Overarching Practice Points
Communication, formality and flexibility.
Through discussion, research and writing of each topic and area, several practical principles come up again and again.
The content of this document ultimately revolves around themes of communication, formality and flexibility.
We’ve come up with four overarching points from these themes that are detailed here and can be used to guide all work with freelancers as a simple starting place.
Put it in Writing
Where agreements have been made about work in person or over the phone, including alterations/tweaks to agreements as part of the working process, these should be followed up in writing.
It is always useful to have written agreements to check back on and the process of confirmation in writing will help to solidify plans, allow for thinking time and offer the opportunity for questions or negotiation without the pressure of social interaction.
Freelancers from our community have found that when being approached about work, ‘chats’ or ‘quick phone calls’ are tactics used when conditions are not great for the freelancer, or when time is tight.
Of course, these methods are useful and freelancers are capable of communicating in this way, but proactively following up with a written confirmation will always improve communication and build trust.
Organisations should take the lead on formalisation as freelancers often feel chasing things up will make them seem ‘hard to work with’.
2. Proactively Encourage Communication
It is both the responsibility of the freelancer and the organisation to maintain good communication before, during and at the end of work. However, it needs to be acknowledged that the organisation employing a freelancer holds a significant level of power, no matter how large or small they are.
The overwhelming sense from our community was one of fear of damaging relationships, not being re-employed, gaining a negative reputation or losing out on roles when bringing up the most basic of issues.
To tackle this atmosphere of worry organisations can encourage communication before any issues arise.
They should reassure freelancers and make sure all the routes for communication about payment, inclusivity, access, grievances, contracts, letters of agreement, safeguarding, wellbeing, illness, leave and scheduling are clear from the outset.
3. Test Systems and Train More Staff
Organisations such make sure their systems are robust and diverse. Policies should be consistently reviewed in response to feedback and working realities.
Even if processes are in place and well communicated, we are all human and we can make mistakes.
Our community has expressed frustration with the inconsistency within organisations, and highlighted the dangers of having only one point of contact.
To provide alternatives for freelancers and more options when it comes to reaching out or resolving issues, organisations should ensure that all the appropriate staff are trained in the formal processes that engage and deal with freelancers.
A freelancer should never have just one point of contact.
4. Build in Flexibility
The nature of freelance work is variety. Every job is different, every person is different, every project is different.
Freelancers are well practised in changing their processes and adapting to the needs of each new role, but organisations will find that collaboration is easier and more fruitful if they also offer to adapt where they can.
In our experience, many of the problems between organisations and freelancers stem from the failure to plan and budget properly for administration and human resources.
Plan for the entirety of a project and build in time to be flexible and responsive.