How to have a great relationship with your independent consultant
Recently I’ve given you insight into whether you need an editor for your project, and which editor you may need… but this week I’ve decided to go back to basics.
There’s no point in hiring an independent consultant, of any type, if you cannot communicate with them effectively and politely. You would treat in-house staff with courtesy and professionalism (at least I hope you would), therefore you should treat freelances with the same respect.
Great communication often leads to a great working relationship.
Sometimes though, it can be difficult to figure out how best to talk to your consultant, after all you may never have hired a freelance before, or may only have worked with in-house staff.
So, here are my top five tips for successful communication with your independent consultant of choice:
- Your initial enquiry should have as much pertinent information as possible, without straying from the point.
Do – include the scope of the project, timescales, expected turnaround and budget, and if possible an example of the work.
Don’t – give your consultant your life-story or give more than your consultant needs to assess whether they can take on the job.
- You stick to office hours and so do we. Our working day may be a little different to yours, but to communicate effectively it is wise to ask your independent co-worker when the best time to contact them is. Believe me, telephone calls late on a Sunday night (especially with the expectation of an immediate work response) are not the way to build a fulfilling relationship. Also take into account any time differences if you are working with a consultant in a different time-zone.
Do – find out when your co-worker’s office hours are and when the best times for contact are.
Don’t – telephone during unsocial hours, or expect a return email during these times.
- Engage with your consultant, don’t just give a list. The worst type of communications dispense with pleasantries, just give a list of what needs doing and, if they are initial contacts, presume that the consultant will take the job.
Do – be pleasant, professional and personal
Don’t – be a robot. The human touch is always appreciated.
- Respond to quotes. As an independent consultant, time is money. It can take a considerable amount of time to prepare a quote for a potential client. When dealing with an independent consultant it is important to understand that while we wait for a quote to be accepted, or rejected, other work may come in. Silence from a potential client can put us in a difficult position… do we wait for a reply from the first quote (which may interest us enormously), or do we take the job that has just come in, from a regular client, that is a definite go-ahead? Worse still is when, after sending a quote, there is no reply AT ALL from the client we quoted for. When, as occasionally happens, we reject a job on the basis that we are waiting for a reply for the first quote, we can end up with no project to work on. Now, even freelances need to eat and pay the bills. If the quote you receive is way out of your budget say so as soon as possible, it may be that a compromise could be reached (especially if the project is interesting to the consultant). Also if you have decided to go with another quote, say so. Be professional.
Do – reply as soon as possible to either go ahead with the project or reject a quote
Don’t – forget! We are all professionals, if there is no reply it can create a negative impression and may adjust your chances of working with that consultant in the future. A polite rejection (with reasons) is just as easy as an acceptance email, not as nice, but better than leaving the freelance hanging.
- Understand that we are not miracle workers. When working with an independent consultant it is important to understand that we are there to help you, not to enforce rigid rules and structures. We can give you suggestions of how to make your project better, but at the end of the day the decision is yours to take. Do not expect 100% perfection – that is an impossible ideal. Talk to your consultant and if you are unsure of something say so. If you do not want to accept changes that is your prerogative.
Do – talk about the project. Make the job a pleasant experience for both sides, communication is key.
Don’t – alter the end result without letting your consultant know – if you decide to alter things yourself after the job is finished you can affect both of your professional reputations. If you are unsure as to why alterations were made by your consultant, there is no harm in asking… a professional will always be able to justify their alterations.
There are probably many more tips that will help you to build a great relationship with your freelance colleagues, but if you take heed of these five it will make the experience much more enjoyable and efficient for both of you. Whether you work alongside designers, writers, editorial professionals or other types of consultant, communicating well during the working relationship leads to great collaborative work.