Listen to the podcast episode HERE.
Rachel and her team at Copper Hive Consulting offer consulting packages and coaching to churches and nonprofits with a focus on operational strategy and structure, including marketing. She also has an expansive network of freelancers who specifically prefer serving nonprofits and with whom she shares contract position opportunities. Schedule a free discovery call with Rachel to find the right coach or to share your job opportunities with the freelance network.
Although I primarily work with small businesses as a consultant and coach, these principles are applicable to every industry, including nonprofits, and I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to serve entrepreneurs as they scale and small businesses that are working to increase their efficiency.
Recently I shared a blog on workflows, which is crucial to adding people to your team as employees or freelancers. I’ve also talked about project management basics and how to set up a few operational systems. You can go back and catch those. Most episodes this season are intentionally under 20 minutes because I try to be very direct and to the point about these topics. Plus, if I’m not interviewing someone like I do on my other podcast, Pieces of Grit-interviews with women about that topic, I don’t want you to have to listen to me drone on and on.
If you start hiring employees and freelancers without frameworks in place for systems and processes your communication with these hires will be incredibly challenged. So let’s talk about how to communicate with freelancers specifically.
Your Freelancer is an Expert
When you find a freelancer for a specific project or function, such as accounting, writing emails, managing your calendar, posting on social media, or whatever, keep in mind that they are experts at the thing they are offering to do for you. They are EFFICIENT and can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time versus you trying to do that thing and getting distracted by phone calls, emails, your spouse or kids running into the room, etc.
There are two approaches when you bring in a freelancer or virtual assistant based on their expertise. If you know exactly what you’re looking for, be ready to deliver instructions, expected deadlines, any related resources such as login info, graphics, etc. They will ask you the questions they need, but with detailed guidance they will be able to get up and running easily and quickly with specific instructions. The other side of the coin is if you aren’t sure what you need and you are looking to your freelancer to offer guidance.
A great example is a client I had whose email list had more than 8000 names but they weren’t doing anything with this list on a consistent basis. There were names that had been inactive for over a year. When you have names clogging up an email list that are inactive it impacts your open rate and potentially the way email servers can view your emails as spam if you get a low open rate. So we definitely started with cleaning up obsolete emails.
Then we looked at the current segmentation and determined how to best categorize the contacts. And after we had done both of these, I helped devise a communication calendar involving consistent emails as well as special campaigns. This client needed a lot of help planning next steps so the communication was more dependent on me as the freelancer than her as the business owner.
Establish Preferences & Expectations
As soon as you commit to a contract with your virtual assistant or freelancer, let them know how you prefer to communicate. I recommend using a platform such as Slack or another Work Management System such as Basecamp or Asana. Emails and texts can pile up and get confusing or lost in the shuffle. Using Slack or something similar keeps all communication in one place. If you are using a platform such as Upwork, there are native chat rooms that also have built in video and phone call options. These are great features that make not only finding a freelancer simple, but maintaining safe and secure communication.
Talk about your hours or response expectations. When working with someone virtually who isn’t your employee they have other clients or jobs and have to juggle multiple channels of communication. Be up front with your requests to avoid frustration and confusion. You may not be in the same time zone, so consider when you will schedule meetings. Do you have specific hours you need your freelancer to be available? That should be communicated prior to committing to a contract to ensure you get what you need from the relationship.
When using communication channels such as Slack you should understand what an acceptable response time should be. If you are a last-minute person this could be a great opportunity to have your freelancer meet with you regularly to ask you questions and plan ahead, saving both of you pain as you try to get work done. Depending on the time of the day, do you expect a same-day response or are you okay with a 24-hour turnaround time?</span>
None of these are bad, it’s just really helpful to communicate these expectations up front and create a great experience from day 1.
When Things Aren’t Going Well
Occasionally you may not feel that you and your freelancer are on the same page. Before jumping ship, here are a few things to try with a virtual assistant. With a freelancer you jump into the relationship and start going a hundred miles an hour right off the bat. I know you want to get your money’s worth and you want your freelancer to be a mind reader. We all wish that ALL the people we worked with were mind readers, right?
Here are a few steps I walk myself through when working with a freelancer and feeling like something is amiss.
A few other areas we weren’t able to get to today are filing systems - where do you keep assets you can share and where do you expect assets to be delivered. Payment type and frequency - unless you are using a platform like Upwork, have you communicated what you offer and what needs to appear on invoices you receive? A lot of this could be included in a simple contract so that you have it on a single document and don’t have to remember this with every freelancer you employ.
I’m a firm believer that contractors, consultants, coaches and freelancers are an asset to your organization and are one of the most financially responsible ways to operate small to medium nonprofits as well as startup businesses and entrepreneurs. You can have a great experience working with project-based freelancers when you walk into the relationship fully aware. </span>
Through Copper Hive I work with nonprofits and small businesses to establish the framework and path to grow your community, scale your business and focus on what you are best at while letting experts support you.