Working with freelancers is becoming a regular occurrence for many businesses in 2019. As a flexible working and the gig economy spread across the globe, the cafes, libraries, and galleries are teeming with people eagerly glued to their laptops. As anybody who has some experience of hiring them will tell you, freelancers can be experts in their field but if they aren’t certain about what you need, the quality of the end product will suffer. Whether you’re working with a web developer, a voice artist or a graphic designer, it’s essential to provide as much detail as possible to make sure you get the most for your money. Though you don’t necessarily need to produce a multi-page document that dissects the minutiae of every aspect of the project, it always helps to have a clear set of instructions and guidelines to work from. In this article, we explain how to create effective briefs that will help you get the most value from any freelancers you work with.
- Start with the basics, not the details.
Before a freelancer can agree to work with you, they will need to understand how much time the project will take and what they will need to do in order to deliver something of a professional standard. This means essential details should come first. Try to include things like word counts, a number of web pages required or descriptions of artwork at the start of any communication and be specific about what you’re looking for. Whether you’re looking for somebody to build you a simple website or somebody to manage your online store for you, always make it as clear as possible what you need.
- Explain what you don’t want
Though it might seem a little negative to start with a list of things you want to avoid, this can be a helpful exercise for everybody concerned. Identifying qualities that you dislike means you can help to give the freelancer a clearer idea of what you do want. For example, if you don’t like the idea of a jokey, conversational video because it doesn’t fit your tone of voice, let them know as soon as you can. Similarly, if you have certain legal obligations when it comes to the language you use, advise your content writer of this and explain in as much detail as possible. If your project is similar to many others but you have specific requirements, ensure to explain that you don’t want another generic example of something that already exists. This kind of information is critical to getting a finished product that both parties can be proud of.
- Use Examples
This may not be possible in every project but for websites, artwork, written content, video, sound and the vast majority of creative mediums, there are usually some examples of similar content that you can use as a frame of reference. Even if the direction and tone of what you are planning to do are completely different, giving a freelancer something to tangible and specific to work with is always helpful. From blog posts that feature striking images or a layout you like to sections of music or film that encapsulate the aesthetic or feeling you’re trying to generate, providing something in addition to a bullet point list or a couple of paragraphs can genuinely help to start the creative process.
- Communicate Regularly
Though this won’t apply to one-off projects as much as ongoing work, the importance of clear communication can never be underestimated. Providing feedback on any work that has been completed means that you can ensure your specifications are being met and it also helps to motivate the freelancer you’re working with. Delays and problems are an inevitable part of life in every industry but they don’t have to mean catastrophe for your project. If you need to pause, speed up or slow down, let your freelancer know as soon as possible. The majority of the time, people do want to try and accommodate each other and honesty is a far better policy to adopt than one of embarrassed silence. When the work is complete, try to be upfront about when payment will be delivered if you can. This provides peace of mind for the freelancer and also gives you a clear time frame to work with.
- Ask for advice
If you have never worked with a freelancer or written a brief before, try to be honest about this. In many cases, freelancers will be happy to provide you with an example of the kind of thing they usually work with or at the very least, give you a list of the pieces of information they need from you before they can start work. If you are unsure of what somebody is offering, don’t be afraid to ask them to explain their service in more detail. In areas such as digital marketing, the difference between a developer and designer might seem obvious but nobody is expecting you to know this sort of thing if it isn’t your industry. If you are unsure about what you need specifically, chatting to a freelancer about your project can be helpful, even if you don’t decide to work together. Providing you don’t expect detailed advice and guidance for nothing, most people will be happy to help you to work out what you need.
The key to an effective brief is clarity. The most important thing to remember is that the freelancer and the person hiring them must fully understand what the project involves from the beginning. The details should always be discussed before work starts and through regular communication and adjustments can be commonplace, having a structured plan and a clear list of instructions to refer to will mean the project is more likely to be completed properly the first time around. Essentially, never assume anything and always explain as much as you can. Even if the person you are working with is a fellow industry professional, they may not be aware of certain practices or procedures, so be as clear and specific as possible at all times.