In the modern economy, businesses are constantly seeking out ways to obtain an edge over their competition. The increasingly interconnected nature of the world we live in and advances in information technology provide several such opportunities. More and more companies are turning to outsourcing and with good reason. The benefits that you can gain from outsourcing some of your work to freelancers are numerous and can often times provide your company with a competitive advantage.
Finding the right people for a position is a challenge that every business faces. Traditionally, this search was restricted to the local labor market where the business is located, meaning that the search is limited to the talent in the immediate area. This is no longer the case in the globalized labor market.
Outsourcing allows you to access a much larger talent pool, limited only by your ability to connect with potential freelance employees. Selecting from freelancers across the world, as opposed to only your city, provides you with many more options. Quite often freelancers are more affordable, especially if you are outsourcing from a country with a high labor cost to a country with a lower labor cost. This can allow you to get the expertise you need at a competitive price.
By outsourcing, you can also reap financial benefits in other ways. Working with remote freelancers allows you to bring down your overhead costs. When employees are working remotely, the need for office space is reduced, if not eliminated outright, which lowers rent, utility and other associated costs. Given the nature of the work, freelancers are also largely self-insured. This helps you save on certain social payments and streamlines many of your HR processes.
As with any business approach though, outsourcing comes with its own specific challenges. Finding and managing qualified experts remotely can prove to be difficult. The first challenge is finding the right experts and properly selecting them. Matching your needs to the freelancers’ expertise is not always a straightforward process, and takes patience and a structured approach.
Once you have found the right person, the question of how to best manage them arises. Everyone has different working styles, and freelancers may well come from a different cultural background with its own views on what professionalism means. This can present you with a unique management challenge.
Luckily, there are tools and guidelines that can help you in these endeavors. By taking advantage of the tips, tools, and websites below you will be well on your way to taking full advantage of the globalized labor market by first finding, and then managing, the right talent for your business.
How to hire remote freelancers
You logically need to start this process at the beginning, so here are some of the leading sites for finding freelancers. Each has its own strengths and challenges, so you would be well advised to read up on them beforehand:
A platform that covers all of the main needs when looking to hire freelancers: finding, interviewing, hiring, and paying for talent. Upwork, formerly known as Elance-oDesk, provides space for freelancers in dozens of categories to find clients, and vice-versa. Apart from playing matchmaker between freelancers and those looking to hire, the platform also provides an online workspace in order to facilitate communication between both sides. Upwork also has its own app, which helps facilitate much of the logistics around freelancing.
As with any such platform, the experience you have using Upwork to find talent depends on the amount of time you invest in preparing. In order to find the most qualified freelancers, be sure to clearly describe your project, and be ready to devote time for follow-up questions and interviews. While Upwork does a good job of providing the framework for your talent search, the human touch is still important before making any final decisions. Upwork also offers paid-for-premium accounts in case you’re looking for more services such as account management and job search assistance.
One of the leading online marketplaces for freelancers in the UK since its launch in 2007, Peopleperhour is a platform that emphasizes hiring speed and the ability for freelancers to advertise themselves in unique ways through customized profiles. Peopleperhour allows you to choose your preferred engagement with freelancers, from immediate hires for one hour (known as “Hourlies” on the site) to building teams of dedicated freelancers for longer projects through job proposals. However, the emphasis here seems to be on quick hires for one-off jobs.
By browsing the “Hourlies” marketplace you can find thousands of freelancer profiles offering services in hundreds of fields for set rates. You can narrow down this wide range through filters and a search option, and customers are able to review and ‘favorite’ different profiles. This all means that if you are in the market for some quick work, then Peopleperhour is a good option. Of course Peopleperhour also offers Enterprise versions with more in depth account management services if you’re engaging in a high volume of freelance work.
Freelancemyway is another option for finding the right talent for your job, with particular focus paid to simplicity of services. You can post jobs for free on the site (freelancers can also create free profiles), and freelancers will send you private bids to choose from. While Freelancemyway has freelancers pass through a basic screening and application process, it’s up to you to check out any potential hire’s profiles and previous work in order to determine whether they’re the right person for the job.
Given Freelancemyway’s focus on matching freelancers to jobs in a simple manner, you won’t find much in the way of advanced features on offer. This means that if you’re more comfortable with a no-frills approach to finding the right freelancer, then this could be the place for you. It also means that if you think you may need extra support in managing your talent search, then one of the other two options listed above may make more sense.
