Most small businesses do most of their marketing in-house but with the rise of services like Elance, it’s becoming easier and easier to outsource projects where time constraints or skills sets don’t allow you to do it yourself. Yet this can be difficult when you’re used to doing everything yourself. Having been both a creative freelancer and a client, I thought I’d share a few tips for effectively managing a creative freelancer when you can’t do the work yourself.

How to Manage a Creative Freelancer When You Can’t Do it Yourself

Write a Good Creative Brief

Working with a creative freelancer effectively starts and ends with communication. To make sure your starting the project off on the right foot, it’s important to take a moment to write down your brand, goals and reasons for the project, or a creative brief. This is an especially important if you haven’t worked with the freelancer before. since the creative brief will help scope their work and inspire them to deliver something worthy of you taking the time to outsource the work.  There are plenty of “How Tos” around writing a creative brief but I like this one from Watertight Marketing because it adds nuances that I think sets up your creative freelancer for success.

Plan for At Least Three Iterations

Depending on the size of the project, you’ll want to plan for more than three revisions, but I always plan for at least three, regardless of the project. The first is very early on in the project and is more of an outline of the key messaging, points, graphs, etc., that needs to be included in order to support my overall message.

The second iteration I plan for when managing a creative freelancer is a true rough draft including layout of the flow and messaging. I compare this draft to the creative brief that started the project in order to focus my feedback so it remains in scope and to help me continually improve my ability to write better creative briefs in the future.

The final review I plan for is just small tweaks; grammar, color, and overall polishing before going to print and publishing.

Prepare as Much as Possible in Advance

The more you can prepare in advance, the easier it will be for your creative freelancer to produce something you’ll be happy with. Especially when working with multiple stakeholders, it’s important to get their approval on key messages and the creative brief before hiring your freelancer, or be prepared for multiple rounds of rough drafts.

After getting buy-in on key messaging, I collect diagrams and other support materials that serve to guide and inspire as well as the actual visual assets I want used. I store this all in a sharable location, like Dropbox, so the freelancer can get started as soon as I’ve awarded the job. And when I’m concerned about maintaining a look and feel, I’ll create basic layout of how I’d put together a webpage or brochure, for example, in a simple PowerPoint and share that with the freelancer as well. The more you’ve done in advance, the less you’ll spend on your freelancer’s time.

So there are three tactics I use when hiring outside creative freelancers to help me produce the elements that make up a successful campaign. What are your favorite strategies?

Image: PhotoSpin