Web technologies have made it easier than ever to gain access to a talented and affordable freelance workforce across the globe. Hiring freelancers has many advantages, particularly for big projects or one-time projects. For instance, you can speed up the job through increased task delegation and even make international projects more convenient by having representatives where the action is. But on the flip side of this shiny coin, there are certain challenges, too. The distance means you have less control over their work, and it can sometimes take extra effort to get freelancers in sync with your in-house staff. Fortunately, there are some efficient ways to avoid those bumps on your project’s path and reap the rewards of remote collaboration with a team of freelancers.
1. Understand who you’re hiring
What’s this particular person’s skillset and expertise? Some freelancers farm out parts of the job that aren’t their strengths. For example, a web designer may offer writing or logo design services, but actually hire outside help to get it done. Communicating with these subcontractors directly may speed up the process.
2. Dedicate time to onboarding
Lay out your expectations and goals for the freelancers as soon as you hire them. Understanding how they fit into the overall plan can help them better meet your needs. Also, make sure to introduce them around. With the help of existing collaboration solutions, it’s not a problem to give everyone an easy way to say hello, exchange contact information and find out who does what. It’s important to clarify the existing chain of command, as well. Let them know up front whose sign-off is required for each task and whom they can contact in case of any problems or questions.
3. Set definite deadlines and clear priorities
Sometimes, a task that a regular employee might recognize as a priority won’t be obvious to a freelancer. So it makes sense to keep a prioritized task list. Also, make sure you set a definite deadline for each task and tell a freelancer what the consequences are if the deadline is missed. And once the deadline is set – stick to it. Shane Pearlman, a project manager in a fast-moving, 100% freelance-driven agency called Modern Tribe, cites “making the deadlines” as one of the top success factors for working with freelancers.
4. Assign shorter and simpler tasks
Why? Complex tasks mean complicated instructions and more possibilities for miscommunication. Also, it’s harder to tell if someone is being efficient on a long-term project. Consider hiring freelancers for straight-forward tasks like data entry and research first, and set up some short-term deadlines so you can fix problems before they become too big. But does that mean you can’t get help on long-term or complex projects? No way! Instead, break them up into steps and tasks that are easier to monitor from afar. For example, instead of setting a deadline for redesigning the entire website, you can break it up into iterations, or set a task for every page.
5. Provide easy access to relevant information
Delays often occur when freelancers don’t have the materials required to move ahead. Create a simple system for sharing files and ensure that your freelancers can effortlessly collaborate with the in-house team members. If you followed our tips on the onboarding part, by now your freelancers know whom to address in case they lack any info. However, to make it even easier for them, use collaboration tools to keep all the necessary files attached to the relevant task, so that your freelancers can access them at any time.
6. Facilitate frequent communication
When employees don’t work in your office, you can’t chat at the water cooler or drop by their cubicle for a quick update. To make up for this, it’s important to frequently check in. For example, FreestyleXtreme, an international web shop company that works with freelance translators, arranges five-minute virtual morning meetings for all the freelancers to go through their tasks for the day with their supervisors. It’s useful to ask how things are going and give feedback along the way. Constructive criticism is valuable, but it’s just as important to praise good work. This can go a long way to keep freelancers motivated.
Making these tips work is not rocket science if you have the right project collaboration software. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Wrike found that 87% of respondents see collaboration software as important or even mission-critical for the efficient work of any distributed team. It can help to facilitate everything, including monitoring progress through tasks and time-tracking, or enhancing communication through comments and easy access to documents. But perhaps the biggest advantage is that it creates a sort of virtual office where you and your freelance employee can bridge the distance to check in and stay updated.