If you hire remotely, you still need to lead and manage freelancers just as you would traditional in-house workers. You can’t simply hire them and expect them to crack on with their tasks without any issues or further help from you, just because you can’t see them every day. If only!
While remote freelancers bring with them numerous benefits, such as cash savings on office space and equipment, their very remoteness means they require a bit more ingenuity and skill to manage.
And despite them being so remote, it’s important that they feel like they’re being led and managed, if they’re to be productive. They want to feel like they’re a key part of your company – it’s crucial for their motivation.
Unlike traditional workers who are all gathered together in the same building, remote freelancers are often based far and wide. You might have an admin girl who is based in California and a freelance writer who is based in Scotland. They work on the same projects, but they’ll never physically meet. With such geographical diversity, it’s not exactly easy to effectively lead and manage freelancers .
But good leadership and management is key to productivity and success. Moreover, there are ways to lead and manage a merry band of remote freelancers so that everyone is satisfied in their role. Let’s take a look.
You’re just as much a part of how things work as everyone else, and it’s up to you to set an example and lead the way.
This is a super important point that we can’t stress enough. In an ordinary workplace setting, people work side by side. They go to meetings together, have lunch together, and go to office parties together. As such, it’s very easy for them to feel like they’re part of the bigger picture. Bonding sessions are part of the work.
It’s different when people work remotely. Unless you bring everyone together by being a team player yourself, freelancers won’t feel like they’re expected to cooperate. As a result, they might not care so much about your company and your work won’t take priority in their schedule.
To this end, you could organize group Skype calls. This ensures that everyone stays in the loop, doesn’t feel left out, and gets to know the other members. You could also send out regular group emails, especially at the start of the week. When someone new comes in, introduce them in an email to other members.
You should also make sure that you respect the different time zones. Don’t schedule calls at a time that would be inconvenient for freelancers. They might say that they can make it, but at the back of their minds they might be feeling resentful because you want to have a call at a time when they’re usually enjoying dinner with their family.
Different time zones can also get confusing. Using a tool like Calendly solves this issue as it automatically detects freelancers’ local time and schedules the call accordingly. Time mix-ups and waiting around for people to show up will be a thing of the past!
Always wear your team player hat. Make everyone feel welcome and happy.
Just because freelancers work remotely, it doesn’t mean you can hoist any old task on them. Freelancers often have specialist skills in specific areas, and it is these skills you need to harness.
When you properly delegate tasks, you maximize your company’s productivity. When you fail to properly delegate tasks, you lose it because they are doing something they’re not awesome at.
It’s not always easy to delegate the right tasks to the right people when you have remote freelancers. However, there are ways to improve your judgment.
The most important thing you should do is assess freelancers’ strengths and weakness. Which member has the skills required for a particular task? Have they completed similar work in the past at a high level?
Don’t be afraid of offering the task to someone who already has a busy workload. Even though offering it to the person who has the lightest workload might seem like the best option, it may present its own problems if they’ve not got the desired skills.
Sometimes, even the freelancer who has the right skills for a task will be rough around the edges. That’s totally fine. You can teach them new skills to help them with it. And once they’re fully set up, you can then delegate them similar tasks in the future.
Once you do this, you’ll have consistency.
It’s not that you don’t respect good work, or that you’re the kind of person who has nothing nice to say. It’s just sometimes you forget to acknowledge good work.
Remote freelancers get this a lot. Some complain that they barely get any feedback from their boss, until said boss has some criticism for them.
To keep freelancers motivated, it’s important that you acknowledge when they have done well. I know you’re busy, but it only takes a minute to give freelancers praise.
A simple “I appreciate all the hard work you do, and the quality of your last work was outstanding!” can suffice. They’ll really appreciate it, and it will encourage them to keep coming up with the goods.
Even Steve Jobs, a man widely said to be a straight-shooter who treated staff badly on occasion, knew the importance of giving praise to his staff.
How can you effectively lead and manage freelancers when you are not organized?
You: “You got that document for me, Susie?”
Susie: “I handed it in a week ago, sir.”
You: “You did?”
She did. You can’t find it because – in your disorganized world – you lost it.
And what’s going to happen when you have to manage freelancers in different departments, all working on different projects this week?
You: “Susie! How’s the spreadsheet coming along?”
Susie: “I thought David was working on that?”
You: “He is?”
In 2017, there’s no excuse for being a disorganized leader. You’ve got apps and software to help you. Such as FindMyShift, which lets you easily create staff rota’s, manage schedule requests and more. You will be able to help freelancers by giving them better visibility of their upcoming work hours so that they know exactly when they’re working.
As a final point, it’s a good idea to check in on freelancers frequently. You don’t need to check in on them every day (this will feel like you’re babysitting them, and they’ll lose their sense of responsibility), but once a week will stop them from feeling too isolated. Once a remote freelancer feels isolated from a project, they lose their passion and motivation.
So check in on them and see how they’re getting on. Ask if they need anything.
Have you had experience with managing remote freelancers? How did it go, and what did you learn from it?
Michelle Deery is a team member of Heroic Search in Tulsa. She specializes in writing about all things eCommerce including development, strategy and pricing.
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