The kind of relationship I strive to nurture with my clients reads this way on my homepage (may also be sung to the chorus of Queen’s “We Are the Champions”):
– a vested outsourcing relationship that begins with defining your desired outcomes [and] collaboration with you or your team to support current marketing and communication efforts –
[You tried it, didn’t you?]
As a business owner, do you consider freelancers part of your team?
In the post “Don’t Grow Your Business Alone: Enlist Your Vendors”, small biz advisor Jackie Nagel’s third point — engage vendors in meetings each quarter — made me exclaim “Yes!” One of my clients sets up meetings specifically so that I am able to speak with the company’s marketers, engineers and salespeople. Their insight is crucial to my success in writing copy that communicates their messages clearly.
While working remotely is becoming more common every year, the constant challenge for freelancers like me is to establish and nurture strong work relationships with people you haven’t even met face to face. Like the old saying goes, “John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.”
Anyway, you get the point.
Creating an “environment” that encourages freelancers (and other vendors) to embrace a team mentality benefits your company by instilling a shared sense of mission.
What are some ways to accomplish this?
1. Choose freelancers who have the characteristics you require and admire in your full-time staff. Is it initiative? Quick turn around? A wicked sense of humor? In an online discussion prompted by Nagel’s post, she said she came to realize some vendors are tactical while others are more strategic. She learned the strategic types more effectively support her work.
Some vendors have an innate “go team” mentality that comes through in their customer service. When my husband had his office and janitorial supply business, he anticipated inventory shortages and took the initiative to remind customers — like the local rest home, for example — that it might be time to check the ol’ toilet paper supply before Taco Tuesday. When trust is built between business owner and vendor, businesses may come to rely on their vendors as much as they do staff.
2. Include your freelancer in regular “meetings,” whether via phone, online or in person. “Live” conversations with my contacts, rather than emails alone, deepen my understanding of the company’s purpose and goals and help me experience others’ enthusiasm about a project.
3. Implement ways to make this collaboration possible. Skype, conference calling software, and maybe an occasional invitation to an industry conference being held in the freelancer’s area are just a few of the means by which you can connect.
Jo Lynn Deal, owner of MyMarketingCafe.com, said she appreciated a client’s use of Basecamp, a project management tool that connected team members from around the globe. “Basecamp brings the team together, keeps everyone on the same page, and keeps everyone accountable for their role,” said Deal. “I find it especially useful for teams whose members work remotely.”
4. You know that “friend” who only calls when they need something? Yeah, don’t be him. Send a LinkedIn congrats when your freelancer celebrates her second anniversary of solopreneurship. Include her name in the holiday card list. This, of course, is a two-way street. I connect as best I can with my clients in a friendly and supportive way, even if that is simply to ask how they are doing before I send a slew of questions about a project.
Be careful what we wish for, freelancers. Now that everyone is feeling all warm and fuzzy, allow me to offer this caveat. Business owners sometimes expect freelancers to jump up and shake their team pom-poms at a moment’s notice. I call this “genie in the bottle” syndrome–a misperception that a freelancer is sitting in her home office waiting for a client to summon her to the next gig so she can pay her mortgage (OK, maybe sometimes). I appreciate my client who writes the word “capacity’ in the email subject line. This signals that she is about to ask me if I have time in my schedule to start a new project.
Companies don’t always encourage a sense of team connection for freelancers. But a freelancer who considers herself part of the team, or is made to feel part of the team, becomes more committed beyond the task and the pay. In fact, I haven’t “met” any business owner yet who wants me, as a vendor, to be less committed.
If you’re a business owner, how do you create team connections with your freelancers or vendors?
Freelancers, how do you nurture your relationships with clients?