Working With Freelancers? Here’s How to Maximize ROI

November 2, 2023 Summer Foote

When you’re working with independent talent, it’s important not to let yourself be misled by their day rates. The value of an independent professional is much more than the sum of their fees. Ideally, in fact, the work your talent have done will continue to deliver results long past the time that you’re paying them. That’s why it’s important to identify and track measurable, meaningful goals to understand the ROI of an engagement, rather than comparing an annualized salary that doesn’t include benefits or even a long-term commitment.

Here are some ideas.

Set clear KPIs

Make sure you’ve outlined clear, measurable goals at the outset of the project.

It sounds obvious, but the best way to ensure that your independent experts deliver value on your project is to outline specific deliverables and milestones—upfront, and ideally in your SOW. By clearly communicating these project goals, you avoid misunderstandings and give yourself an objective way to track success and efficiency.

Schedule weekly check-ins

Clear paths of communication help facilitate a more efficient—and effective—workflow.

Consistent communication is the key to maintaining strategic alignment throughout the project. Make sure to let your talent know your preferred communication methods for check-ins, feedback, and review of deliverables. Do you want everything in email form, or is a quick call or text okay?

Be careful about scope creep

Sure, you’re paying for their time. But your talent won’t be able to focus on what’s important if you load them up with extra work.

You won’t get the results you want if you try to justify your spend by squeezing them for as much work as you can. When you’re working with independents, free them up to deliver on their goals and don’t load them with extraneous work.

Learn as you go

Taking advantage of informal opportunities to reassess progress and goals helps everyone work more efficiently.

Traditionally, consulting teams were cloistered away from their clients, and you had to wait until the engagement was over to see what they’d done. Today’s independent professionals cultivate closer working relationships with their clients, encouraging conversations that are more regular and less formal throughout the engagement.

Why is that important? First, when they come to you with new findings and roadblocks, your feedback can make the difference between a long detour down a path your company has already explored—or a major breakthrough. Second, it’s an opportunity for you to act on their insights and make mid-course corrections. It’s a process of learning as you go—and it helps your talent get smarter, too.

Assume positive intent

Some mistakes are inevitable. Treat them as opportunities rather than obstacles.

Outsiders are likely to make smart mistakes and speak truths that are harder to voice internally. Should a misstep or misunderstanding occur, try to understand what’s behind it rather than pointing fingers. Flexibility is an essential part of agility, after all, and if a single mistake threatens the viability of your project, it might be time to reassess your approach.

What’s more, mistakes may lead to breakthroughs that are important for your business. So be sure to keep an open mind as you consider whether a stray suggestion or procedural error contains an insight that can help you work more effectively.

Get smarter about sourcing

Develop your own “talent cloud” of proven independent resources so you can easily tap top performers for future projects.

This is a time-saver in more ways than one: You have proven talent at your fingertips, and onboarding is a snap since they’ve already worked with you in the past. By reusing top-performing independents, you’re also likely to get better and better results as they gain additional context and history. You can also solicit help from an on-demand talent vendor like BTG to curate a cloud that best serves your needs.

Looking for more tips? Get our Guide to Working with On-Demand Talent

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