Freelance Management | How to Manage a Freelancer

twine thumbnail how to manage a freelancer freelance management

Let’s face it, not everyone is cut out for freelance management. 

At Twine, we see our fair share of nightmare clients – doing things that could 100% be avoided, had they read this handy guide first!

Managing freelancers is a skill, and can be very different from managing a full-time employee. Freelancers aren’t formally under your control; they aren’t subject to the same rules and conditions that your permanent employees are. What’s more, freelancers require different levels of contact and motivation in order to help them succeed with your project. 

Sounds like a piece of cake… right? 

Well, without further ado, here’s our handy guide into freelance management: the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you’re thinking of hiring a freelancer, make sure you read this foolproof guide first

Make a shortlist of freelancers:


Planning is a rather essential aspect of correct freelance management. You can pretty much guarantee that if you need a freelancer to start on a project tomorrow, no one will be available.

So, beforehand, it’s worth getting together a list of good freelancers well in advance. Do a solid background check, and start building relationships with them before it’s time for you to hire. This way you can work out their schedule, and find out when they’d be available to work for you.

Plus, some independent contractors may be more likely to accept a project from someone they’re on good terms with. As a manager, you’ll find it muceasier working over someone you’re already familiar with.

Hire the right freelancer:

If freelance management has taught us one thing, it’s that there’s one thing managing a freelancer wrong, and another managing the wrong freelancer

Simply put, hire someone who believes in your company values: that way, they’ll understand your project right from the get-go, and you’ll have less explaining to do to bring them up to speed. We understand that the talent pool is vast and exciting, but this is one of those things you just need to do your research on. 

It sounds like an obvious one, but make sure you hire a freelancer with the right skills. That illustrator you’ve found might say they can design your website, but it’s not their area of specialism. Hiring a specialist means that they’re definitely the right person for the job – a good way to hire the best talent is to use a freelance marketplace (we’ve found the best ones here). 

Great freelancers are hot commodities. Make them want to work for you more than anyone else – Hubspot

Also, don’t hire someone over or underqualified. If you give out a freelance project that’s too simple to a senior level freelancer, you might think that because they’re an experienced pro they’ll get your project done in double-quick time. What will actually happen is they’ll take longer with it as they fit it around more exciting projects that are more fulfilling to them.

Get a freelance policy in place:

Get important dates in their calendar.

Freelance management 101: make sure you know how to cope with any work-related situations that may arise – i.e. sickness, lateness, expenses, any benefits, working hours, dress code, etc.

Anything that you’d normally have to brief a permanent employee about, to do with any kind of operational needs, all applies here. Don’t wait for these situations to happen before you decide what your policy will be. There’s nothing worse than being asked a work-related question by your freelancer and not having the answer to handbad project management!

Want more ideas on how an effective policy looks? Check out for some seriously handy freelance policy templates

Write a solid project brief:

Have you really got your freelance management under wraps, if you haven’t yet got a good project brief?

Your project specification is a document that contains a summary of your project, the project requirements, scope, deadlines, context and background research, etc. A strong project brief makes the hiring process oh so sweeter, as you’re clearly outlining the project into manageable chunks for your freelancer.

If you’re in need of a little guidance, our article on writing the perfect project brief will help you out!

Set expectations:

What do we mean by setting expectations? Well, let your freelancer know what you want them to do and how they should do it. Simple as that!

It’s important to provide context for the project they’re working on – your freelancer is an expert in their field but may not necessarily be an expert in your business. A flexible workforce needs to be brought up to speed on your company values, culture, and protocol.

Also, remote freelancers aren’t in the office soaking up the atmosphere, overhearing business conversations and decisions. Remember to be explicit with them and bring them up to speed wherever necessary!

Freelancers are not employees; they are independent consultants who can work wherever and whenever they want. Your best bet as a small business owner is to manage them by communicating effectively and by setting consistent deadlines – John Boinott

Don’t assume your freelancer know’s what’s expectected of them already, (even if it seems obvious). For instance, if you expect them to be online by 8.30, state this when you hire them. If they need to Skype into your weekly team meetings, make sure they know this.

Out of sight out of mind:

When you work from home, no one can hear you scream.

If your freelancer is working remotely, it can sometimes be a case of out-of-sight-out-of-mind… however, this can make them feel ostracised from the team. So, have regular updates and don’t forget about them!

A quick management solution to isolated freelance employees is making them feel like part of the team – include them in meetings, briefings, even socials (if they’re with you long enough).

Your freelancer should be checking in with you on a regular basis to make sure the project is heading in the right direction. If this isn’t happening, make sure you are the one to instigate contact.

Make it clear who they report to:

Working with contractors can become confusing if you have a large team, as they may not know who to report to for their project.

