Working With Firms and Freelancers

Tips for hiring creative help

I'm a big believer in tapping into freelancers because hiring them often means matching the best talent to the right project. Full-time creative people are nice to have on the team, but many ministries can't afford the luxury. Here are some things I've learned through the years:

Know the difference between architects and contractors. Architects create and plan; contractors execute. Many available freelancers and firms attempt to do both and, in some cases, it works 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 architect is like a plan with no vision.

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Build the relationship. The more you know your freelancers and firms, the better they will be able to understand you. The more they understand you, the better your projects will turn out. Don't be afraid to tour their studios or do coffee together. Invite them to a church service; let them come to a staff meeting. You know the value of relationship, so extend it to them.

Freebies aren't free. I strongly suggest you stay away from anyone who offers to do your project for free. Free stuff is never really free. It always costs something

Avoid trading. I suggest you avoid trading as well. Trading freelance work for free promotion to the businesses in the church or free rides in the pastor's plane is not a good idea. The days of trading posts are long gone, so let's use real currency!

Use the "busy" test. Applying the busy test means not hiring someone unless he's busy. This may seem a little backward because we're tempted to think that the less busy someone is, the more he will focus on our project, and we'll get a better price because he's "hungry." There is a reason good firms and freelancers are busy; it's because they are good.

Pay by the project, not by the hour. Only on rare occasions have I found paying by the hour to be a good deal for both sides. Establishing per-project pricing allows for more freedom on both sides, and you don't feel guilty for every little e-mail or phone call. It is very important to put in the price quote exactly what is included, how many change rounds and so on. It's typical to have a clause that allows for the project price to go up if the scope changes.

Gang-up changes. Do not call or e-mail your freelancer or firm with every 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 get the most out of your freelancer or firm. You hire someone for his creativity, not his proofing ability. Make sure all content has been scrubbed and proofed before you send it to the designer(s).

Be careful with award winners. Just because someone says he has won awards doesn't mean he is the best fit for you. It's not bad to see a few awards, but when you see a long list of them or trophies everywhere in the person's office, you might want to think twice.

Find a freelancer in the CFCC Freelance Lab (freelance This lab really works. I posted a freelance project a few months ago and got two leads the same day. It's free, too!

Brad Abare is the director of communications for the Foursquare denomination, founder of the Center for Church Communication ( and president of Personality.

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