Full-Time Web Designer, Meet Your Freelance Design Partner

How to Form Productive Relationships With Independent Professionals

Have you noticed more freelancers roaming the office halls? You’re not imagining it. The ranks of independent professionals have swelled in the last few years. This is due to several reasons, not least of which is that more people are recognizing the value of working on an interim basis.This arrangement provides the flexibility many professionals seek and the ability to choose projects they’re most passionate about.

Big Idea photo illustrationAccording to research conducted for the Creative Team of the Future project, this trend will continue in the near future. More than half of in-house creative professionals we surveyed said they expect to work with a larger number of freelancers over the next three years.

What does this mean for you as an interactive designer? In most instances, you’ll be working alongside freelancers to get work completed and out the door, and your ability to work together will be instrumental to your career success.

Here are three steps to help you collaborate effectively with interim professionals.

1) Help freelancers understand your firm. Whether project-based or on retainer, every freelancer needs to know your company and brand if they’re to be productive and meet expectations. Help them get acquainted by:

  • Volunteering to be the designer in your office who sits with the freelancer and shares how everything works, from phone lists and file-naming conventions to processes and procedures.
  • Introducing temporary workers to others on the team and reviewing the unwritten rules of the office. Freelance integrated designer Orit Ben-Chetrit says these efforts are extremely helpful: “When the in-house team I work with tells me their preferred communication methods (like email versus meetings) and deliverable formats (like layered InDesign files), we’re all more successful from the get-go.”
  • Informing freelancers of your brand guidelines so they clearly understand the tone, look and feel of the materials they’ll be working on. Freelance branding designer Tracee Kafer says she appreciates these early briefings: “I work with a lot of startups, and when the in-house team takes the time to brief me on the personality of the brand and provides samples of designs they like, I can deliver the best results.”

2. Encourage knowledge exchange. Sharing information naturally leads to more ideas when it comes time to brainstorm or begin work on a creative campaign. It also lends cohesion to a team by demonstrating the value of varied perspectives.

Gain a fresh perspective by asking freelancers about their favorite projects from the past. Their experiences may spark new thoughts that lead to better business solutions.

Also take advantage of the wealth of knowledge independent professionals bring. Remember, they’ve been brought in specifically because they are experts in certain areas. Pick their brains – and return the favor. Offer your insights and experiences to help them expand their knowledge base.

3. Make them a true part of the team. Establish yourself as an ongoing resource for the freelancers on your team. Let them know they can come to you with questions, and check in occasionally to make sure they’re doing OK.

Also, it may sound obvious, but make sure freelancers are seen as part of the team. They are new but essential links in your group’s chain. Simple things like inviting them to lunch or coffee, remembering to copy them on emails and asking for their opinions on designs will go a long way to encouraging camaraderie and trust.

Keep in mind that the effort you put in to help freelancers acclimate can pay huge dividends. After all, you could be working with temporary professionals beyond the duration of the original project they were assigned; freelance creatives sometimes are such a good fit with a particular client that they become full-time team members. Even if you work with someone for just a short time, you never know when your paths will cross again. As in-house creative director Carlos Lema says, “I’m always expanding my network of creatives, and building personal relationships with freelancers helps me do that.”


Want to learn more about the Creative Team of the Future? Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group, shares new research in her session, “Bright Lights, Big Future: 5 Trends Affecting Every In-House Creative Team,” available at the HOW Design Live ONLINE Event July 17-19th.