the freelance professional in the communication loop and ask him or her to participate in staff meetings that relate to the assignment. Also, invite the creative professional to social gatherings, such as staff luncheons or celebrations. If the candidate feels connected to the company and coworkers, he or she will be more productive and motivated to do the best job possible.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Be proactive in providing the freelancer with feedback. Clear lines of communication are necessary so the person knows how he or she is performing and what adjustments, if any, need to be made. Similarly, be candid with your staffing firm. Learning that someone needed significant ìramp-upî time before focusing on the actual assignment, for example, or that an individual went well above expectations to meet an important client's demands, can help the staffing firm make the best matches going forward.

Eric Kimble is the Denver area Division Director of The Creative Group, which focuses on placing freelance professionals in the creative, advertising, marketing, web and public relations fields. Contact him at 303.295.7979.

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