Estimated reading time: 4 mins
The majority of freelancers in IT have their head in the sand, as far as their personal performance goes.
IT leaders from across several industries have commented to me that freelancers tend to move from appointments without seeking feedback on their performance. It’s estimated that over 60% of freelancers do not receive regular feedback on their service and conduct, and over 90% do not formally obtain a performance review.
The issue for freelancers that don’t gather feedback and review their performance is that they often receive the ultimate in feedback – not being renewed.
Freelancers are workers, just like permanent staff, although they are generally employed under a terms and conditions specific to the freelancer or agency. But in every other sense, they are employees. So why should the career and personal development needs of freelancers be any different to permies? There is one key difference, and that is freelancers are brought into an organization because of a specialist skill and because that skill can be made effective immediately.
I stress the word immediately as it is an important point. To be effective immediately means that a freelancer must be savvy enough to fit into a wide variety of business situations and have the awareness of their impact to adjust behavior quickly. A freelancer therefore comes with great technical skills and also great interpersonal skills.
The prevailing view though is that freelancers bank and freeze their skills at the point they become freelance, and don’t make special efforts to improve and learn to enhance these skills. So it seems the value of a freelancer can diminish the longer they are in freelance employment! I am not saying this is true in every case – in fact I know of many freelancers who are aware of their performance and their impact. But there are many freelancers who don’t, and in my opinion these tend to be the more technical freelancers who provide niche and specialist services.
In blunt terms, it’s arrogance. Freelancers on the whole assume that their skills have lifetime value and that they are the finished article.
However, freelancers remedy this situation by taking some simple actions. Here are a few I’ve experienced:
- Use mult-rater/360-degree feedback as a formal way of gathering feedback – taking time to gather feedback and listen to their clients about their performance, using a formal method. This is a commonly found process used by permanent staff and is often regimented by their employer as preparation for formal performance reviews
- Join a ‘Better Business Bureau’ – Better Business Bureau’s are communities of business people who discuss and share information. They can involve participation in forums and one on one coaching sessions by experienced business people
- Join a professional contractor group – these groups help freelancers to understand and employ best-practice and high standards. They also involve forums but also provide support, such as legal counsel, and offer clubs for consuming services such as accountants
- Join a business network/referral community – Business networks are an excellent source of referrals for work, but they also provide freelancers with information on their performance and reputation. Obviously, a high number of referrals = good reputation. By joining a business network, a freelancer exposes their reputation to be challenged which makes for good learning
Human Resources in organization’s are also culpable for this situation too. HR departments don’t take enough responsibility for the development of long-term freelancers. If over a contract period the freelancers rate remains the same or increases, reducing productivity and effectiveness means that the freelancer becomes expensive – but this increase in cost is hidden. Some HR departments I’ve met get this, and they tend to:
- Conduct formal assessments of a freelancer’s performance for long-term contractors (12 months or over)
- Tie in bonuses to performance
- Set regular goals and objectives based on service improvement and improving quality
- Allocate a regular slot to review performance
- Encourage mult-rater/360-degree feedback, even if their organization doesn’t use it
In summary, feedback and reviewing performance is a key aspect of being a freelancer and the savvy freelancers take steps to gather feedback and review their performance in order to improve the service they provide.
Freelancers! Hurry and take One of Ten Nine free spaces on my Feedback course, normally $300.00!
Course Details: SS01f – How to Achieve Repeat Business, Referrals & Personal Excellence using 360 Degree Feedback. This is a 3 week course designed for freelancers to gain repeat business and referrals through the process of 360 feedback. The course comprises of a mixture of reading, discussion and practical engagement with your colleagues. ($300.00 USD pp)
The course starts in September and is run online with a small number of one on one discussions by telephone.
Hurry! Offer ends August 25 2008. Contact me using the details on the About page for more details.