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7 Ways to Keep—and Not Have to Replace—Your Best Freelancers

Here’s how to retain your favorite freelancer for the long haul—and save yourself the headache of searching for a new one

If you’re looking for a freelancer, you’re in luck—there were 53 million of them in business as of 2014. What’s more difficult is finding a good freelancer and keeping them around.

With lots of opportunities and no commitments, freelancers can hop around from gig to gig as they see fit—sometimes, leaving you in the lurch. Here’s how to retain your favorite freelancer for the long haul.

1. Treat them like part of the team
Treat your freelancers as disposable widgets, and they’ll treat you like a disposable client. So, make a mindset change: Start to think of freelancers as a valuable, and valued, part of your team.

Trust them, respect them and include them like you would any regular employee. If you want their loyalty down the line, you have to build this solid foundation first.

2. Be reliable
Freelancers can’t stand when clients go MIA, so keep the lines of communication open at all times. Even if you’re busy, or you don’t have all the details for a project, or you haven’t had a chance to check out the work they sent you last week, get in touch instead of keeping quiet.

A simple note can make all the difference: “Today is crazy, but I promise I haven’t forgotten about you. Let’s connect Monday.”

3. Keep them challenged and interested
Just like full-time hires, freelancers need to be motivated on the job. Once they prove themselves to you on a few tasks, hand over more responsibility and more challenging assignments.

Let them pick and choose their own projects whenever possible. Or, ask them to cover a beat that’s of interest, instead of handing out one-time, piecemeal assignments across a spectrum of topics.

4. Pay them more
The biggest reason that freelancers say goodbye is that the pay is greener elsewhere. It’s up to you to offer comparable pay in order to keep your freelancers satisfied.

In the not-so-distant past, freelancers were seen as a cost-saving measure, but the tide has turned. The best ones bring in big bucks these days, and if you want high quality on a consistent basis, you have to be prepared to pay up. There’s simply no other choice.

If you’re not able to pay competitively, be prepared to see most of your freelancers come and go. (Psst! This costs you more in the long run.)

5. Pay them on time
While we’re talking money—make sure you’re providing prompt payment, on time, every time.

Ask yourself: Do your freelancers have to follow up with you multiple times to get paid? How many days does it take from invoice to payment? If you can fix the process, do it.

If it’s out of your hands, communicate to your freelancers right up front how long it will take for payment to arrive. They’ll be far more understanding if you manage their expectations.

6. Show your appreciation
Freelancers want to know they’re doing a good job and that you appreciate their efforts. It’s not because they’re gluttons for praise—it’s because they want to ensure that you, the client, are 100% satisfied.

If you’re pleased with their work, say so! If you’re able, consider adding an incentive or bonus program that really puts your money where your mouth is.

Also, it never hurts to send a thank you note for a job particularly well done.

7. Offer referrals
One of the nicest ways to keep your freelancers happy is to refer them to new clients. Not only does it show that you think their work is top-notch, it shows that you’re looking out for the long-term health of their career. Making the effort to recommend someone does not go unnoticed, and it creates even greater loyalty to you in the long run.

There you have it! Follow these seven steps, and you’ll see how much easier it is to retain high quality freelance talent.

If you’re in the market for new freelancers, stop by the Mediabistro Employers page to post a listing and find first-class candidates.

Curious about what freelancers are doing to build relationships with great clients like you? Check out 7 Ways to Be a Successful Freelancer—and Book More Repeat Assignments.

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