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Interview Series #3: An Organization's perspective


“A well written proposal shows us that the freelancer is meticulous, detail oriented and organized.”
Writing a good proposal is crucial to both parties- The freelancer and the company they want to work with. Karn Malhotra the founder of Exit Design and Outlined, throws some light on working with freelancers from a company’s side and what companies look for while hiring freelancers.

TL: Have you worked with freelancers in the past?

KM: I have worked with freelancers over a period of time. At least for around 15 years or so. Presently a lot of our work happens with freelancers or collaborators. Today they are a very key component of operations, customer engagement or quality of delivery. I also run another startup called Outlined which is why working with reliable freelancers who deliver quality work is very essential and important for the smooth functioning of both my companies.

TL: How has your experience working with freelancers been?

KM: I have had a varied experience when it comes to working with freelancers. With some, I started off with a single project and went on to work with them for over ten to fifteen years. On the other hand, I have had some unfortunate experiences where I was only able to work with them for only one project and sometimes not even complete the project I had taken them onboard for. The reason mainly being that I am not willing to negotiate on the experience I promise and deliver to my clients. To make sure there will be smooth functioning process I spend a lot of time during the briefing on the details of the project. Starting from what the deliverables from the freelancer’s end to how they must be delivered to the clients. I also give them a detailed brief on who they will be interacting with for the project. I make it a point to make them understand what is expected out of them- tangibly and intangibly. Based on their understanding of the same, is when I am confident to work with them.

TL: How many freelancers have you worked with on a repeat basis over the years and how many have you let go after working with for the first time?

KM: On an average, I have ended up working with 30% to 40% of the freelancers on more than one project because I was happy with their work and the rapport we built. Whereas the bigger majority of 60% to 70% of freelancers I let go after the first project. That doesn’t mean that I had a bad experience with them. In many cases it was because they had a very specialized skill which I needed only for that particular project. In some cases, the freelancers weren’t available to work with when a new project came along. But one thing I have noticed is that fewer freelancers or individual professionals understand the value of building good relationships with those they work with. A lot of things invariably come down to how they handle things. It is very important for freelancers to understand that a professional approach to work is crucial. They need to have an ownership over the projects they work on. I tis important for them to stick to the commitments they have made to me and deliver in time without me having to follow-up with them. The way they deliver their work is equally important too. A very small percentage of freelancers have an understanding of this which results in their own downfall. A high level of commitment results in their own growth as freelancers play multiple roles when selling their services to us. Not only do they have to deliver services but also maintain good rapport with us.

TL: Is there a difference between freelancers with work/ industry experience versus those without?

KM: There is definitely a difference. When a freelancer has work/ industry experience their approach to work is more systematic compared to those without. More importantly they have gotten some sort of training on the tangible and intangible, which gets internalized and makes working with them a lot more simpler and easier.

TL: What kind of platforms do you use to look for freelancers?

KM: I tend to use my own personal network to find freelancers because I trust it more. I feel word of mouth has been the best way to find someone. Most of the freelancers I have hired is on recommendation basis. Although I have explored the new emerging digital platforms like Fiverr, which again was a mixed experience for me. I hired a freelancer for a particular project, but he didn’t understand the brief and his delivery was bad. So I wrote a complaint and was refunded in term of points which I could use to hire another freelancer. This time the freelancer was better and delivered what I asked for. I feel many freelancers look at their customers as paychecks rather than someone they have to deliver services to and impress. This invariably causes compromise on quality of work and the customer not being happy.

TL: When engaging with a new freelancer, what is it that you are looking for that gives you the confidence that they will deliver?

KM: Finding new freelancers for every project gets very exhausting and is unnecessary. However, while looking for one he quality of their previous work determines the chances of hiring. I need to see if they can deliver the tangible things that I want. After I decide that I want to work with them, I look into the cost and timeline to see if they meet my expectations. I also see how accessible they are going to be. I try getting an understanding of their approach to work. I also see if they have a clear understanding of what I am asking from them. I ask them how they plan on handling iterations the client may ask for. If we have disagreements, I see how it can be handed. Then I focus on how they communicate their ideas and if they are able to articulate it well. I am not too particular on their ability to speak English unless the task requires this skill. However, I focus on the chances of establishing a rapport with the freelancer. I don’t judge them, I focus on finding ways where the two of us can work together in harmony. The deal maker or deal breaker is how they come across professionally. I look into whether they present themselves well and dress appropriately. Casual or formal clothing, I would like to see that they have put an effort to look their part. Once we start working on the project, the behavior of the freelancer towards the tangible and intangible tasks determine the chances of me hiring them again. It is important for both of us to have a rapport and a trust factor to work in harmony.

TL: How important is the proposal that a freelancer presents to you?

KM: The proposal a freelancer provides is very important. A detailed proposal gives the impression that the expectations and delivery is going to be more or less the same. But not everyone makes long proposals with details. A proposal can be three to four points as well. But the way these points are written is crucial. A well written proposal shows us that the freelancer is meticulous, detail oriented and organized. When writing a proposal I find it important for the freelancer to be upfront of the shortcomings they may have. In India, I have notices that freelancers are less upfront of such stuff. They are more interested in closing the project/ deal and getting the advance. A lot of times I have faces situations where freelancers have claimed t be able to pull off more than they actually can.

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