Lessons In Not Sucking: Working With Firms & Freelancers

November 27, 2007 by

This is part eight in a series on Lessons In Not Sucking. Today we discuss working with freelancers and firms. Having both owned my own creative firm in the past that worked with churches and now being on the other side of the table working with and hiring freelancers, I’ve learned a few things here and there. As always, if you have additional comments to add to this, fire away!

1. Architect vs. Contractors.
It’s important to know the difference between architects and contractors when it comes to getting your project done. Architects are the ones who create and plan, contractors are the ones who execute. Many freelancers and firms attempt to do both and, in many cases, it can work out due to the size of a project. However, make sure you know what you’re asking for when it comes to your project. If you’re acting as the architect, make sure the freelancer or firm you’re hiring knows that their role is to make your plans happen. Too many architects is like too many cooks in the kitchen. No architects is like a plan with no vision.

2. Build the relationship.
The more you know your freelancers and firms, the better they will be able to understand you! And the more they understand you, the better your projects will get. Don’t be afraid to tour their studio or do coffee together. Invite them to a service, let them come to a staff meeting. You already know the value of relationship, so extend it to them too.

3. Freebies ain’t free.
I strongly suggest you stay away from the freelancer or firm who offers to do your project for free. This is especially difficult when you’re using someone that goes to your church because they really want to help. By the way, I’m not always a fan of using people from the inside–it depends on the size of your church. Free stuff is never really free. It always costs something. Headache, hassle, hoops, etc.

4. Avoid the temptation to trade.
Along the lines of the freebie route, I suggest you avoid the temptation to trade as well. This is becoming less and less of an issue these days, but it’s still out there. Trading freelancer work for free promotion to all the businesses in the church or free rides in the pastor’s private plane is not a good idea. The days of trading posts are long gone, so let’s use real currency people.

5. The “busy” test.
The busy test means don’t hire anybody unless they’re busy. This may seem a little backwards because we’re tempted to think that the less busy someone is the more they will focus on our project and we’ll get a better price because they’re “hungry.” There is a reason the good firms and freelancers are busy, it’s because they’re that good. There are exceptions to this, but you get the idea. By the way, this is also my philosophy for hiring people. I try not to ever hire anybody that isn’t currently employed.

6. Pay by project, not by the hour.
In rare occasions have I found paying by the hour to ever be a good deal for both sides. Putting a dollar amount to the hour commoditizes the firm or freelancer, and it scares the number crunchers. Establishing per-project pricing allows for more freedom on both sides, and you don’t feel guilty for every little email or phone call. It is very important to include in the quote what exactly is included, how many changed rounds, etc. It’s typical to have a clause that allows for the project price to go up if the scope changes.

7. Gang-up changes.
Do not call or email your freelancer or firm with every single little change you have. Gang them up into one or two change rounds before you make contact. The less you make changes, the better you will be to work with and the more likely you will be to really get the most out of your freelancer or firm. You hire your freelancer or firm for their creativity, not their proofing ability. Make sure all content has been scrubbed and proofed before you ever even send it to the designer(s).

8. Be careful with the “award winners.”
Just because someone says they won awards doesn’t mean they are the best fit for you. In my humble opinion, awards are given to the people who tried to win an award instead of trying to serve a client. It’s not bad to see a few awards, but when you see a long list of them or trophies everywhere in their office, you might want to think twice.

9. Find a freelancer in the CFCC Freelance Lab.
This thing really works (at least for me it did)! I posted a freelance project a few weeks ago and got two leads the same day.

Post By:

Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

8 Responses to “Lessons In Not Sucking: Working With Firms & Freelancers”

  • Mike Anderson
    November 27, 2007

    Awesome and much needed article.
    I work for an advertising agency and wish that all clients (especially churches) would read and understand these tips.
    I am helping start a company called Ministry Growers (ministrygrowers.com) that works with churches. I will be passing this on to my clients- thanks!

