This post is produced by Workfront.

Turning to freelance or contract work is becoming more and more common as agencies in today’s world try to compete for more business and clients demand more work in shorter timelines. Oftentimes, especially for agencies, your creative teams and account execs are already working crazy schedules, and you end up shopping out work just to meet deadlines.

But when the solution is to outsource the work, many don’t see the mounting costs of the actual freelance. In fact, any contract work can often cost three times the amount of retaining in-house staff (Andy McCue, “Outsourcing costs more than in-house”), which typically costs, on average, $64,000 a year.

For many agencies, the amount of work to be done and the ability to hire the right talent full time leads them to a long list of freelancers. In order to justify the cost, it’s important to understand the expense and have real-time visibility into the contract work.

A recent survey by Robert Half Technology cited communication, productivity, and technology issues as the top three challenges of managing a remote workforce. Here’s how to tackle how these challenges to manage your freelance talent better:


Effective communication and collaboration are critical to the success of contract work. Unfortunately, studies find that the top challenge agencies face when managing remote workers is communication issues. This poor communication, in turn, wastes an estimated 14 percent of the work week.

The fix: Communicate and collaborate in the context of your work

Eliminate communication silos. Silos impede communication, reduce efficiency, and increase costs. Email, instant messaging, texting, and phone calls have their place, but they can also create information silos. Use a cloud-based tool that provides a central location for communication with anywhere, anytime access.

Collaborate within the context of your work. Communication and collaboration is most effective when done in the context of work. Posting artwork and copy and seeing real-time feedback enhances your team’s ability to collaborate and eliminates time spent looking for information — especially when that information is buried in emails in someone else’s inbox.


Your freelancers are highly talented, creative people. You’re not concerned about micromanaging what they are doing, but you do need to know who is working on what, what the status is, and if your ability to meet your delivery date is at risk. You need this information to manage effectively and increase productivity where possible. You also need to keep clients informed of your team’s progress.

The fix: Establish real-time visibility into all the work

Track how long the work takes. Accurate, historical knowledge about the time each task takes ensures that both budgets and schedules are appropriate.

Share the data with stakeholders and clients. Use dashboard reports that let clients or other team members know where the project stands at a glance. Or, even better, use a tool that allows them access to the data so they can get the information they want, when they want it.


Rework, rework, rework. No agency or creative team can avoid it. It’s there, lurking in the shadows of every new project. “Can we make the logo bigger?” “Why is that line blue?” “I like a different color of blue.” “This copy doesn’t sound…right.” “Can we scrap this design and try something new?” Oftentimes, clients can turn a simple project into a complex, 75-version, final-final hell.

The Standish Group’s “Chaos Report” consistently reports that the cost of rework is in the 40-60 percent range of total project spend.

The Fix: Manage feedback and approvals in a central location

Reduce the clutter. Allow clients to speak directly to freelancers about minor changes and rework. You’ll reduce the amount of time you spend as the go-between for small changes. Plus, collaborating and commenting in the same tool will allow everyone to be updated in real-time. No more digging through emails to forward feedback to freelancers. Whew!

Approve work in the same space. It’s time to stop using email to approve projects. In fact, one-third of all managers who oversee projects admit to using email and spreadsheets as their primary project management tool. If an approval is stuck in your email inbox, how can your freelance talent know it’s final? Just as you centralize your feedback, proofing, and collaboration in one space, add your approvals to the same mix. Your freelancers will thank you, and you will be grateful for that extra time.

Joe Staples is CMO of Workfront.

To learn more, join Workfront as we discuss with experts these challenges. Learn how they affect your bottom-line as well as actionable strategies to help you manage freelance talent successfully.

Register now for a free live webinar on Wednesday, August 19, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT.

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