Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Connor Gillivan, CMO and co-owner of FreeeUp.com, a rapidly growing freelance marketplace making hiring online simpler. He has sold over $30 million online, has hired hundreds of freelancers to build his companies, is a published author, and is the owner of ConnorGillivan.com. He currently lives in Denver, CO.
The gig economy has seen some rapid growth over the past couple of years. With an easier and more cost-efficient way of doing business, it’s not surprising that many business owners are getting with the trend and enjoying the perks it has to offer.
While money and freedom are valid motivations, not everything about remote management is smooth-sailing. Unlike working with in-house employees who conduct work in the same location, communication can present some challenges.
I guess we can all agree that communication is key in just about anything, and remote management is no exception. If you want the communication between you and the freelancers you work with to produce great results, the simple guide below would come in handy.
1. Determine freelancers’ goals right from the beginning
It goes without saying that in every big project or endeavor, the first, and perhaps the most logical step, is to clearly set expectations.
It’s important to get everybody on the same page right from the get-go. Doing this will help you minimize the instances where you have to remind everyone about the goals of the work they are doing and those of the business itself.
Get these goals documented and stored in a folder that everyone has access to so they can easily revisit them if there’s confusion on their end. You’ll be saving more time and effort with this approach instead of asking people to go online for a chat whenever they make mistakes.
If you have a freelancer in charge of social media marketing, for example, you need to make sure to set clearly defined goals that they’ll have to meet. How many followers should the client have in three months? How much increase in engagement should their campaigns generate?
If everybody knows what they should be aiming for, the likelihood of your business succeeding is much improved.
2. Decide on the tools and apps everyone will use
Equally important for smooth collaboration and remote management are the tools and apps everyone will use to get things done. It’s crucial for you, as the business owner, to establish this right from the beginning because it will help make things easier for everyone.
If you want to be able to monitor the progress of every task, get everyone to sign up for a project management tool like Asana or Trello, for example.
Concerning the means of communication itself, everyone should be on one platform. This platform should not only allow you to talk to one another but also offer other capabilities like file and screen sharing. Some of the apps that immediately come to mind are Skype or Brief, which are the most commonly used tools for such purposes.
While all these apps are capable of delivering positive results, in the end, the decision will still depend on your personal preference. Do some research so you can determine which of them is the best fit.
3. Know and respect their work hours
What makes remote work so attractive among freelancers is the freedom and flexibility it has to offer. Where else can you find work that you can do anywhere, anytime as long as there’s an internet connection?
This doesn’t mean, however, that you can freely contact them and have them do tasks whenever you feel like it. You have to take into consideration that freelancers usually live in countries with different time zones which means their mornings are your nights and vice versa.
And even if you belong to the same time zone, try to resist contacting them abruptly so they can focus on their work. The fewer interruptions, the more productive they will be.
There are, of course, a few exceptions and unavoidable emergencies which are perfectly understandable. If it’s a mere project update that you need, however, those can certainly wait, don’t you think?
A good practice would be to send them a chat message first to see if they’re available to talk if what you have to say can’t wait. If they’re not online or not responding to your message, you need to be more understanding and wait for them to become available.
4. Use the communication method appropriate to the situation
If there’s one thing you should be happy about when it comes to communicating with freelancers, it’s the fact that you have different means of communication at your disposal. Each of them comes with their own set of advantages and disadvantages, though, and knowing how and when to use them can make a world of difference.
Why type out a lengthy and heavily-worded email when you can explain everything in five minutes via a Skype call? Do you really need to go on a video chat if you can ask a quick question or send a few instructions via chat message?
The point in identifying which communication method is appropriate for the situation is to save time because just like you, freelancers are busy people.
Everyone needs to focus on what they do for the business to succeed in meeting its goals. While constant communication is good at keeping things in check, there’s no denying that it can also get in the way of people’s productivity.
5. Be on top of things
It’s fair to say that being a good leader can be tough. As a business owner, there are a lot of things that rest on your shoulders, the biggest one being the success or failure of the business as a whole.
If you want to scale your business and take it to the next level, you need to be on top of things. While this is easier said than done, there are ways to simplify things so you can keep up with everything that’s going on around you. The first step is to become proactive.
Let’s just say you have a couple of big projects coming up that will require a ton of work. Wouldn’t it help if you took the initiative to inform the freelancers in advance so they’d know what to expect and plan ahead?
This is especially true if the freelancers you hired have other clients. The earlier you can give them a heads up, the more organized they will become, making them more productive in the process.
This kind of remote management also comes in handy when it comes to freelancers taking time off. Sure, their absence may not be as impactful to your business’ daily operations but you can avoid delays with preemptive and proper planning.
As a leader, you should also set the standard quality-wise. Make sure to diligently proofread and edit your responses before sending them for people to easily understand and follow your lead.
These things may look trivial and insignificant from a certain standpoint, but make no mistake about it, they are effective in producing positive results.
6. Encourage feedback
Have you ever experienced being asked questions while you’re busy doing something? More often than not, what we usually do in such situations is to repeatedly agree just to get the conversation over and done with, correct?
If you ask freelancers questions while they’re busy at work, chances are they will do the same with you. Since they are busy, they will most likely just agree with anything you say without fully understanding what they agreed to. The danger in agreeing without understanding is that it leaves a lot of room for errors, which is why you should encourage remote freelancers to ask questions if there’s confusion on their part.
Set a separate time for these Q and A sessions. One where both of you are available to talk and clarify things so no work is interrupted and no one is rushing. By doing this, you are reducing the possibility of miscommunication, thereby minimizing error.
Communication plays a huge role when it comes to remote management. While technology has already done its part in providing you the best tools to aid in effective communication, much of its success depends on your ability to plan and come up with strategies that will work in everybody’s favor.
If communication is a big issue in your business, the playbook we provided above should give you a couple of bright ideas to help you solve these communication problems.