8 Tips for Onboarding Creative Freelancers

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Employers hire freelancers for numerous reasons, from assisting employees during busy periods to accessing specialized skills and expertise. And since staffing full-time creative jobs isn’t easy, many companies rely on these project professionals to either fill a gap temporarily or recruit on a temp-to-hire basis. If you want to build a team that dovetails the talents of both full-time staff and consultants, you’ll need to know how.

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Image from Getty | Credit: Noor Farah A’in Kamal / EyeEm

The key to successfully bringing on creative freelancers begins with a strategic onboarding process. These eight tips will help you maximize the capabilities of your creative consultants and help them fit in seamlessly with your current staff.

1. Give staff a heads up.

Surprises are great, but they’re not always welcome when it comes to staffing. Because of this, onboarding should start before a freelancer reports for work. If your full-timers arrive at the office on Monday and see unfamiliar faces sitting next to them, they’re going to wonder what’s going on. So keep your team in the loop of incoming freelancers and explain why they’re joining the team.

2. Give contractors a proper greeting.

Project professionals are highly adaptable to new situations, but no one should be expected to find their own way around. Plan to arrive at the office before they show up so you’re there to welcome them. Introduce them to your team and give them an office tour so they won’t be wandering the halls looking for the printer, conference room or coffee pot. 

[Related: How to Go From Freelance Design to Full-Time | 3 Ways You Can Find a Great In-House Design Gig]

3. Explain roles.

When a new person gets thrown into the mix, assignments are bound to change. To properly onboard contractors, have a group meeting on day one to explain to everyone what projects they’re assigned to. The clearer the picture is from the beginning, the smoother the workflow will be for the blended team.

4. Assign a point person.

If you’re super busy at the office or plan to be away from your desk frequently, your freelancers will need someone to turn to — at least until they become more familiar with the work environment and office hardware. Delegate an employee who’s approachable, accessible and knowledgeable to help you onboard contractors.

5. Give them a workstation.

Some consultants are located 100 percent on-site while others drop in on a weekly or as-needed basis. Regardless of their schedule, a part of the onboarding process should be to provide a creative workspace that’s comfortable and well equipped. And if they’ll be using company equipment, make sure the computer’s software is up to date and they have all the sign-in information for software subscriptions.

6. Have project details ready.

You want value for your money when bringing in freelancers, so don’t waste a moment of anyone’s time by being disorganized. For example, if their role is to update an annual report design, have the client’s style guide, last year’s version and files of this year’s text and images ready.

7. Treat them like full-time staff.

The more comfortable and welcomed consultants feel, the more likely they’ll perform to the best of their abilities. Include them in social events, ask for their feedback during meetings and consider giving them skills development training. Another reason to treat them as full-fledged team members is that you may want to extend a more permanent job offer. When you do, they will already be on board and ready to go.

8. Check in.

Freelancers are independent and self-driven, but everyone needs a bit of guidance. Don’t let the onboarding process be the last they hear from you. Even if they have an assigned full-time staff member to show them the ropes, it’s always a good idea for the manager whose idea it was to bring them in to make sure they’re getting along well and making progress.

Freelancers are an essential part of many agencies and creative departments. Onboard them properly, and you can make the most of their talents and your budget.


Earn a certificate in In-House Design Management from HOW Design University.

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