     | Permalink
  • brad
    November 27, 2007

    I expect that most people here are going to be somewhat familiar with this process, but if not, please pay attention to #7. Projects blow up or melt down by turning that into a crisis. It’s an especially lethal mixture when combined with a strict deadline.
    Probably the most common cause of a church-project derailment is a lack of professional ethics or disconnected expectations. While I was in university, I did some pro bono work for a church so that I could have the first piece in my portfolio. When it came back from the printer the pastor had fundamentally altered it: it was no longer my work, and it was hideous! Let’s just say that was a bad day. Let someone do the job you’ve hired them for (even if it’s for free). That’s probably a mash-up between #1 and #2 but it is an issue that has burned every single church-connected creative I know!
    #3 isn’t a hill I’d want to die on. The US church seems to have a very different relationship with money than the Canadian church. If it’s absolutely critical (tight deadline, etc.) money is an effective trump card. But developing people’s spiritual gifts in what they do, or getting them invested to the point where they give their time, is perhaps a more important focus than just ‘getting it done’. (I’m thinking a team here — not just an individual — if that makes any difference.) I guess it depends what it is (complexity, size, etc.). Most of the free projects I’ve been connected with have been more successful in deeper, better ways than the paid projects. The paid projects just got done on time. :-)

     | Permalink
  • Roland Thomas Gilbert
    November 28, 2007

    You get what you pay for. We once used a church member, who worked professionally as a web designer, to redesign our site (pro bono). Turns out, unbeknown to us, this person blatantly and seriously infringed on some copyright laws by literally copying another church’s website.
    After taking three months to alter the design to comply with the original designers’ request to do so, they’ve since complained that because they work full-time and are taking on more and more freelance work, they’d be “happy” to work on our site for a minimal fee.
    My advice: Hire them and pay them.

     | Permalink
  • Brent Ziemann
    November 28, 2007

    As a developer I want to as some words of advice to this fine and very needed thread.
    Almost every project that goes bad it is because of what I like to call “Scope Creep.” Scope Creep is the slow creep of features being added in to a project along the development cycle. Usually this doesn’t hit the designers as hard as it does the actual developers. About the only way I can explain this is with an analogy of blue printing a house. Once the blue print is done it’s handed over to a construction company to actually make the blue print a reality.
    Changing things at the blue print level is easy. A few CAD drawings can be modified with relative ease. However, lets take for instance the construction company has already framed your house, put in the plumbing, has dry walled your house and you come in and want to move the kitchen sink to the opposite wall.
    Can this be done? Yes.
    Can it be done without added cost? No.
    And will that sink be as efficient in the new location as it would have been in the old position? No.
    The reason for this is the construction company will have to patch in a path to the new location for the sink and will require ripping out dry wall trying to figure out how to run pipes through a wall that wasn’t designed to have pipes in it from the start. It will be an ugly plumbing design to get it done and the odds of plumbing issues in the future will be high as there are now pipes where pipes shouldn’t have been.
    The same is true with code. Once the development has started good developers will design a blue print on how to make things function efficiently.
    When scope creep surfaces it breaks this blue print. And often times it’s because someone didn’t do enough planning before the start of the project.
    How can I keep this from happening?
    To prevent this simply take the time to plan out:
    1.What you want your website to do?
    (List all the Functionality here. IE: Online Tithing, Photo Galleries, Online Sermons, Live Broadcasting, PodCasting, etc…)
    2.Who your target demographic for the website is? (There is always a target demographic) This helps your designers design to the needs of your target audience.
    3.Let your freelances and agencies work without constant interruption.
    (Often times with code things are sectioned out into modules which will come together towards the end of a project. So more than likely they won’t have much to show until much later in the development cycle.)
    4. Ensure your freelancers and agencies have a Design Methodology. For an example here is one that I’ve used for years. I call it ID4
    IDENTIFY the needs of the client.
    DEFINE a system or systems that will efficiently meets those needs. (This is where all web design and back end architecture are done)
    DESIGN a user interface, code architecture, and database design that implement the DEFINED System.
    DEVELOP the application and do quality assurance testing.
    DELIVER the tested and stable application to the client. This involves deployment to client website and more QA testing.
    If you have any further questions feel free to contact me via email.

     | Permalink
  • TaJ
    November 28, 2007

    Great article and comments as well. I “stumbled” upon this site by actually researching freelance opportunities for churches. I would say it’s a no accident.

     | Permalink
  • TaJ
    November 28, 2007

    Great article and comments as well. I “stumbled” upon this site by actually researching freelance opportunities for churches. I would say it’s a no accident.

     | Permalink
  • These are great tips! I especially liked Freebies aren’t really free and The busy test. You definitely hit the nail on the head with them. Aside from unnecessary headaches and hassles, freebies can also cost you low quality in other elements. You might have unknowingly sacrificed something else. And the busy test is also key. I have to admit, I used to think that someone who isn’t busy is a better deal.

     | Permalink
  • Freelancers.co.nr
    June 23, 2008

    For Website Design Freelancers just see on http://www.freelancers.co.nr and start work and make money.

     | Permalink

Church Business