How to manage a remote team
Now that you’ve found your talent, it’s time to manage them in order to achieve the results you need for your business. Keep in mind that managing a remote team presents some unique challenges. Here are some tips that can help you more easily work with freelancers and create a mutually congenial working experience.
1. Find people with proven records
It’s becoming increasingly easy to check out potential freelance hires online. The previously mentioned websites serve such a purpose, allowing freelancers to showcase their previous work and experience through personal profiles. Going one step beyond that and checking out a freelancer’s online presence in social media will help to give you a deeper impression of them as a professional. Taking the time to check a potential hire beforehand can help guarantee that you’re getting the right person for the job.
2. Set goals
After you find the right people, this is the first, and arguably most important step in building your working relationship. Given the relatively hands-off approach of freelancing, if clear goals aren’t established at the very beginning, freelancers can easily produce a product that doesn’t meet your needs. Take the time to clearly express the ultimate outcome you want and, if appropriate, establish clear key performance indicators and checkpoints.
3. Organize a work plan
After your goals are set, make sure that the path forward to achieving them is laid out. Good work plans can look different and should vary depending on working styles, but all share certain key characteristics. Make sure that the freelancer’s work stays on track by creating a plan with a clear project description that: 1) outlines your vision and the needs this piece of work will address, 2) sets goals and objectives for the work, and 3) creates a mutually agreed upon timeline for their work.
4. Have good communication
Communication is key, but can often be a challenge when working with freelancers. The nature of outsourcing means that most likely you will never meet freelancers in person. You can compensate for this by taking the time in the beginning to have a virtual meeting using IM software (see below) in order to set out mutually agreed upon communication guidelines. It may seem like time that could be spent in more productive ways, but agreeing on how you will communicate most effectively will pay off in the future.
5. Control them
Control can seem against the nature of hiring freelancers (they’re the experts after all, right?), but it’s a necessary component of good management. While freelancers bring a level of expertise, you are the ultimate client and you should ensure that their work stays on track. Only you have the deep understanding of your business, so set up periodic checkpoints to make sure that their work is progressing according to your vision.
6. But also give them freedom to set their own timeline
If a task isn’t urgent, don’t make it seem so. There’s no point demanding that every task be done within 48 hours if there’s no real reason for such a short deadline. Every freelancer should be able to best determine how long a given task will take to complete in a quality way. When possible, you should allow the freelancer the flexibility to set deadlines that are comfortable for them. In this way, tasks will be done professionally and both sides will feel that their needs are met.
7. Pay them well
If you want quality work, you need to invest the necessary resources. It’s a logical conclusion, but so often businesses can overlook this adage when working with freelancers, allowing price be the most important hiring factor. Apart from quality work, paying freelancers a fair wage can help build trust and respect. This means that both sides will be more likely to want to work together in the future.
Tools to help you to manage your remote team
Apart from the general advice above, there are innovative tools that can help you effectively manage your remote team. There are plenty of tools on the market, but the 5 below should help get you going:
1. Brosix Instant Messenger
When dealing with communication issues, it’s best to take a comprehensive approach. With Brosix Instant Messenger, you can easily set up your own private IM network full of collaborative features to help make your communication with freelancers smooth and effective. Send and receive files, hold group chats, and have your freelancers present their ideas with features such as virtual whiteboards and screen sharing. Best yet, Brosix provides high levels of security, so your communication will be encrypted and safe.
2. Time Doctor
One of the biggest challenges when working with remote teams is keeping track of how they’re spending their time. Time Doctor allows you to easily see where your team members are investing their time, even providing breakdowns on how much time is spent on specific tasks. This is a valuable tool if you’re employing freelancers at an hourly rate, as opposed to a set price for a project.
3. Team Viewer
When working with freelancers you most likely will need to grant or access desktop sharing and remote control at some point. Both of these features will allow both you and the freelancer to more easily demonstrate and explain certain processes and tasks. This is where Team Viewer comes in, a computer software package focused mainly on these two elements, but it also offers conference calling and file sharing.
