5 Tips on how Agencies and Freelancers can be good buddies

In a couple of weeks, things will return back to normal. The confinement will be lifted, and creative agencies and freelancers will return to their regular work habits of meeting clients and taking over projects that were on hold or ever new ones. Some of those projects may even be handed down to freelancers as the workload grows, and we all know the pain-staking process that could be.

Back in the days when I was working for an agency, we used freelancers whenever we had excess projects in our pipeline.
Finding the right freelancer was like seeking the right candidate to join the agency. Going through each person, interviewed them, talked about projects, looked at portfolios, and went through references. All the processes needed to extend your team, right?

The agency then uses the freelancer to bring their creative freedom to produce out-of-the-box, innovative artwork. In this instance, the freelancer becomes the extension.

While collaborations between agencies and freelancers can create wonders, inevitably, friction can also occur. The question is then: how do you get the partnership to work frictionlessly?

Below are some of the tips on how to create a friendly relationship between freelancers and the agency.

1. Ask to join in when having a Client Meeting
The freelancer’s responsibility is to be an out-of-the-box thinker and push the limits.

However, the agency is responsible for refining those ideas, fitting with the client’s expectations.

As a freelancer, ask the agency if you could sit in on their clients’ meetings so you could get a better understanding. After all, the agency should be in a position to understand their clients best. So no matter how creative you think you can be, the agency knows their clients better than you. Always ask for their feedback. Be serious and listen attentively.

2. Always ask and get the Correct Brief
The agency’s responsibility is to align your design concepts with the client’s expectations. So no matter how brilliant your design concepts are, the quality doesn’t matter if the designs are not in line with their customer needs.
If the agency doesn’t understand the client’s customer base correctly or doesn’t communicate the client’s expectations successfully, you, as a freelancer, will struggle to deliver exceptional work.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced this before when an agency failed to brief you correctly. When this happens, you will struggle to meet their client’s expectations and their target audience.

To avoid this, insist that the agency provides you with a clear and thorough briefing document and any elements you will need to produce your work. Create and share a cloud folder where you can store all those documents.

If something is unclear or unrealistic, don’t be afraid to communicate your concerns and correctly manage their expectations before starting the project.

3. Be truthful on Your Limits
Having been on both sides of the teams, I know that most people may have little insight into your creative process as a designer or developer. Often they expect that you can perform some creative miracle. I know that creativity doesn’t come on command and usually takes time and is a painful process.

When I first joined an agency, as a designer, my project manager would sit with me and show the various processes and how much time it could take to perform each task. Each of those times she would spend with me gave her a clear idea of managing our clients’ expectations more effectively.

As a freelancer, be transparent about your creative process and limitations. Remember that it is not a weakness if you do not know something, and the more open you are with the agency regarding those limitations and why the better the cooperation will be.

If possible, go to the agency’s physical location and do your work there. Show the project manager the job you are doing, and the time it takes to do it; this will pay off.

4. Always Communicate
As mentioned before, having worked on both sides, I found that frequent to everyday communication is excellent.

We all know the stress that follows when you check on the status of a project and confront worrying silence. If you’re an agency accountable for keeping a client happy, you start to worry that the freelancer will not deliver what you needed for the project on time. If you are a freelancer, you find yourself stuck, not knowing if the agency’s client has returned with feedback. Which this could leave you in a waiting state, delaying other projects in your pipeline.

Agencies typically have their own internal process of project management and communication and may be different from yours. So it would be best if you always reassured the agency by keeping them up to date, regularly with your progress. If you have already established your process and stages, it should be easy to follow using an excellent project management tool.

There’re loads of collaborations and project management tools online, some better than others. There’s Slack for communication, or if you’re using G Suite, you can always use Google Hangout. There’s Trello, Asana or even TeamGantt for collaboration and project management. As a freelancer, I found that ClickUp has everything I need in its free version and even more on its cheapest package.

Try to break down the various steps in your project into small items; allocate who is responsible for what, when you will deliver each piece and when you expect feedback from the agency. Try to add extra time to your plan for any contingency and inform in advance if the project timeline will change due to unmet deadlines or unforeseen issues.

5. Sit back and Evaluate the Project
While working in an agency, whenever I would head a project, I would always do a retrospective with our client to see how things have gone so far. I would generally ask things like:
What went well, and what did not?
Is there anything that needs improvement before the next stage?

As a freelancer, I would strongly recommend that you take the time with the agency or even your direct client to go over these questions. There is always room for improvement, and this process is excellent to get constructive feedback. And more importantly, take note of how you and the agency/client can improve your collaboration and procedures for the next project.

Collaboration is the secret ingredient of success.
As a creative, always remember that your work won’t be that great if you fail to understand that agency and failed to understand the client. This would lead to them giving you the wrong brief. No one is perfect, but by collaborating together, you can create exceptional artwork.

Finally, to be on the safe side, make sure that your proposal:
* Is clear and direct.
* State the various timeframes.
* What does each task/modules involve.
* Has transparent fees for each item.
* And always follow with a good contract.

To save time with project administration, I use Bonsai, an all-in-one freelancing solution that helps you do more and work less.

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