Five Ways to Get Great Results from a Freelancer

Engaging a freelancer or an agency to do work on your behalf is a growing trend and one that is only going to continue to become more popular. Businesses can access specialist expertise so easily now, when all the knowledge worker needs is a laptop to be able to make a considerable contribution without the need of any permanent agreement.

From graphic design, web design, copywriting, marketing and strategy, there are a lot of great resources out there who can be engaged from anywhere in the world.

However it’s still a relatively new way of working, and sometimes the lines can be blurred between the expectations of a client, and what the freelancer can actually realistically achieve for them.

So here are 5 ways to make your first experience with a freelancer, one that positively pays off for you.


tart with a simple non-disclosure form (NDA) and a small project. If you haven’t worked with a freelancer or agency before, ask them to work on one small piece of the bigger picture first. It will give them a chance to learn about your business and give you a good idea of whether they’re a good fit with your culture and expectations.

An NDA will protect you in a court in the unlikely chance that your freelancer shares confidential information with outside parties. In reality is more a way for you to formally say that you are willing to trust each other.

If you are working with a freelancer on an ongoing basis, you’ll need a good contract in place and to make sure they have the right insurances to minimise risk but if you start small you can minimise the level of information you’re sharing and therefore the possibility of anything going wrong. A fellow freelancer in digital marketing shared with me recently,

“I put together a short proposal to a contact at a startup of how I could implement some immediate changes to improve their efficiencies. We’ve agreed I’ll do 72 hours of work to get the job done and that way we can both make sure the fit is right before we start discussing further, bigger projects.”
— Emily, Freelancer

Establish ways of working from the beginning so that expectations are as clear as possible for both of you. Being able to avoid misunderstandings or misinterpretation early on will save you a lot of hassles down the road. Here are a few examples:

  • How often do you want to be in contact, eg do you want a weekly update on progress, or be kept in the loop as-it-happens?
  • Do you prefer to communicate by email, phone, Whatsapp, or a collaboration platform such as Slack or Asana?
  • Where will they store and share documents with you? Cloud drives like Dropbox and Google Drive are super efficient but many businesses still don’t trust them for privacy.
  • Will they work remotely 100% of the time or do you expect them to come in to the office occasionally or regularly?
  • How will often will they invoice you and do you expect them to keep timesheets to prove where their time is being spent?

Introduce them to your other agencies and freelancers. Getting them working together will be essential and they will probably be more honest with each other about the blockers and barriers that the freelancer needs to overcome to do the best job they can for you.

Quite often I see businesses working with a range of different service providers, all implementing on their individual fields of expertise, but never crossing paths with each other. This can lead to:

  • An overlap of tasks where two people could be separately working on the same thing which is obviously not going to help your budgets.
  • Confusion, and worse insecurity, where one agency hears about another and immediately assumes their days are numbered or that the other agency will try to “steal” their work.
  • An opportunity missed, where collaboration could have resulted in an even better solution than what one person has arrived at in isolation.

Behonest and open to enable them to get a grasp of the big picture and the culture in which they are going to be working. This can range from sharing potential roadblocks to their success (internal politics, or regulations / legal implications), or providing data that will help them make the best decisions, or providing access to the right people as we talked about in #3.

A freelancer or agency can’t help you without knowing the rules within which they need to play. It also provides an opportunity for them to be able to challenge objections and find solutions to problems you thought couldn’t be solved.

Since they are external to the situation you face every day, freelancers are far less likely to get distracted by internal politics and the popular phrase “but we’ve always done it that way”. I’d go as far as to say, we are pretty much immune to it! We also have a larger scope of experience in diverse workplaces and industries to draw upon. This gives them (and you) a great advantage as they are able to look at situations objectively and find solutions you may never have considered without being pulled down by history.


Brief your freelancer and agency as thoroughly as you can. Before you even think about engaging a creative agency in particular, you will have ideally developed a marketing strategy that lays out:

  • Who your ideal customer is;
  • The problem you’re able to solve for them; and
  • What kind of experience (marketing activity such as blogs, forums, competitions, etc etc etc) is likely to attract them to you.

By understanding these elements, it’s then much easier to define your goals and expected outcomes, leaving as little room for misinterpretation or reinvention as possible.

When you’re not clear on what it is you need or want, it can be incredibly difficult for a creative to be able to deliver a worthwhile marketing activity for you. The temptation is to rush forward with a website redesign, a new Facebook page or blog without spending that bit of time up front to really determine how those tactics are going to get you to where you want to be. Without a brief, a creative is more likely to come up with tactics that they are good at or enjoy working on, rather than something that is really going to help you reach the right customers in the most appropriate way.

Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be sharing practical toolkits and templates for creating your own marketing plan and content strategy to brief your agencies and freelancers, giving them the best chance of being able to deliver something really worthwhile for you. You can sign up to my newsletterto keep informed.