You’ve worked together and completed a project; you should honor that with a proper offboarding. Just like onboarding, this step is an essential part of the freelancer-company collaboration. Unlike onboarding however, this part of the process is often neglected. 

Freelancers are ‘improvement agents’ within the company even after their departure. They complete a know-how and improve the capacity to innovate by passing on part of their skills. Thanks to their feedback and external point of view, they help companies understand what needs to be improved internally. This is why the offboarding process is extremely important.

How to offboard a freelancer in 3 steps

We’re here to bring freelancer offboarding back in style and to show you how to do it right. As we learned through developing our Freelancing in Europe study in partnership with BCG, there are definitely some data-backed best practices to keep in mind for effective collaboration between businesses and freelancers. Freelancers value good working relationships and regular communication, from the first exchange to the last. Keep reading for the three essential steps of a freelancer offboarding. 

And for a complete playbook on managing the freelancer-company relationship, download our guide here.

Step 1. Provide time for feedback

First of all, when it comes to proper freelancer offboarding, build time for feedback directly into the project timeline. Let your freelancer know, from the very beginning, that this will be a crucial part of your collaboration, and that it’s a two-way street. This conversation includes giving constructive feedback to the freelancer and also receiving it from them. It’s an essential exchange allowing both parties to highlight and celebrate their respective strengths, and also to identify and correct any weaknesses.

A successful feedback session is a conversation between the freelancer and their point of contact at the company, and each party should take some time to prepare in advance. The idea here is both to assess the final deliverable and also the freelancer-company relationship. For the company, some of the questions to address are: 

  • Did the deliverable meet expectations? 
  • Is the company satisfied with the freelancer’s work? 
  • How did the freelancer fare in the process? 
  • Did they contribute valuable advice or insights? How was the communication, overall?

From the freelancer’s perspective, the feedback should focus on the collaboration and the progress of the project. 

  • Were the brief and expectations clear? 
  • Did the company set the freelancer up for success, with access to the necessary materials, tools, software, etc.? 
  • Did the communication go well? 
  • What were the positive aspects? 

These are just some ideas of the points to address.

Besides this constructive, open exchange between freelancer and company, feedback also extends to reviews, where each party can leave an honest assessment of their experience for others to see. This is a key component of the freelancer offboarding process, which allows both parties to continue to improve. According to French freelancer, Cloélia Quillent-Elinguel, an Ethical Content Writer:

“Reviews are very important to me, I always like to be able to improve and provide a better experience for my customers. That’s why I find the reviews left on Malt especially helpful!”

Reviews have an impact on the immediate relationship between company and freelancer, and also on how each party can build and grow future relationships.

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Step 2. Have a plan for implementing the feedback 

So you’ve had a feedback session, now what? As part of the offboarding process, use freelancer feedback to improve the way you work with freelancers going forward. This can relate to the work space, communication methods, planning, equipment, project scope, or many other things…Attracting and retaining talent is a main concern for HR teams today, and this applies just as much to freelance talent. 

A main motivation for freelancers is their ability to choose clients and projects, and they’re looking for work that harmonizes with their values. In the words of Pierre-Emmanuel Marc, French freelance Expert in Facebook Ads:

“Feedback from the client is incredibly valuable because…it shows that the client cares and gives the freelance recognition. This is also the best way for the freelancer to improve, to keep them motivated and invested in the client projects.” 

Make sure that you not only engineer the feedback into your way of working with freelancers in the future, but that the feedback lands somewhere and has an impact. Afterall, if the feedback is given in a vacuum, with no one around to hear it or make any changes, does it matter? Give and receive feedback with intention, and make shifts where necessary. Did your freelancer indicate that the brief wasn’t detailed enough? Or that they had too many points of contact at the company? Make a note of that; work on improving your briefs, and be sure to assign a point of contact to your next freelancer. Take your freelancers — and their feedback — seriously and keep them ready and willing to work with you again.

Step 3. Keep in touch

The implementation of feedback is not the end of the relationship between company and freelancer; it’s the beginning of a new chapter. With talent retention as a major focus for companies and HR teams, staying in touch with freelancers you’ve worked with is a smart way to maintain your talent pool. This can simply be a matter of connecting on LinkedIn, sending a message indicating that you’ll keep the freelancer in mind for future needs, or reaching out when those needs arise. You want to keep that door open.

Strengthening their mutual relationship is a win-win for both companies and freelancers. Companies reinforce their network of freelance talent and freelancers maintain access to future work. It saves time and effort for both parties down the line. If negotiating with clients is the #1 challenge for freelancers, skipping that step thanks to a strong, ongoing relationship is a major plus. Having learned all this from his own experience as a freelancer, Facebook Ads Expert Pierre-Emmanuel Marc says:

“Retention of freelancers is essential because it’s going to save both sides a lot of time in the future. That’s why choosing a freelancer who’s interested in creating a trusting long-term working relationship will always make sense.”

Who doesn’t like to save a little time?

As freelancing becomes more and more common — and we’ve seen a 39% increase in freelancer signups from 2020 to 2021 — we’re developing best practices to help guide and support effective collaboration between businesses and freelancers. It’s easy to focus energy on the beginning of these relationships and to neglect the end, but as you’ve read above, freelancer offboarding is just as essential to the working relationship as onboarding. By giving proper time and attention to freelancer offboarding, you can build successful relationships, improve your processes, and grow your pool of freelance talent. 

Download our complete guide