Working with a talented freelancer who gets your business can be a rewarding experience. Freelancers can help you scale your business, and deliver awesome client projects — the best freelancers will challenge you and become close business associates.

Most freelance relationships go off without a hitch, but there are some occasions where wires get crossed and mistakes happen. Working with people from all over the world means that you need to be culturally sensitive and super clear on what you are looking for from a project or brief. Sometimes finding the right person can also be a huge struggle — it’s hard to make big hiring decisions like this by yourself.

If you are struggling to make the most of freelancers, or need some tips on how to avoid miscommunication — read on.

Write an ad that appeals to your ‘unicorn’

Have you got a special someone in mind? Do you need someone unique? If you are looking for a really talented freelancer with a specific set of skills, then don’t write a generic ad! So many people put out calls for the work that are sadly devoid of personality or context.

Create a job ad that really conveys who you are as a person — show some personality, and share your ethos. When sharing it on social, add some context and a cool backstory.

If you have a better ad, you will get better applicants, and you will spend less time screening candidates. (Tips on how to entice good freelance writers here).

Pro tip: You may want to include some information on what you’re not looking for on the job ad. This helps people self-select.

Start closer to home

There are plenty of online freelancer sites out there, and don’t get me wrong — they can be great places to make your next hire — but you should always think about who you are actually hiring. Does a photo and a profile on a website really guarantee that that person is going to ‘get you’? You may be better off starting closer to home.

Start asking around on social media, and lean on your professional network to see who they might know. You’ve also got the option of using a vetted directory, where you know you’ll be matched with like-minded people.

Don’t just put out a random distress call to the internet (though those do also work), but think about your network first, and seek help from places and people who already share your values.

Ask more questions

Just because they’re not be sitting next to you in your office, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get to know them. Small talk can make all the difference when things are tough: when projects are delayed and stress levels are high, it’s much more enjoyable to be working with someone you can laugh with.

During screening stage, make sure that you ask more questions about their character, life, and current goals. Forging strong personal ties with freelancers will help you swing difficult projects with more ease.

Look at their portfolio or previous work in detail and ask probing, intelligent questions. If you feel uneasy about them for some reason, it might be a sign that you need to walk away.

Communicate with 0% room for error

Don’t assume anything, communicate clearly, and always deliver killer briefs. Freelancers won’t inherently know anything about the way that you work, so don’t make dangerous assumptions.

Take your time when it comes to briefing freelancers, and give them time and space to react to briefs with questions and clarifications. Make sure that they have all the data that they need to complete their tasks so that they’re not chasing you for stuff. Google Drive is a great way to share documents and manage briefs.

Be a process ninja

In order to build trust, it helps to have really clear roles, processes, and guidelines. Create training manuals and guides, record videos, jump on briefing calls, share spreadsheets — be involved in the freelance process and you will find ways of improving it yourself. On-boarding freelancers well is one of the main reasons why freelance projects succeed.

When it comes to project sign-off, make sure that project handover, timelines, and edits are discussed and clarified beforehand. Editing can be a painstaking process during busy times, so give people plenty of time to react to your feedback. Be very specific with feedback and use commenting functions where you can. (More about feedback etiquette here).

Be firm

Sending out non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) might make you feel a little paranoid, but you have a responsibility to protect your business and your clients. Be firm with boundaries and don’t give away sensitive business information.

Even though the person in front of you can be trusted, can you know for sure that no one else has access to their work laptop or emails? Creating an NDA is no hassle at all, and is a brilliant way to protect your business in a non-confrontational way.

Shop around

This might sound callous, but don’t latch onto the first nice person you talk to. They might be humoring you, or they might simply be the wrong person for the job. Don’t give up too soon and keep your ad live so that you get to talk to a wide range of people.

Found someone you love but who you just can’t afford to take on right now? See if you can build up a professional relationship with them through networking first.

Solopreneur sanity & growth

Freelancers can really help you bring more sanity and purpose into your business, taking things off you that you don’t do very well, or taking your copy, design, or marketing game to the next level. Using freelancers may be something you end up doing for the long-term, or you may decide to scale up and hire staff. Cultivating solid relationships with freelancers is a great way to future-proof your business.

Use freelancers wisely and allocate enough budget so that you can pay them a fair fee. Cheap work won’t bring you much joy. Always pay on time, and be understanding (within reason) when it comes to deadlines.

Got some freelance talent on-board? Want to grow your business even faster? Buy up an existing business (listings here), or embark on a crowdfunding campaign to kickstart your business idea into high gear. Always have freelance growth options in the background as you may suddenly need people when you’ve got 0% time for on-boarding. Working with other professionals or hiring freelancers to help you scale your business is a smart business move. What’s your top tip for successfully on-boarding freelancers?