Working with freelancers is super common in the online course industry. Nobody’s saying that you can’t do everything on your own, but in reality, even the most successful course creators need help with promoting their course or creating the visual part, or simply with things that seem minor that are really important, such as proofreading your written course content and video scripts.
It’s more of a simple cost-benefit analysis. If it takes you twenty hours to create a logo, could those hours be better put to use elsewhere? Would you make more money by working on other tasks that take you less time and outsource some parts of your online course?
Hiring freelancers is one of the best ways to grow your business faster, as they can help with all aspects of your course creation and promotion. With 36 percent of the total US workforce identifying as freelancers, you’re bound to find all the help you need.
At the same time, most people think that it’s super easy: you tell them what to do, they do it, you pay them for it, and then everyone is happy. However, many things can derail your plans, including misunderstandings and missed deadlines, which can push your launch date even further. Ironically, this is what you want to avoid by using freelancers in the first place!
How to grow your online course business with the help of freelancers
It’s good to keep in mind that freelancers also work with many other clients, so they can’t exactly prioritize your business. They have their own work hours, and you will most likely never meet face to face, so everything is done remotely. That’s why it’s imperative to choose the right people with the right skills and communicate what you need from them.
Here are some steps that you can take towards a successful collaboration with freelancers:
Create a “job description”
This may seem like something that only big companies do when searching for employees, but a job description is actually something that you can write for any freelancer job or task. It helps you figure out what you want from them and also create the announcement when you’re looking for people.
Plus, this doesn’t have to be a daunting task, you can even follow a job description template. What you absolutely need to know are the most important elements, such as the title (videographer, content writer, social media content creator, etc.), a short description of your brand, and a detailed task list of everything that you’ll need them to do.
You can include qualifications if you want, such as experience in creating video content for courses. I’d stay away from searching for specific education requirements since many freelancers turn their passion into a side gig, and they don’t need to go to university for that.
Find the right freelance platforms
Of course, there are many platforms out there that you can use, and maybe you’ve also worked as a freelancer yourself.
The best thing about platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer or Fiverr is that freelancers are pre-vetted, so you’ll have more chances of finding talent. Remember to always read their policy and understand how they work. For example, you may have to pay a certain percentage before the project is finished. Just don’t pay the total amount upfront since that could backfire.
Otherwise, if you don’t like the idea of using a platform, you can find people on LinkedIn and other websites dedicated to professional networking. Just bear in mind that you’ll have to search and send messages to people directly, which might take some time.
Ask around for recommendations
Word of mouth still works, and it might even be the best way to hire freelancers. Many of them find work because of their excellent reviews. You’ll also be able to get more details about them, such as their commitment to reaching deadlines, schedules, the quality of their work, etc.
So, if you know other course creators, ask them if they know someone. Additionally, if you’re not in a course entrepreneur network, find people in your niche or industry who can recommend freelancers.
I’ve even seen people finding freelancers through Facebook group posts, so it can’t hurt to try!
Set objectives and expectations
Communication will make or break your collaboration. Freelancers can’t read minds, and while they have probably done a similar job before, let’s say, creating visual elements for online courses, they didn’t work specifically on your online course.
So it’s important to set clear expectations and allow them to do the same, as this is a collaborative experience. For example, maybe they can’t do Zoom calls in the morning or they can’t answer your emails immediately because of the time zone difference — these are all things that you should know beforehand.
In terms of objectives, try to formulate SMART ones, with the emphasis on the S (simple). Tell them what you want them to do, set a collaboration timeline, milestones, deadlines, and most of all, how you will measure their performance on specific tasks.
Offer enough info about your business
It’s easy to simply ask freelancers to read your website and maybe a blog post. However, you can’t really expect them to understand your vision so easily, especially if they haven’t worked for an online course business before.
For example, if you have certain brand guidelines, they have to access them right away, including a style guide for social media, blog posts or landing pages (if they write for you), or color scheme guidelines, so they don’t end up creating something that is inconsistent with your brand.
If they use the wrong font for your email newsletter, it’s also your fault (sorry). So it’s best to anticipate these problems and give them the right directions. These details also show them that you are a professional and will make their job so much easier.
Be friendly and open
Even if you’re planning a shorter collaboration, being friendly is always a good idea. You can also be open about your challenges, especially if you’re looking to grow your business, as you’ll never know what ideas they might come up with.
For example, you can schedule a short Zoom meeting to get to know each other and talk about your project instead of sending long emails.
This step also helps you clarify any questions that they might have and it can help them better understand you and your mission.
Creating freelancer teams
Creating freelancer teams can be tricky and honestly deserves an article on its own. At one point or another, you may need freelancers to work together or at least exchange information.
For example, the social media specialist may have some requirements from the graphic designer, and you’ll have to find an effective way to establish a connection.
In this case, you have to allow them to see the bigger picture and the whole plan for creating the course or marketing it, so they’ll understand the entire project, not just their part in it. It also helps to use a project management tool to assign tasks and help them get in touch with one another if needed.
Get a signed contract
Depending on what you need them to do, it can be best to have a contract in place. Most freelancers already have them ready for you to review and sign.
A typical contract can include a job description detailing the tasks that need to be done, what happens if they don’t meet deadlines, the amount to be paid and when, etc. Additionally, there are also some clauses that deal with copyright — you want this work to be yours and not theirs to use for other clients.
This protects you and the freelancer if things don’t go smoothly and it also holds them accountable for delivering what they’ve promised.
Establish payment terms
Many freelancers have had bad experiences with collaborators, but that goes both ways. To get the most of what you pay for and avoid unfortunate situations, you should establish what the exact payment terms are.
For example, if people expect you to pay for everything upfront, that can be a red flag, as there will probably be changes and other things that need to be solved until the project is officially “done.” However, if they want twenty percent upfront and then paid in installments, that can be a better arrangement (and fairer for them as well).
Additionally, you need to know beforehand if there are any hidden fees. For instance, writing an online course description can be accompanied by additional changes requested by you. Since these changes also take effort and time, some freelancers will want to be compensated for them. This is something that you need to know right off the bat and not find out at the last minute.
Even the most successful course creators out there, in terms of experience, exposure and sales, have had plenty of help with their online courses.
Working with freelancers is a great way to grow your online course business. After establishing a successful collaboration, no matter how small it is, you can reap the benefits: a better online course, more time to dedicate to learners, and why not, getting rid of tasks that you don’t enjoy doing.
Ioana believes that learning doesn’t stop when school stops. When she is not writing about learning and ed tech, she can usually be seen reading a book and drinking lots of coffee.