By: Rich Pearson
Content might be king, but a freelance design team is a creative business manager’s ace in the hole.
According to Forrester Research, content volume is growing at a rate of 200% annually. And it’s visual content specifically—graphics, illustrations, animations, infographics, ebooks, charts, data visualizations—that’s killing it for business owners and design firms alike. Visual content is, in fact, what 93% of people say most impacts their purchase decisions.
But all that content comes at a (literal) cost. More than 25% of total marketing budgets are spent on content marketing. At the same time, creative resources are getting increasingly harder to find and to hire quickly for high-impact campaigns. According to LinkedIn’s B2B Content Marketing Report, the number one content marketing challenge is having enough time and bandwidth to create it.
Enter: freelance designers. 62% of companies tap into outside talent for their content marketing. And according to that LinkedIn report, design is the second most outsourced content marketing activity (the first is writing, which often goes hand-in-hand with design). Hiring freelancers allows you to scale your team up and down efficiently, tap into the skills of millions across the globe, and can be most cost-effective as they have lower overhead expenses.
Want in? Here are five tips for successfully building a team of freelance designers.
Get your ducks in a row: Determine exactly what projects to assign to whom—be it a full-time employee, a freelance designer, or a traditional agency—and before you turn to outside help, precisely map out the project deliverables you need. When determining your deliverables here’s a good rule of thumb: Projects that are core to defining the future of your brand, or that are foundational to your business, should remain in-house. Your distributed team members should create work based on the essence of your brand, as opposed to doing work that defines it.
Hone in on what you want: Make sure you’re crystal clear about what you’re looking for when you write the job listing for the work you need done. If you have a clear picture of the kind of designer you want, you’ll have a richer talent pool to choose from. Make sure your posting has the following elements:
- A clear description of the required work: Be specific. For example, instead of writing “Interactive design,” try “Mobile interface design for an ecommerce site.”
- A list of the specific deliverables you need: Provide a list of discrete tasks you need the designer to complete, like “Lay out and illustrate five graphics for social media channels.”
- An explanation of the mission or purpose of your company: Inspire candidates to get behind your brand. Here’s an example: “We connect schools across the country with cutting-edge technology that empowers teachers and students alike, because we believe education drives the future.”
- Evidence of what makes your company compelling to work with: You want to attract those talented designers who have several opportunities to choose from, so give them a reason to choose yours. For instance, tell them “we appreciate top-notch design and recognize the talent behind it.”
Hire for soft skills: The fact that you won’t work physically alongside a freelancer means you’ll want to be confident in his or her trustworthiness, work ethic, and reliability. What good is a crazy-talented designer if his or her attitude and working style are totally counterproductive to those of your team? Of course, it’s important to balance soft skills with technical capability (for example, a super friendly person who doesn’t meet deadlines isn’t what you want).
Onboard effectively: Once you’ve negotiated terms and officially contracted a freelance designer, get your freelancer up and running properly with a well-structured, detailed onboarding process. First off, connect him or her to the rest of the team via video chat so the designer feels welcomed, and trust and camaraderie can begin to develop. Then go over a detailed creative brief together that makes your expectations for the end result completely transparent. Provide access to all necessary files and resources, be it your brand guidelines, logos or fonts. Go over key milestones together so the deadlines are crystal clear.
Consider delivering information in chunks rather than all at once and encouraging questions. Onboarding done right is a process rather than an event. Think about it this way: The better experience a freelancer has getting up to speed, the easier he or she will be able to provide you precisely what you need and enjoy him- or herself along the way.
Communicate expectations: Communication is critical for all work relationships, but especially so when there’s no face time. Prioritize honesty and trust by delivering feedback clearly but respectfully. Challenge yourself to put your own expectations into check when appropriate. For example, expecting a logo back with a two-day turnaround without time for research or provision of detailed background? Not so reasonable. On the other hand, expecting a new logo design at the end of an agreed upon period of discovery by a set date feels better for all involved.
Working with freelance designers can be not just fruitful, but fun. You can achieve your business goals powered by the work of world-class talent and expand your network while you’re at it.
As senior vice president of Upwork, Rich Pearson leads the marketing and categories teams. The company is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., with offices in San Francisco and Oslo, Norway. To learn more about when and how to delegate your design needs, download Upwork and HubSpot’s free eBook The Fast Lane to Great Design: The Modern Marketer’s Guide to Hiring Freelance Designers.
Are you feeling unfocused, disorganized, or like you’re spinning your wheels? The latest workshop from HOW Design University is for you. Join us for Getting Down to Business: 8 Action Planning Steps for Creative Freelancers.