If your freelancer is remote, they may not be aware of the hierarchical structure in your company, and may even be confused about who they report to. One of your tasks within your freelance management system, is to make this clear from the offset.

Use a time tracking tool:


Picture this – you’re doing an excellent job at freelance management, aside from the whole time thing…

Well, if you’re concerned about tracking what your remote freelancer is working on and when, consider using a time tracking tool to clarify and manage their billable hours.

These tools are a godsend, as you’ll be able to see exactly how long they’ve spent working on your project. There are numerous tools available, all with different features and price points. Try Harvest, Toggl, or MyHours to help you become the freelance manager of your dreams.


In the wrong hands, email can become a force for evil.

We’ve all been there, right? You log in to find your inbox almost bursting after you’ve been cc’d into 20 irrelevant round robins… yikes. But, used correctly, it can be excellent in helping the freelance management process.

So, #1 – set out what email is used for in your company. If you use other methods of communication, such as Slack, lay down what each of your channels is used for. This could look something like this:

  • Slack is for questions, requests, and chat
  • Email is for sending project specs and communicating with clients
  • Google Docs is for sharing files and creating important documents

If your company has a culture of emailing out of office hours, ask your freelancer whether this works for them. Some people are cool with receiving a late-night email, others not so much (especially if they have a young family).

You should also probably let your freelancer know the times when you check your emails. That way you can be sure your freelancer won’t miss an important deadline – say, for example, if you check your emails at 4.30pm and they email at 5pm.

Emails are a great way of keeping direct communication with your freelancer, however, resist the urge to email several times a dayplease.

Don’t micromanage:


Micromanagement is the bane of freelance management.

Let’s face it – people often choose to become freelancers because they want to break free of the constraints of the office and become their own managers. You’ll find that most freelancers are fairly autonomous, and therefore won’t take heavy-handed management or micromanagement well.

Try and be flexible – resist the urge to want to oversee everything your freelancer is up to. Remember also, you won’t be their only client, so they may not be able to respond to your beck and call.

Here’s the bottom line: a good freelancer won’t need too much management from you. If you find yourself spending a lot of time managing someone, or hand-holding, perhaps it’s time to buck up your ideas.

How do freelancers like to be managed?

Okay, so they usually hate micromanagement – got it.

So, how do they like to be managed?

Well, asking your contractor about what they expect from your role as a freelance manager can’t hurt to ask. You should ask what style of management works best for them, as well as what systems they’re used to working with.

It’s important you find freelancers that will be compatible with not just you, but your project also. You should both have input on this process and come to an arrangement that suits you both.

Give feedback:


This is an important one for perfect freelance management – luckily for you, we’ve got an extensive article, detailing how to give your freelancer feedback. You’re welcome!

Encourage them:

You want your freelancer to feel validated, supported, and encouraged throughout their work process. Heck, you want all of your employees to feel this way!

This should go without saying, but let your freelancer know how important the work they are doing is to you and your company. Although they have knowledge of the project they’re working on, freelancers can often lack a wider business context. They may not be 100% clued up on how their work impacts your company as a whole – so, let them know they count too!

Pay them on time:

There is no quicker way to lose a freelancer forever than by not paying them on time.

Your freelancer will value this above most other things you can provide, so, when hiring freelancers, make sure you have this box ticked!

Care about your freelancer:

Show them you care.

Your freelancer is more than just a dependable workhorse.

Freelancers have a lot of clients, and, before long, projects can start to become simply transactional. You’ll find the communication happens digitally rather than face to face, so a little personal encouragement goes a long way.

This goes hand in hand with the encouragement heading prior, but make them feel part of your team, as freelancing can be an isolating profession. Invite them to come into the office. Perhaps they could come along to a team lunch?

You’ll go above and beyond just being their manager if you show you genuinely care about your freelancer. Why not make sure you’re the client with the right freelance management, that they remember? Building a solid business relationship with your freelancer will ensure they’ll come back to you time and again.

Ready to hire? Our marketplace of over 410,000 freelancers have the skills and expertise needed to skyrocket your business to the next level. From marketers to designers, copywriters to SEO experts – browse the talented bunch here!


After studying English Literature at university, Vicky decided she didn’t want to be either a teacher or whoever it is that writes those interminable mash-up novels about Jane Austen and pirates, so sensibly moved into graphic design.

She worked freelance for some time on various projects before starting at Twine and giving the site its unique, colourful look.

Despite having studied in Manchester and spent some years in Cheshire, she’s originally from Cumbria and stubbornly refuses to pick up a Mancunian accent. A keen hiker, Vicky also shows her geographic preferences by preferring the Cumbrian landscape to anything more local.