How to Have a Long-Term Relationship with a Freelancer

As a startup, you may face challenges in hiring full-time employees on a salary due to budget constraints, limited resources, or the uncertainty of business growth. However, you can still achieve your goals and objectives by freelancers who can provide the flexibility, scalability, specialized skills, and experience you need.

If you are experiencing rapid growth by selling your products and services, having a talented workforce available becomes one of the biggest challenges you might face.

For some early-stage startups, freelance hourly rates may seem financially impossible for an extended period. However, both parties may engage in a retainer agreement where your freelancer will receive a fixed amount every month. A source of regular, ongoing work can be challenging for freelancers, so in this case, both parties win.Moreover, a long-term relationship with a freelancer can help you avoid compliance issues and build a reliable and efficient workforce. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to cultivate a robust and long-term relationship with them.

Cultivating a long-term relationship with your freelancer

freelance consultant on a video call

Once you’ve found the right freelancer for the job at your startup, it’s essential to cultivate a strong and long-term relationship with them. Here are some tips on how to do that.

Determine clear expectations

Set clear expectations in your job proposal, including project scope, timelines, communication frequency, and payment terms. This will help avoid misunderstandings and ensure that both parties are on the same page. Most people use a written contract or agreement to formalize their expectations and protect both parties rights.

Provide regular feedback

Provide regular feedback on the freelancer’s work, both positive and constructive. This will help them improve their work quality and make them feel valued. Use online tools such as Trello, Asana, and Slack to track the project progress and provide feedback on specific tasks or milestones.

Offer opportunities for professional development

woman doing an online course

Offer opportunities for professional development. Examples include training, mentoring, or attending conferences to help your freelancer improve their skills and stay current with industry trends.

When you invest in the ongoing learning of your freelancers, you establish a clear indication that you want them to stick around for the long haul. Of course, this will not only benefit your end client and enhance your freelancer’s career growth and satisfaction.

Offer varied work-related tasks

Offer varied work-related tasks to keep your freelancer engaged and interested in the project. This will also help them develop new skills and stay motivated.

You can also ask for their input and suggestions on improving the project or implementing new ideas. This will help create a collaborative and productive working environment.

Schedule regular meetings

business people having a zoom call

Schedule regular meetings, either in-person or remote, to discuss project progress, challenges, and opportunities. This will help you stay connected with your freelancer and inform them of what they can expect to do next.

Use the meetings to brainstorm new ideas, solve problems, and align your goals and objectives.

Appreciate their work

Appreciate your freelancer’s work and show them your gratitude and recognition. This can be as simple as sending a thank-you note or publicly acknowledging their contributions on social media or your website. This will help create a positive and rewarding work culture and motivate your freelancer to go above and beyond.

You have a role to play in building the reputation of your freelancers and helping them compile a significant body of work that will attract other clients. If you’re impressed with their work ethic, then tell the world!

Pay fairly and on time

Pay your freelancer fairly and on time to build trust and reliability. Delayed or inadequate payments can damage your relationship and reputation and make it challenging to retain your freelancer.

As mentioned, payment terms should be transparent in the job proposal. If there are disagreements about money in the early stages of your relationship, you can expect to kiss goodbye to any notion of a long-term engagement.

Equally, if your freelancer contacts you about a pay dispute after the terms have already been agreed to, it might be time to find a new one.

Do I pay my freelancer a retainer fee or per hour?

payment fee being made on a laptop

Regarding payment, you have two main options: retainers or hourly rates. Both have their pluses and minuses, but an hourly rate is more suited to short-term contracts with a fixed scope of work, while retainer fees are paid to freelancers you may like to keep on for an extended period.

What is a retainer fee for a freelancer?

A retainer is a fixed amount of money paid in advance for a set amount of work over a period of time, while hourly rates are a fee paid based on the number of hours worked.

While both options have advantages and disadvantages, a retainer can be more cost-effective and predictable for startups working with freelancers.

Why should I offer a retainer fee?

Hand stacking money on a book next to a pen

By offering a retainer, for example, you can ensure that your freelancer has a steady income stream and is motivated to prioritize your project over others. It also eliminates the need for tracking and approving hours, which can be time-consuming and distracting.

Additionally, a retainer can help you budget and plan for the project’s expenses, as you’ll know exactly how much you’ll pay upfront.

Why should I offer an hourly rate instead of a retainer fee?

Retainer fees may not be the best option for every project or freelancer.

