Freelancing is the new “in” job. The freedom and flexibility of being able to choose who you work for and when you work is too much of a perk for people to ignore. This can help explain the rapid growth of freelancers in the labor market; soon, the majority of the workforce will be freelancers, if everything continues as is.
But freelancing isn’t just good for those doing it. This trend is helpful to companies, too. Sites like Upwork or Fiverr have helped small, medium and large companies tap into a global workforce, allowing them to save money on premium talent that can help take the business to the next level.
This new style of work, though, naturally comes with a new style of management. You can’t do the same thing you’ve always done and expect the same results. You need to adapt, even if only slightly.
Here are some tips for helping you successfully manage a team of freelancers so that they can support your efforts to grow your business.
Relax, things will get done
We all know how important it is to create a relaxed workplace. When people free and aren’t stressed out, they tend to be more productive and perform better.
The same thing applies to freelancers, but you need to go about this in a different way. Freelancers want their flexibility. They want to be able to choose when they sit down to work, and they want to know that no one is looking over their shoulder.
For you, this means learning to relax a little and trust that the work is going to get done. People work at different paces, so if it’s a few days before the deadline and you see the Google Doc you and your freelancer share is still empty, relax. It will get done. It might happen at 3 a.m., but it will happen.
Now if it doesn’t, that’s a different story. It’s one thing to be flexible, but deadlines need to be firm. But don’t send messages days before the deadline asking how things are going or when they’re planning on starting. This will only make your freelancers feel unnecessary pressure, and they’ll either disengage from the work, or ditch you for a client who knows how to delegate without micromanaging.
Make yourself available
Building on this, though, you want to make sure freelancers know you’re available. While you may reach out less so that you can give them space to work, you do want them contacting you when they have a question or concern, especially when you first begin a relationship.
There’s nothing worse than getting a finished project that’s nothing like what you expected because the freelancer didn’t feel comfortable asking questions, or because they couldn’t reach you.
Make sure you respond to messages promptly and accurately. And make it clear that asking questions is encouraged. If they feel even slightly reluctant, the work and the relationship will suffer, creating headaches and stress for everyone. No one wants that.
This particular point isn’t all that different from what you would do with traditional, in-office employees. But what is new is how you’ll do it. Consider using productivity suites such as Slack or Trello so that you can create communication threads that won’t get lost in your inbox.
Give clear instructions up front
This one really can’t be stressed enough. The worst part about working with freelancers is receiving a “finished” product that is nothing like what you were expecting. The freelancer needs to work on it again for free, and you need to wait longer for the work. No one wins.
So, the solution here is to be as clear as possible about what you want right from the beginning. When working with your own employees, you might be able to have them get started, working out the kinks as they go. This isn’t a great plan with freelancers. Perhaps as you go along and gain some more trust, you can lean on freelancers to improvise more. But when you first start out, make sure you’re being as specific as possible.
This might require a bit more work on your part, but it will be well worth it in the end when your freelancers deliver work that’s up to your standards the first time.
Make them feel a part of the team
This is one that a lot of people forget. Freelancers aren’t in the office, and they are also working on other projects for other clients. But a lot of times, especially when you start using the same freelancers for multiple projects, they begin to feel like they are part of the team. However, if you continue to treat them like freelancers, this disconnect could sour the relationship and cause them to disengage from the work.
You don’t need to go crazy, but consider doing some things to help include them. Spend some time during meetings asking about their personal lives, and consider offering little perks, such as sending them some free coffee, so that they feel appreciated for their work and feel closer to the company and its goals.
Freelancers are a great way to leverage the interconnectivity of the internet into helping your business grow. But managing them is not the same as managing your full-time, in-office workforce. Consider adopting these strategies so that you can have success managing a team freelancers.
About the author:
Raj Jana is a successful entrepreneur and business owner. He works with many freelancers and considers freelancing and contract work to be the future. He writes frequently to help enrich this community and make it better for all.