Giving clear instructions is a key step to ensuring that you get the product you envisioned when hiring a freelancer. Screen-o-matic is a screen and webcam recording program that allows you to film instructions so that your freelancer can refer back to them whenever needed. The program is free for clips up to 15 minutes, which should be plenty of time for all but your most complex instructions.
Most likely in your work with freelancers you’ll be accessing numerous sites and services, all with their own password requirements. LastPass is a browser extension and mobile app that stores and manages your passwords, allowing you to create one master password that will grant you access to all your other remaining accounts. This not only helps you avoid situations where you forget a password, but can also increase your overall online security.
What do experts say?
Mario Peshev – CEO of DevriX
“Freelancers are a smart investment from a business standpoint. A company can utilize the skills of an expert without committing to a steady paycheck regardless of the quality and volume of work. The outcome is also measurable and quantifiable for jobs such as content writing or development.
You can look for freelancers in your local network, ask for referrals on social media, attend a meetup, or utilize the services of popular freelance networks, like Upwork or Peopleperhour. There are niche freelance networks and communities for different skills – Copyblogger is where many quality writers hang out, Codeable and Toptal are for the tech-savvy, Dribbble or Behance are design-oriented.
Discovering the right talent may be a bit challenging if that’s not your core expertise. Delegating that to a co-founder or a trusted party (mentor, coach, HR director) who is familiar with the field is certainly worth considering. Even a clarity call to a reputable consultant may be a good investment until you polish your job description and refine the qualification criteria.
Managing freelancers depends on your arrangement. Most agreements revolve around deliverables or a number of hours. Keeping in touch with your freelancer is important – whereas engagements may vary from twice a month to a couple times daily.
Make sure that your freelancers have access to any dependencies and assets they would rely on. If there are other stakeholders in your team, put them in touch with the freelancing team. Using Slack, Hipchat, or Workplace by Facebook are great alternatives for monitoring the heartbeat of your workflow. If you see fit, using a tool like Timedoctor or Hubstaff may be handy – for monitoring and invoicing purposes.”
Trevor Mauch – CEO at OnCarrot
Managing remote teams is far more difficult than managing teams in physical space. There are a few reasons for this. First off, building a healthy business culture when everyone lives thousands or hundreds of miles away takes more commitment and discipline. You have to schedule more consistent – but equally effective – meetings. You have to offer a time for team members to meet and just get to know each other – that, after all, is how you build culture: by allowing team members to interact within a healthy environment. At Carrot, we create a healthy culture using Slack channels that allow for water-cooler conversations. We have a Slack channel called “Livinglife,” for instance, where anyone can post about anything that matters to them. Then, we have a Monday company-wide status-update meeting and a Friday book club – right now, we’re all reading Radical Candor together. We also have 2 weekend retreats every year where we fly the entire team to one location for a few days.
The other challenging part about managing a remote team, though, is keeping your team members passionate. It’s hard to keep everyone’s energy and momentum up when you’re all in the same office. That’s even more difficult when you’re all in different cities or states. At Carrot, to keep all 18 employees excited and energetic about our company values and vision, we give every new-hire a poster for their personal office-space, some Carrot desk toys, and other Carrot merchandise to keep them reminded about why they’re doing what they’re doing. Plus, our Slack channels are really active, and I think that helps to keep people excited as well. This is why we have an “Awesomeness” Slack channel where people can post awesome things our clients say about the company. That helps keep us encouraged, for sure. At Carrot, we are empowering people to build real estate businesses and the prospect of changing people’s lives to be financially and professionally free excites all of us. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. And that’s why we go to such lengths to keep everyone on our team – remote or local – excited and driven toward that goal.”
The globalized marketplace provides ample opportunity to remotely hire the best talent from around the world, saving you money in the process. If you and your business are looking to gain an edge in your sector, you’d be well advised to begin looking into these opportunities if you haven’t done so already. And if you have, there’s always more you can learn.
Finding, hiring, and managing these remote teams can present a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. By using the right tools and taking advice from those experienced in working with freelancers, you can avoid many common mistakes. The marketplace for freelancers is bigger than ever and it’s up to you to take advantage of it!
About the Author
Georgi Todorov is a digital marketer. He recently started his NGO DigitalNovas. His passion is to help startups grow and thrive in a competitive environment. Georgi is also a partner atFortuneLords and PR expert for AdaptRM.
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