Thanks to the global economy and platforms like FreeeUp, you now have the ability to hire talented people from around the world to grow your business.
But just being able to hire remotely is not enough. Working with a virtual freelancer has its own set of unique challenges that you may be overlooking as a client.
Most remote clients remember the importance of enhancing productivity, morale and interpersonal relations when working with in-house staff, but somehow ignore these aspects with remote freelancers.
Unfortunately, this often leads to the remote working arrangement not working out, and then they put blame on the remoteness itself. They make up their minds that remote work doesn’t work.
The truth is that remote work won’t work for remote clients by default. You’ll have to make it work.
During my full time job at Computer Sciences Corporation, I was part of a virtual team with members in different cities and countries. And in the last few years, I have been working as both – a freelancer working for remote clients, and a remote clients working with remote freelancers.
As a result, I have seen and closely experienced both sides of working remotely. And I have realized that entrepreneurs and executives who succeed in building and outsourcing to remote freelancers have certain traits and habits that separate them from those who fail.
More than 50% of communication is known to be non-verbal in nature. When working with someone you don’t usually see at the office, it’s important to make use of video calling at least once a month.
Video meeting is especially important when you as a remote client know in advance that the topic of conversation is going to be a bit sensitive. Whether you want to know how a remote hire will react to negative feedback or a change in strategy, a video can reveal a lot more than other mediums.
With so many cheap hardware (mic, webcam, headphones) and software products (Skype, Google Hangouts, Slack), the technology is already there. You just have to get a little over your comfort zone and embrace it.
A video can tell you instantly when something is not right, so you can ask about it and handle the situation and fix issues before they get out of hand.
As I already wrote above, a big chunk of human communication is non-verbal. So it’s nearly impossible to convey a complex range of emotions using text alone, whether in an email or real time chat.
Without some kind of graphic to help, the words that you type can come across as more aggressive or just not what you meant them to express.
If you’re trying to diffuse a difficult situation by making a joke, for example, a relevant GIF or emoticon is a must for it to have the intended effect.
Another example is when someone does great work and you want to praise them to keep up the good behavior.
The impact of just sending a pain text email saying “good work” will be nowhere near what you can achieve with an animated GIF.
Wondering where to find the best gifs? These websites can help.
Just like regular in-house employees, remote freelancers are also people with career goals and growth aspirations. So the best thing remote clients can do is to invest some time in their career paths, along with your own business goals.
Given the nature of remote work, it’s easy to fall in the trap of looking at the freelancers you hire as just mercenaries you’re paying to get stuff done.
But taking the time to understand their career aspirations and keeping those in mind can avoid a lot of frustration and confusion down the road.
The more you talk about their career development, the more engaged they will be and the better work they’ll deliver.
At least once a year, you should try to get together face to face with the remote freelancers you work with.
Not only is this fun (expect a lot of “you look different on video” reactions), but can build a tremendous amount of rapport which will last and help you get work done efficiently for the remaining part of the year.
Buffer is a great example of a fully-remote company that brings everyone together at least once a year. In fact, what they do is travel together to an exotic place. Another is Kissmetrics, which hosts a summit every year.
Now, of course, there is a good amount of cost involved in making this happen. You may be just a solo entrepreneur or a small business with a limited budget.
But if can think of some creative way to do it, the ROI is worth it. For example, if you plan a vacation every year or 6 months, maybe this time go somewhere close to the location of a remote freelancer. Next time, visit another, and so on, to make the rounds.
Having a high-energy, in person gathering of all remote freelancers in a single place also gives you the unique opportunity to discuss the big picture, long term issues related to the business, or make a big announcement or change of direction for the company.
In remote work, there are no water coolers, refreshment areas or other venues where leaders and members can make small talk for a few minutes or get to know each other better.
While this is great to prevent unnecessary chit chat and keep the focus on work, it also blocks the rapport-building opportunities necessary to build a cohesive work ethic and smoother collaboration.
This means that remote clients should create such opportunities intentionally. Although you’ll be more inclined to just talk about what needs to be done and get off the call, try to keep yourself from doing so as much as you can.
Having rapport with each freelancer you work with is essential to collaborate on problems, establish trust and get the benefit of doubt when you unintentionally do something wrong.
So whenever you hop on a call with a freelancer, try to use the initial few minutes or the time towards to end to talk about something other than work.
For example, you can ask what they’re into, ask about things about their location and culture, about their family, and so on. This will demonstrate that you care about them as human beings and also make them more likely to keep working with you.
In fact, a great idea is to schedule time for a one-on-one with each freelancer you work with, once a month. So you can keep them updated on what’s happening in the business, talk about their career growth and other things they usually miss out on due to not being in your office.
When you start hiring remote freelancers, you may soon find yourself working with several people in drastically different time zones.
Scheduling a meeting at a time that works for everyone becomes a real challenge. For some people, the day might be just beginning, while others will be about to leave and have supper with their families.
You’ll often end up with one or two people who’ll always have meetings at a time which is awkward for them. Either they’ll have to wake up early in the morning or stay up late at night.
But even in such difficult scenarios, you can do things that show maturity and respect for the sacrifice made by the one or two people who always end up being the outliers.
Every once in a while, for example, you can schedule a call at a time which is normal for the minority freelancers but will require the ones in the majority to wake up a bit early or stay up a bit late.
Not only does this show the remote freelancers from severely odd time zones that you care about them, but it also helps everyone else to remember, respect and empathize with the outliers.
When you think about it, most of the challenges that remote clients face when managing remote freelancers stem from the belief that they are not the same as in-house employees.
Somehow, we tend to forget that they deserve the same level of attention, respect and overall treatment, to the farthest extent possible.
If you can just naturally do the same things with remote freelancers that you would do with regular employees, many of the above tips will seem more like common sense and you’ll find it easier to follow them.
Eventually, a day will come when you’ll be so comfortable working with freelancers that you’ll uncover a whole new world of opportunities to not just scale one business, but many more simultaneously.
Hitesh Sahni is a freelance digital marketer, content writer and web designer helping businesses worldwide generate leads and sales online. Schedule a free consultation with him to grow your business.
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