Using Freelancers and Contractors on Your Remote Team
As a remote company, it’s imperative to create a powerful team built on workers who believe in your company, its mission, and its culture. But what happens when your remote team is comprised mostly of freelancers?
In the article, “Creating High-Performance Virtual Teams of Freelancers and Contractors,” writer Esther Schindler talks about the pros of having freelance and contract workers as team members, as well as how to utilize them to make your company thrive.
First, though, it’s important to note the difference between a freelancer and a contractor. It often comes down to the “contract” part. Freelancers are typically hired to perform a certain job once or twice, they are paid, and the business relationship ends for now. They may or may not (often not) have a contract. Contractors, on the other hand, will work repeatedly with a company, and they usually have a contract. So it’s important to establish what type of independent worker your company needs, i.e. a freelancer or a contractor.
If you’re looking to build a long-lasting virtual team, the better bet is to hire contractor workers. Not only will having contractors mean a stronger sense of loyalty to the company, but there will be more of a team feeling not often found with once-off freelancers.
Pay attention during the hiring process.
Regardless if you hire a freelancer for a one-time gig or a contractor for long-term work, you’ll want members on your remote team who possess certain skills necessary in order to work remotely. The ability to be a self-manager, be motivated to work (particularly when a boss isn’t breathing down their necks), detail-oriented, and organized are all the hallmarks of an ideal remote worker.
Keep communication open.
No matter how hard you try to keep your team members in sync, the fact that each person works in their own home office, coffee shop, or park around the country (or the world) means that there are plenty of opportunities for miscommunications to occur. So keep the lines of communication open by having frequent meetings, and an open-door policy where employees can email, instant message, or even phone you if an issue arises or they need clarification about certain aspects of a project.
Build a sense of bonding.
In addition to having meetings where your staffers can talk about work, you should also provide opportunities for them to get to know each other on a more personal level. That can help freelancers feel more connected to not only each other, but the company as a whole. Communications tools such as Yammer, Hipchat, Google hangouts, Campfire, Facebook, and other programs can foster stronger ties among freelancers. And believe it or not, an employee who feels like he’s part of the company will be more productive and loyal to the organization.
Track their progress.
You assign your freelancer a project with an impending deadline. You assume that he’s diligently working on it—until the day of the deadline arrives and the work is not done. Since you can’t really micromanage employees who are far-flung across the globe, you should have metrics in place that can measure an employee’s output and your remote team as a whole. Depending on your organization and what the project is, look for ways in which you can see the productivity (or lack of it)—before it becomes a big problem.
Make them feel like part of a team.
Even if you have hired a bunch of freelancers who are simply getting paid per project, it’s a good idea to make them feel like they are a valued member of your team. After all, everyone—no matter if they are a freelancer or a long-term contractor—wants to feel like they are significant as a worker and that their work matters. So take the time to explain how their work contributes to the betterment of the company as a whole, and stress the importance of the work they are being hired for. And don’t forget to dish out praise for work well done!
Ideally, you want to create a strong team that is built on trust and respect. Your workers should feel that they can lean on each other for support, (i.e. if a worker has to take a temporary leave to take care of an aging parent), as well as you as their boss. Trust can be fostered in a variety of ways, such as getting their feedback on various projects or asking for their opinion on how to handle a certain assignment. That way, they will feel more protective over their work, since they have been a part of it since its inception.
Having freelancers and contract workers can help make your remote team just as strong as if it were comprised of full-time telecommuters. Knowing how to work with them will, in turn, make your remote team stronger, productive, and successful!
By Jennifer Parris | August 25, 2015 | Categories: Remote Management