Though statistics indicate that work-from-home is generally more productive, handling freelancers does come with a learning curve. Due to their physical absence, team management comes with a unique set of challenges.
Still, those who have mastered the art of managing out-of-office employees indicate that they largely benefited from the remote business model. Without physical limitations, businesses get to expand their candidate pool, find top talent and employ them without having to invest in additional office space or training. Furthermore, those who were not afraid to test the offshoring model got to hire the most suitable candidates whose services come at a much lower cost than their full-time employees.
With the number of freelancers rising at a rapid rate, it is evident that businesses will need to embrace the trend. Even the most “stubborn” ones will be expected to at least build hybrid work environments.
So what can you do?
Cost reduction is one of the main reasons companies decide to involve freelancers in certain projects. Unfortunately, many felt it on their own skin what it feels like when the lowered cost of work comes before all else. What they usually fail to predict is the difficulty of streamlining communication across different time zones and cultures. As a result, misunderstandings prevail, deadlines are missed, and the results are displeasing.
To make the right decision and gather a group of teammates who will complete the job without major setbacks, a manager must clearly define the project demands and deadlines. Freelancers (and their exact number) should be chosen based on the number of hours the project will take, necessary qualifications, and an individual’s level of expertise.
Where to look for potential candidates? Some of the most popular online platforms include:
Which one you will use as your scouting field will depend on your niche - if you are looking for designers, 99designs is an obvious choice, while Upwork will provide more diversity. LinkedIn, as well, is a versatile playground, where you get insight into prospective employees’ work experience before even receiving a CV from them. Ultimately, it will come down to hours of research since there’s no way to know in advance on which platform your best candidate resides.
The amount of time a freelancer spends on your project can affect the cost of their services - and if you chose freelancers over a full-time in-house team to save a few pennies, you want to know precisely how they spend the time they bill you for.
But it is not just about staying safe from falsely reported work hours. If the deadlines are not clearly defined from the start, you might be looking at project delays and unreasonable extensions.
A project manager’s duty is to estimate the workload and how much time it will take each person on the team to complete their part. And once the work starts, it is crucial to keep an eye on everyone, motivate procrastinators and prevent lags.
Fortunately, software like Time Doctor, Hubstaff, Clockify, Myhours and similar allow you to gain insight into each freelancer’s work - how much time they’ve spent on a project (even a particular task), with certain tools even presenting you with screenshots of a person’s activity. Not to mention that some of these programs come with an in-built payroll option, thus simplifying the payment process.
Tracking their work
But even after the deadlines are set and met, it is not uncommon for a project manager to realize their team members misunderstood their role or the result they are expected to deliver.
Here we are faced with a hard question - can you manage a freelancer without micromanaging? With the right tools, you absolutely can.
The range of available project management software keeps expanding, with Basecamp, Asana, and Trello leading the pack with their user-friendly interfaces and versatile options. They enable you to create projects and tasks, assign them to particular people on the team, set timestamps, and leave comments.
The choice of the best project management software for your business boils down to the needs of the ongoing project. In some cases, teams decide to test several until they discover the tool that truly presents itself as a solution and not an additional task.
All will be in vain if you fail to establish a communication channel through which you will connect with remote team members and transmit important data. A chat or video conferencing platform will allow you to get in touch with people in real-time so that, when necessary, all questions are answered near-instant and misunderstandings are prevented.
Live meetings and video meetups will help you get to know the person you work with even if you never find yourself in the same room with them. From hosting candidate interviews, organizing training sessions, and weekly team meetings, to casual chit-chat and team building activities - Skype, Slack, Meet, and Zoom will become invaluable tools for a successful collaboration with freelancers.
The US alone expects to see more than 50% of the workforce set up home offices and get a freelance gig. Are you ready to cope with this new environment? You better be, since businesses that don’t start to offer remote opportunities will lose their competitive advantage