How to manage freelance teams

Businesses will increasingly have to turn to teams of freelancers to get work done. We'll show you the best way to manage them.
Mar 22, 2020 • 7 minute read
Ruchi Bhargava @RuchiBhargava1
Technical Co-pilot
Cover photo for How to manage freelance teams

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As remote work becomes the new reality, businesses will increasingly rely on teams of freelancers

The world is in the grip of a major disaster. With the novel Coronavirus morphing into a pandemic, the entire world is facing a virtual shutdown.

In this situation, the economy is bound to take a hit. With markets disrupted and businesses under lockdown, work from home has become the norm rather than the exception.

While these are no doubt disruptive times, there is a ray of hope whatsoever. With businesses being forced to adapt to remote work patterns, now is the time to utilize the freelancing workforce and get more done. That too at a lesser cost to the company.

Trouble is, most businesses balk at the thought of managing a remote freelancing workforce. After all, how do you work with someone who you're never likely to see face to face? This naturally sends out a negative message which, in turn, enforces the idea that freelancers can't really get the job done.

Nothing could be further from the truth. A freelancing workforce is always more efficient, cost-effective and flexible than a static, in-house team. Also, by virtue of varied experience, freelancers can bring targeted expertise to the table that enhances the value of work.

Why then are businesses still apprehensive about working with freelancers?

Let's explore.

Improper management: the root of the problem

There's an age-old workplace adage that is still relevant: it's not how efficient your employees are, but rather how efficiently you manage them, that determines the amount of work done. This is one of the primary truths of the business world. The efficient management of the workforce is essential to ensuring that your work schedule remains on track.

Managers the world over will vouch for the above wisdom. But they'll just as easily agree to how difficult it is to get employees engaged in work. And this problem is compounded manifold when the workforce in question consists of freelancers.

Freelancers as a convention work remotely and at flexible hours. Further, they may be in geographically dispersed locations, working across timezones to get the job done. This makes proper management of these employees all the more difficult.

As it is, even in regular workplace management, managers have to contend with a wide variety of employees with separate emotional and professional makeups. This makes the task of getting the job done with efficacy a complicated one, to say the least.

Add to that the multiple intricacies of working with freelancers, and you've got a real conundrum on your hands.

Thankfully there's no problem that proper management can't solve, and businesses need to leverage the right freelancer management principles. Unless they can do so, there's really no way that companies large and small can work with freelancers properly.

To help your business overcome this obstacle and come out the other side winning, today we are going to discuss some management principles that'll help you to properly work with a team of freelancers.

Trust us, once you get used to it, you'll swear there's no better way to work.

How to manage a freelance team

Working with freelancers can be rewarding if done correctly, otherwise, there's no easier way to botch up a project. A freelancing workforce tends to be distributed, and this makes getting them to work in synchronization a tough task.

There are certain techniques that you can utilise to make sure that your project stays on track and gets finished in a timely manner. The following are just some of the many techniques that you can employ to effectively manage your freelance employees.

Adequate onboarding

Every freelancer is unique, and so are their working techniques. Make sure you take time to understand each freelancer as a separate entity and arrange your work processes as per their preferences.

For doing this effectively, managers need to put in place a specific onboarding process that can enable freelancers to get acquainted with the company processes. It's best not to rush into the details of urgent projects at the very outset.

For one-off projects, this can be achieved rather simply. But if you plan to work with them over long periods, and on different projects, then it's best not to rush things.

Rather, initiate work with a small project, and make sure to interact with the freelancers regularly. This will allow you to know the freelancers better, get acquainted with their work process and understand how to work with them for future projects.

Also, since freelancers usually work as part of a team, make sure you take time to introduce the freelancers to other team members. This will allow them to better understand how to fit their work processes with the rest of the team. And it'll also allow both parties to establish the ground rules for working in tandem.

Proper brand briefing

Freelancers most often work with multiple businesses at the same time. As a result, their work patterns are at a risk of overlapping. This can lead to a mixing up of designs and projects unless you adequately guide them.

