Strengthen freelancer relationships by asking about "hidden talents."

Strengthen your agency’s freelancer relationships by asking contractors about any “hidden talents”—and more!

Are you making the most of your agency’s freelancer relationships?

Always be recruiting, to build a “stable” of freelancers—but don’t be so focused on recruiting that you miss what you already have.

Today, I’ll share tips to help you strengthen your freelancer relationships—including a sample “script” to help you start the conversation. Read on!

5 Tips to Supercharge Your Agency’s Freelancer Relationships

Here’s a quick list of freelancer-related suggestions to help you supercharge the relationships, build loyalty, and help the agency. Ultimately, it’s about treating freelancers as partners rather than worker bees.

  1. Ask your freelancers to recommend others. If you need a new freelance designer, your superstar back-end dev freelancer probably knows one they’ve enjoyed working with before.
  2. Ask your freelancers if they have skills you’re not currently using. You might be surprised… and it’s a lot easier than doing a search to find an entirely new person for that skillset.
  3. Create a budget to pay freelancers for non-client work. In my experience, conscientious freelancers make suggestions already—but do the right thing and pay them for the advice.
  4. Ask your freelancers what your agency can do better. Given that they’re plugged into your business but they’re not employees, your freelancers have a unique “inside outsider” perspective. They see how you compare to other agencies they help.
  5. Ask your freelancers if you’re missing any opportunities. They might share how other clients are providing services in a particular area, or doing something new that you could try, too.

Now, let’s look at some other ways your freelancers can help you and your agency!

Getting More from Your Freelancers

Here are even more ideas to help you improve your results!

When I was an agency PM, one of my freelancers was always looking for ways to help the agency, even when it went beyond his official scope. Another freelancer made recommendations to help the agency—that personally cost him $50,000 in lost revenue. Why? Because they were both naturally conscientious people. Make conscientiousness part of your hiring process, for all roles.

Look for ways to create incentives—for instance, when a freelancer makes recommendations to help your agency, be sure to acknowledge that they’re going above and beyond. If you won’t take their suggestion, explain why. (Otherwise, you’re training them to stop making suggestions.)

How might the discretionary budget work? Give each person a budget of, say, 2-3 hours a month for non-client work, intended for them to think about ways to help your agency. Odds are you’ll receive far more value in return. And you’ll enlist others to help you in your “working ON” the business work.

Be sure to share full-time job postings with your freelancers, too. Even if they’re not interested, they probably know someone who’s looking—perhaps a “lightly disgruntled” friend at another agency who’s been grumbling about feeling under-appreciated.

How to Start the Conversation

It may seem awkward to you the first time—that’s OK; it gets easier with practice!

Start with something open-ended, like this:

“I love the work you do for <AgencyName>, and we all enjoy working with you. I’m curious—are there any skills you have that we’re not currently using? <PauseToListen> I’d love to hear more to see if there might be a match. <PauseToListen>”

Then:

“From your experience working with other agencies and other companies, are there things we can do better? <PauseToListen> What are some examples? <PauseToListen>”

Listen—be an active, attentive listener. Ask followup questions. Ask clarifications. (You should do all of this when you listen to anyone, but it’s especially important here.)

Take the lead on managing any followups—after all, they’re doing you a favor. In some cases, you may need to negotiate a different rate for certain services—that adds complication, but it may be appropriate when there’s a major difference in skillset.

When it all fits together, you’re building a stronger team and a stronger agency—without requiring as many full-time salaries.

Bonus Tip: Send a thank-you email to your top freelancers today. You’ll be glad you did!

QUESTION: How do you approach getting additional help from your current freelancers?

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