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How to Successfully Manage a Team of Freelancers



The term freelancer has changed quite a bit over the years. Traditionally, it was reserved for photographers, writers and other creative types. Companies wouldn’t want to pay to have these individuals on full-time, but they wanted their services.

However, nowadays, pretty much any job can be done freelance. As long as you have an internet connection, some good communication skills and some patience, you can become a freelancer. People are even building entire careers around things such as social media.

As a business owner, this is wonderful news. Because so many jobs are now being done freelance, it’s very easy to access a literally global talent pool that will help you with any number of business projects for significantly less money than what it would cost to bring these people on full-time.

Plus, you don’t need to limit your search for talented individuals to just your geographic location. You can instead bring in people from around the world. But managing freelancers is much different than managing employees that are sitting just down the hall from you. Freelancers are used to working in a certain way, and if you mess this up, they’ll turn and run in a heartbeat.

Here are some tips to help you manage freelancers that will keep them happy, engaged and productive so that your business can take full advantage of their talents:

Communicate early and often

The most obvious difference between working with remote freelance workers and traditional employees is that you can’t just walk out of your office and check in on things. This can be quite a challenge for managers new to working with freelancers. And there is nothing more frustrating than receiving work that is nothing like what you were expecting. This will either mean you need to pay double, or the freelancer will need to work for free. Either way, someone won’t be happy.

The way to work around this is to communicate. But with freelancers, it’s important that you let them know up front exactly what is expected of them. Unless you have a really good relationship and have built up a level of trust, don’t send freelancers off to do whatever they can come up with. They’ll naturally revert to what they’ve done before, and this isn’t making full use of their talents.

It may take a bit more prep time for you, but make sure you know exactly what you want and let freelancers know before getting started. Then, make yourself available to answer any questions so that you can head off any issues with the work before it’s too late.

Be flexible but firm

On a similar note, one of the biggest challenges in managing freelancers is to learn how to be hands-off. Since they are working remotely, the only way you can communicate with them is digital. If you’re constantly sending messages asking for status updates, you risk crowding the freelancer and frustrating them.

To you, this might not seem like a big deal. After all, if you’re in the office, it’s totally normal to stop at someone’s desk and ask how things are going as you make your way from one place to another. However, this doesn’t have the same effect when communicating online. If a freelancer steps away and comes back to a bunch of messages, they will not like this and the relationship will suffer.

Freelancers like their flexibility. They want to be able to get up from their computers whenever they want, and they also want to be able to set their own hours. So, your response needs to be to set firm deadlines, then sit back and let the freelancer come to you with any questions. This gives them the breathing room to do the work the way that’s best for them.

However, don’t bend when it comes to deadlines. Missing one might be okay, but if it happens again, consider sending a warning before ending the relationship. It stops making sense to be flexible if you’re constantly chasing people down for work.

Do your best to make it feel like a team

While the freedom you get from working for yourself is great, it’s true that working as a freelancer can be isolating. People can quickly feel disconnected from work or company. This normally won’t be a problem, but as your relationship with a freelancer develops, consider doing some things to help them feel more a part of the team.

One thing you could do is to bring them into meetings. If the freelancer does work for one department, consider asking them to join their weekly staff meeting remotely. Or, if you have a team of freelancers all working on a similar project, consider holding a remote meeting once every week or two so that people can have the chance to connect.

You can do other things, as well. Since these people aren’t full-time employees, you don’t need to offer them benefits. But a few perks will go a long way towards making people feel included. Offering things such as a free coffee subscription service is a great way to show you care without breaking the bank.

Wrapping up

The most important thing to remember is that working with freelancers is not the same as working with your normal employees. Each person is different, and they aren’t going to be aware of the exact processes of your company. Be flexible, be understanding and be open, and you’ll quickly find that these individuals can help you affordably and effectively energize your business.