If your project requires a lot of flexibility or fluctuates in workload, hourly rates may be a better fit.

Feast and famine cycles may dictate that your business is raking in money at some stages of the year, your business is raking in money, and the jobs are piling up. In this case, freelancers can help lighten the load. However, paying monthly retainer fees might be counter-intuitive if you are going through a downswing.

Whatever you choose, it’s also vital to ensure that the retainer fee or hourly rate is fair and reflects the work’s value. You don’t want to underpay your consultant or freelancer and risk losing their motivation or quality of work.

Where to find long-term freelancers

freelance consultant writing notes

While online marketplaces such as Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer are popular for finding freelancers, they may not always be the best platforms for establishing long-term relationships with potential clients.

These marketplaces often cater to shorter-term projects and one-off gigs, making finding freelancers willing to commit to long-term engagements challenging.

However, alternative options are better suited for finding freelancers for ongoing, month-to-month work rather than a one-off freelance project.

Specialized freelance platforms

Consider exploring specialized freelance platforms that focus on providing long-term freelance services.

Platforms such as Quickly Hire typically have a curated pool of experienced freelancers working on extended projects and prefer accepting retainer fees as opposed to a set hourly rate.

As a bonus, you gain access to highly skilled professionals who are vetted, tested, and aligned with your needs. They understand the pain points of startups and recognize the importance of having a long-term partner who can meet the specific needs of your startup.

Professional networks and referrals

Young people working on a project together with a laptop

Leverage your professional network to find long-term freelancers willing to work with you for months or more. Seek recommendations from colleagues, industry contacts, or fellow entrepreneurs who have successfully worked with freelancers on extended projects for a fixed retainer fee.

Referrals can be a valuable source for finding freelancers who have already proven their work ethic and competence and can offer future services.

This is also why promoting freelancers who have done superb jobs for you is essential, as you will provide them with more clients and further opportunities.

Freelancer directories

Explore freelancer directories that allow you to search for freelancers based on their availability for long-term work.

Some websites provide options to filter freelancers open to ongoing collaborations, provided you offer a retainer agreement. These directories often attract freelancers who are actively seeking stable, longer-term engagements.

A long-term relationship makes sense for an early-stage startup

Hands pointing to a proposal

Having a long-term relationship with your freelancer can provide several benefits for your startup, all of which can make a big difference when it comes to completing work.

Flexibility and scalability

Freelancers can provide the freedom to adapt to changing business needs and growth opportunities. You can hire them for short-term or long-term projects, increase or decrease their workload, and adjust their skills and expertise.

Specialized skills and experience

Freelancers are often multi-disciplinarians, learning extensive skills that make them an asset to any team. Often this is not the case with full-time hires on a salary who pigeonhole themselves into niche areas.

By bringing fresh perspectives, new ideas, and best practices from other industries and clients.

Cost-effective and compliance-free

Freelancers can be a cost-effective and compliance-free alternative to hiring full-time employees. You don’t have to pay for their benefits, taxes, or overhead costs, and you can avoid the legal and administrative burdens of labor laws and regulations.

And as mentioned previously, if you are looking at reducing costs even further, consider setting fair retainer fees as opposed to offering what will inevitably be more money via an hourly rate.

Productivity and quality

Freelancers can provide productivity and quality that meets or exceeds your client’s business expectations.

As freelancers are motivated by their reputation, portfolio, and referrals, their focus is squarely on your project without the distraction or bureaucracy you may encounter from an on-site employee.

Quickly Hire: specializing in long-term freelance placements

Startup founders working together on a laptop

The team at Quickly Hire recognizes that the startup environment is competitive and requires founders to often work within a strict budget to remain profitable. By offering long-term placements, founders can utilize their outsourced hires in many ways over recurring month-long placements, rather than a project-by-project basis.

With affordable fees, you can free up money that can be spent on growing your business through marketing, networking, and promotion.

Every freelancer in our network has undergone a rigorous testing process to ensure they meet the demands of today’s startups, so you can rest easy knowing every task you set will be done at the highest level.

Moreover, we manage all the payment and compliance issues that can quickly eat away at your time.

So, if you are considering adding a freelancer to your team for an extended time, consider contacting us. We’d be happy to set you on the right path.


  • Alex McInnes

    Alex is Quickly Hire's content strategist and digital marketer. He's a New Zealand-born, Thailand-residing copywriter extraordinaire. Dad to two beautiful girls, Alex loves playing rugby, reading, and running with his soi dog, Effie.

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