What is a Freelance Management System?
It’s possible you’ve never heard of a freelance management system. If so, don’t worry—the term didn’t really start to make the rounds until early 2014. Although it’s a relatively new concept, however, an FMS is a powerful system for managing freelancers that you’ll want to look into sooner rather than later.
Your business probably uses freelance labor. These days, you’ll be hard-pressed to come across a company that doesn’t. Between 2011 and 2015, the number of freelancers contributing to US businesses rose from 4.5 to 6.4 million people. That number is only expected to grow.
Still, the process of hiring, managing, and paying freelancers is not the same as with full-time employees. There are different processes, rules, and expectations. That’s why finding a good freelance management system is so important.
A Freelance Management System, or FMS, is a system used by companies or individuals to streamline their freelance management. It helps in a variety of field including freelancer on-boarding, management, tracking, payment and reporting.
Understanding the value of a freelance management system
You have standards and protocols for managing your team and its workflow. However, if your company has traditionally relied on full-time talent, you might find that freelancers don’t fit so neatly into your established systems. Contracted workers get paid and taxed differently. They need to sign contracts about ownership of content. They might even be in a different time zone. How will you keep track of everything?
Well, as Forbes defines it, freelance management systems “allow enterprises to consolidate every aspect of their freelance workforce—onboarding, management, accounting, reporting—into a single dashboard.” If you’re hiring several different contractors, this will get them all connected to you through a centralized system. Furthermore, it’s a system that’s designed to account for the specific needs of freelance talent. This means you use the built-in features to make sure that all the right boxes get checked.
Features of a freelance management system
As CPO Rising puts it, “the FMS platform is a dynamic, automated tool to tap into the burgeoning freelancer community while also gaining enhanced control.” That all sounds great, but what exactly does it mean? Let’s drill down into the specific features that freelance management systems provide.
1. Finding the right talent
Before you hire freelancers, you have to find the right ones. Fortunately, an FMS can connect you directly to a pool of vetted contractors who are ready to get to work. They usually have searchable profiles that clue you in to their areas of expertise and levels of experience. On top of that, they’re already familiar with using your system—so connecting and getting started is simple.
2. Hiring and on-boarding
Once you find a good match, you can reach out to them and begin the conversation through the platform. Then, when you decide to pull the trigger, it’s easy to make an offer and get the digital paperwork in motion. Your FMS will automatically send actionable next steps to you and to your freelancer so that no time is lost.
3. Freelance contracts
You might be hiring writers, designers, and administrators for a variety of tasks and several different timelines. Clarify terms up front with a contract. When does your working relationship begin and end? Who owns the original content created, and how can it be used? Don’t fall into the trap of assuming you’re on the same page about these details. Get it in writing, and let your FMS do the heavy lifting.
4. Project management
Now that you’re moving forward on assignments, you need to keep the project on track. Leverage the project management features in your FMS to make assignments, establish milestones and deadlines, and monitor progress. As things move forward, you’ll maintain a clear overview of what’s been accomplished and where your attention is needed.
5. Communication with your team
You need to keep your team updated on progress, challenges, questions, and stakeholder concerns. However, a slew of scattered emails, chats, and texts can lead to confusion or gaps in the conversation. Have your contractors communicate with you through your FMS so that everything related to the project stays in one place.
6. Invoicing and Payments
With an FMS like Bonsai, invoices and payments are frictionless and convenient for both you and your team members. Freelancers submit their invoices, you approve payment, and funds are electronically transferred. Accounting becomes streamlined as well, because you’re working from the same set of automatically-updated records.
Knowledge is power, and the analytics provided by a freelance management system give you mountains of data. Are you staying on budget? How many hours are your freelancers logging? Has content been delivered on time? Which of your freelancers are performing most consistently? A clear picture of these statistics will help you catch problems before they start, and improve planning in the future.
8. Automation and integrations
Money may be a renewable resource, but your time is not. An FMS will save you time by automating processes and workflows. If you have other tools and platforms that you already use, you may also be able to integrate them. Talk to your FMS provider about connecting your tools. If the integrations you need are not yet in place, consider automation solutions like IFTTT or Zapier.
Who uses a freelance management system?
A fully-loaded FMS is clearly not just a tool for managers. It may be used by nearly everyone on your team as assignments move forward, for many different tasks.
- Management can simplify workflows, build a talent base, and track growth more easily.
- HR can quickly find and hire new talent, define terms of employment, and get contracts quickly signed and filed.
- Operations can manage projects, track timelines and milestones, and keep communication on point.
- Accounting can simplify invoices, set up automatic payments, and nail down tax documents.
Freelance management systems aren’t just for small businesses or fully remote teams. Large, traditional companies are seeing the benefits. The Washington Post, for instance, built its own FMS to manage its freelancers. Fortunately, you don’t need to start from scratch like they did. With existing Freelance Management System like Bonsai, you have options to get set up for smarter freelance management with minimal effort and maximum results.