To do so, take out time to get the freelancers acquainted with your brand. Based on their roles, you need to focus more on certain brand facets than others.

For example, for a graphic designer, you need to focus more on the design elements such as style guides and color schemes. For content creators, it's best to focus more on the voice of the brand, and how you'd like the tone of each piece of content to vary.

For this, of course, you'll need to provide them with timely guidance and supply all the required materials that they need to work with. Along with that, make sure to constantly communicate with them and keep them on track.

Lay out clear expectations

For any kind of relationship to work out, the one thing that is essential is a clear understanding of the expectation of each party. This is all the more true for professional relationships, where mutual profit is one of the prime motivators.

While working with freelancers, this mutual understanding is all the more important because here, the normal dynamics of employee-employer relationships don't really work out. For this, you need to be crystal clear about what each stakeholder expects from the other side.

So, tackle some of the basic questions first. What are the outcomes you expect from this relationship? What are the tasks that the freelancers need to handle, and what don't come under their purview? What are your personal preferences for getting the job done?

By carefully answering these, and more, questions you stand to establish clear workplace dynamics between yourself and your freelance workforce. This way your freelance employees will have a clear understanding of which tasks must be done by adhering to strict guidelines, and which have scope for creative freedom.

As an aside, it's best to remember that freelancers are a creative breed, and they require the space and freedom to work according to their standards. So, avoid being too specific with your instructions unless it's absolutely imperative. Even then, take care to explain why it is so.

Specific and reasonable deadlines

Quality work requires time, and this means you can't be vague about your task deadlines. Freelancers work on multiple projects, and as such, they can't really invest their entire time behind a single project.

Therefore, be certain to set up clear, specific and reasonable deadlines and define deliverables adequately. Make sure there's no fuzziness about expected timelines, and once you've set a deadline, stick to it.

This not only means that the freelancers should deliver on-time but also that you provide them with the required resources on time. Only then can you expect your freelance team to deliver.

Divide and conquer

When it comes to tackling large projects using a freelancer workforce, businesses often feel at a loss. In such situations, it's best to adopt the divide and conquer approach.

The human mind is conditioned to handle small amounts of tasks at a time. By breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks and distributing them to your freelancer team, you can take advantage of a distributed workforce and get more done.

The following point will introduce you to a software development technique that can allow you to effectively manage your team.

Introduce sprints

If you are working with a freelancer team on a software project, then you can introduce coding sprints as a good way to make sure that work gets done on time.

But what is a sprint, you may ask?

A sprint is a time management technique that lies at the heart of Agile and Scrum methodologies. A sprint is often defined as a small, finite time slice during which the teams work to get a fixed amount of work done.

Sprints allow developers to segment the work that they have to do in small, manageable chunks that can be completed easily. This allows the team to speed along the entire development process, meet deadlines, and in short, get more done for less.

Using sprints to rally your freelancer teams can allow them to be more focused and organized about their work. By utilising the principles of modular work management, your business can benefit from freelancer agility.

To make the process even more streamlined, you can set up digital sprint boards that allow teams to collaborate more effectively. There are a large number of software tools available that can allow you to do this, often at no or negligible costs.

Make them feel valued

Finally, the best thing that you can do to make sure that your freelancer team works on point is to make each of them feel valued. Every human being likes to feel appreciated, and when you provide constructive feedback to freelancers, this makes them work better. So make sure you follow up and communicate with your freelancer team regularly. This'll encourage them to feel more invested in the work process.

Final words

Working with freelancers is no mean feat, but if done rightly, the results can be amazing. And given the current situation of the world, working remotely may be the best way to keep the wheels turning.

By following the above steps, you can be sure to work with your freelancer teams in a coherent manner. Just remember to stick to cogent communication, adequate task assignments, and proper deadlines.

And in case you feel that this is too much for your business to handle alone, then don't fret. Just get on board with our project management services for better freelancer engagement. When you work with us, you stand to benefit from a structured process that is particularly aimed at freelancer management. So don't hesitate to get in touch.

Till then, be safe, be strong and get to work!

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