Guide to working safely and securely with freelancers
The advantages of working with freelancers are clear. It's often quicker, cheaper and easier
than hiring a full-time member of staff. There are no notice periods, national insurance
contributions, sick pay, or equipment costs to worry about.
But can you trust a freelancer to work on your project? How do you know it's safe to
give them access to your data and your systems?
In this guide, we've compiled our years of experience working with (and as) freelancers to
show you how to work with freelancers safely and securely.
Create confidence with a process
It is important that you feel confident in handing over work, passwords or even client
interactions to someone you have perhaps never met in person. Having a simple,
repeatable process is the key. Being able to rely on some simple checks will make
you feel confident that you're working safely and securely with your freelancers.
First things first, it is important to define what role your freelancer
will be playing in your business. The role of the freelancer will strongly
indicate what data and systems they need access to in order to complete the project.
The level of access or freedom you give a freelancer will depend on a few things:
Length of your project
As you start to engage a freelancer for a longer period of time, you are
more likely to need to give them access to more of your systems. For example, hiring a
writer to create one sales email can probably be done quickly and efficiently without
sharing any sensitive data, but let's say you engage a freelancer to create you an ongoing
bi-weekly email newsletter. It may be quicker and more efficient for you to grant the
freelancer access to your email system so they can create the newsletters for you.
Type of project
Some projects will require access to more systems and information than others. Some
projects will need little, if any, access to anything sensitive, for example, designing
a brochure. Other projects will require much more access. Asking a freelancer developer
to build you an ecommerce website that connects to your stock/ordering system will obviously
require access to a great deal more.
New or repeat project
Just like with the length of a project, the more frequently you ask a freelancer to repeat
a task, the easier it'll be for them to work if they have direct access to necessary
information or systems. Of course, here it is beneficial to work with freelancers you've
worked with before on the same task.
Do your research
Taking the time to check out your freelancers profile, their reviews and to chat
with them either online, over the phone or even in person is key. This also give you a
chance to get an idea of their personality and how your relationship
might work going forwards.
Take a look at the information they have given you, you may be able to visit their
website, their LinkedIn profile or ask them to send over some examples of their work.
Finding out about applicants' past experiences and capabilities will allow you to
make an informed decision when choosing the best freelancer to deliver your project.
Take advantage of technology
For the sorts of projects that need you to grant access to sensitive information or
systems, there will be existing access control methods that you can take advantage of.
Google Analytics, AdWords and Google Tag Manager allow you to give freelancers
access to your accounts (with control on what they can see and edit) so they can
sign in using their own credentials.
Facebook and other social platforms also allow you to grant access to other users,
and limit what permissions they have.
Wordpress, Drupal, Episerver and other popular content management systems,
again, allow you create user accounts with very specific access rights.
Set ground rules early
In addition to limiting a freelancer's access to your information and systems
using technology, you should also consider putting in place some simple ground rules.
Approvals and feedback
The beauty of hiring a freelancer is you're getting access to expert skills and
experience. But you will still want to set some clear rules around what the freelancer
is able to work on freely versus what you want to approve. For example, you may decide
that any change that impacts your customers directly needs approval.
Communication and Escalation
Of course, there'll be regular day-to-day communication with your freelancer(s) during
your project, but there will be things that happen where you need informing immediately.
Let's use social media as an example:
If a customer has a technical or very specific question, you might want alerting
within 1 business day.
If a customer complains, you might want alerting within 1 hour.
If your Facebook store stops working, you might want alerting immediately.
Trial freelancers with small projects first
Even with the best process, there will be some projects where you want to be super
confident before you hand over complete control to a freelancer.
A good way to approach these projects is to take a very small component of the overall
project and treat it as a trial. As you begin to work with your chosen freelancer on the
small trial project, you'll be able to get to know them and how they work, which will make
you feel more confident about asking them to take on the bigger, overall project.
If you're still unsure, ask this one last question
If you've done the following...
Defined the access needed to complete the project efficiently
Used technology to limit access rights
Set some ground rules
Got to know the freelancer with a trial project
...And you're still unsure of how to work with the freelancer safely and securely,
there is one more question to ask.
How would you ask a full-time employee to complete this project?
Keeping your business and its data safe is something that is not only a concern when dealing
with freelancers. It is also a very real issue for working with full-time or part-time employees.
After all, regardless of employment status, you're still working with people.