How to Build a Bench of Freelance Talent

Team of people working on building a bench of talent.

You’ve got a workload problem. You need to hire staff but you don’t have the budget. Or, maybe you’ve got a project that requires specialized skills to complete – skills that you don’t currently have on your team and won’t have full-time demand for after the project is completed. 

Good news! Building a “bench” of freelance talent could be the solution to help you overcome situational roadblocks like the ones listed above. For the purposes of this post, we want to clarify the term, “bench of talent.” A “bench of talent” could include freelancers on a monthly minimum retainer, but it can also include those who are not on a retainer but have requested to be contacted when freelance work is available. Some may refer to a “bench” in other terms such as a “shortlist” or a “network.” 

So, how do you build a bench of freelance talent that you can draw from whenever you may need it? Here are some tips to help you build a bench of reliable, skilled freelancers:

Identify Your Need:

Start by considering what type of issues you’re facing (Ex. Is it a workload problem or a skills gap on your team?) – or could face in the upcoming year. Then answer these questions:

  • What types of role(s) (marketing, creative or digital) do you need now or may possibly need in the future?
  • What specific title(s) (graphic designer, developer, etc.) should you recruit for?
  • What level of experience is required for the role(s) in order to properly fulfill your needs?

Once you have a list of identified talent needs and potential needs, you can start your proactive recruiting efforts.

Be Proactive in Your Recruiting Efforts

You should approach building your freelance bench the same as you would approach filling full-time roles. Use job postings, job ads, and tools like LinkedIn to conduct searches. 

Another key piece of your recruiting efforts includes interviewing freelancers. This is essential to begin building relationships with them. And, you’ll get a better sense of their skills sets, to what extent they’re available for your needs, and how they collaborate with management. 

Tap your Network – Ask Current Freelancers and Employees for Freelancer Referrals

Research shows that referrals are excellent to fill open full-time positions on your team. Referrals are often cheaper, faster hires that stick around for the long-term. So, if you have a freelancer that you love working with, you should ask them for recommendations. The same idea applies – they will likely be a trusted resource that you can rely on to help your projects succeed.

Arrange the Bench of Freelance Talent

Once you’ve built your freelance talent benches, you’ll need to find a way to ensure you can quickly find the right freelancer for a specific project. Create a list or spreadsheet that outlines your bench. Include things like their contact info, availability, their rate of pay, specialties and skills, and experience level.

Don’t Forget to Onboard

Before you’re ready to pull a freelancer off your bench onto a project, remember to onboard them so they feel like a part of the team. Your goal should be to ensure that they properly understand their responsibilities, have the tools or equipment they may need, the plan for collaboration, and your company’s values and mission. Then, when it comes time to assign them their first project, they’ll be ready to take on the specific project objectives and get started right away.

Keep Freelancers Engaged

You’ll want to start your relationship with a new freelancer on the right foot. Provide them with a project within the first month. The best freelancers will have a high demand for their talent so you will want to utilize their skills so they prioritize your projects. 

Most importantly, have a communication plan in place to ensure you’re keeping your freelancers top-of-mind for projects coming down the pipeline. Even if there is no work expected for an individual, be candid about that with them. Simply cutting off communication or not having regular touchpoints with your freelance bench can hurt your reputation and ability to work with the best freelancers. So, consistently evaluate your foreseeable projects and team needs and keep your freelancers in the loop.

No Time to Build Your Bench and Keep Them Engaged? Consider a Creative Services Partner.

It can be really difficult to find the time and resources to build a bench of quality freelance talent. So, having a staffing and recruiting partner like Celarity can help ensure you’ve got on-demand talent like this on your bench.

If you need help building your bench of talent or you’re looking for a creative services partner, reach out to us. We’ll help you find the best talent for your team’s needs when you need them.

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