Beginner’s Guide to Managing a Student Freelancer

A college student's perspective on how to manage and hire a student freelancer
October 1st, 2016
Nicholas Maldarelli
Nicholas Maldarelli
Student freelancer from the College of New Jersey
how to manage a student freelancer

From the Perspective of a student freelancer

By 2020, over 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be providers in the on demand economy according to Intuit research. The number of freelancers and independent contractors has gone up 22% since 2000, whereas the number of U.S. workers in full time employment has declined 3.5%, according to research from the George Mason University. Hiring pipelines for businesses large and small are shifting focus from internships to hiring a student freelancer, so it’s important to understand how to effectively manage them in an ever changing workplace.

Job posting

 Keep job posts concise

A student freelancer often reviews all of the jobs within their field of expertise. Keep your job post title concise and interesting, and this will help you find the qualified applicant you have been looking for.

Student freelancer perspective: When searching for a freelance opportunity, I first look at the job post title. If it’s something that isn’t lengthy or complicated, I’m interested. Managers should keep this in mind when developing job post titles. 

Set clear expectations

Make it clear what you want from your student freelancer. Develop concise job descriptions to communicate your expectations. Be sure to include your candidate requirements, job responsibilities and expand upon desired deliverables.

Student freelancer perspective: I always look for jobs with a good structure. I’m more likely to apply to job posts with clear expectations because they save me time. Knowing what is expected makes it easy for me to figure out if a job is the right fit or not.

The interview

Reinforce expectations

Finding talented student freelancers is great, but now you have to make the hiring decision. Will they be a good fit for your business? Can you get the best work out of them? Reinforce your expectations, and decide whether they’re the right fit. Follow your intuition. It’ll save you time and money.

Student freelancer perspective: My biggest disappointment is realizing a job isn’t what it first sounded like. Having consistent expectations throughout the application process is refreshing, and makes me want the job even more.

Leave no questions unanswered

As a manager, you should ensure all questions about the job are answered in the interview. Do your best to make sure the prospective student freelancer does not walk out of the interview scratching their head. Avoiding confusion minimizes interpretation issues down the road and helps provide a positive perception of you and your company.

Student freelancer perspective: Exiting an interview and still having questions is a sign of bad management and communication. Fellow student freelancers, never be afraid to ask too many questions. 

Hiring process 

Provide the student freelancer tools to succeed

You found your student freelancer! The most important thing now is to support them. Build trust from the beginning. Give the freelancer your personal contact information and access to relevant company information. It conveys commitment and trust, and can help them perform their job better.

Student freelancer perspective: Communication is so important when starting a new job. It’s always difficult adjusting to a new environment. When a manager equips me with the tools to succeed, I have more confidence in my ability to perform at my best.

Assign responsibilities from the start

They’ve taken the job, but now they must show their value. Assign responsibilities from the start. This shows your commitment to them, and gives them the chance to prove themselves.

Student freelancer perspective: It’s about respect. Student freelancers want to showcase their talents, and if a business acknowledges those talents and challenges them to succeed, it fosters a great work relationship. 

Managing the student freelancer

Give them space, avoid micromanaging

Student freelancers need space to work and grow. Give them room to learn about themselves and the job. Provide guidance when appropriate. This management style demonstrates trust, and student freelancers will be very receptive to this.

Student freelancer perspective: I learn best when someone isn’t over my back, watching every move I make. If I fall behind, or feel lost, I really appreciate managers who guide and assist the learning process. 

Monitor through task management software

Task management software works. Break your job down into milestone tasks to help the student tackle big projects in manageable chunks. It keeps freelancers on track and on time. Learn how to use one and implement it in your workplace.

Student freelancer perspective: As someone who enjoys structure, task management software has helped keep me on track and meet my deadlines.


Don’t be afraid to severe the relationship

Student freelancers come and go. They’re not indebted to your business. If it doesn’t seem to be working out, don’t be afraid to let them go. Keep it professional, and be honest with them. Offering constructive criticism for their future work is helpful too.

Student freelancer perspective: I understand that freelancing is a learning experience, and sometimes the first job isn’t the right fit. I respect and appreciate managers who are honest and constructive in their evaluation of me. It helps me improve for future jobs. 

Good work deserves good pay

Don’t be afraid to pay your student freelancers well. A bump in pay can go a long way. After years of tireless work, employees of Chobani received equity that, when the company goes public or is sold, can potentially make them millionaires. Remember, paying well doesn’t mean over-paying. Respect good work, and perhaps even better work will follow.

Student freelancer perspective: When managers provide positive feedback as well as good pay, it communicates respect for my work. This motivates me to continue to work at a high level.

Managers have a responsibility to lead and inspire. In their leadership of employees and student freelancers alike, you will get the best results when you maintain a work environment that encourages creativity, freedom, and open communication. If student freelancers feel welcome and a part of the team from the start, count yourself lucky, because you’re likely to see their best work from that point on.

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