Back in the day, when you were building your team, you were limited in who you could hire. Whoever came on board needed to live within driving distance of your office. Thanks to technology advancements, for many roles (particularly in technology), you’re no longer limited to hiring in your immediate geographical area. You can now hire anyone, anywhere, at any time.
Working with freelance and remote team members is a great way to hire the talent you need no matter where they are in the world. But remote team collaboration is different from working with a traditional, in-house team. If you want your remote workers and freelancers to be successful, it’s important to understand and navigate those differences.
Let’s take a look at how you can better manage your remote and freelance team members so you can get your projects done, support your co-workers, and create a more positive and productive work environment for your team.
How to build a network of freelancer and remote team members
Before we dive into collaborating better with your freelancers and remote team members, let’s see how you can find them.
Ideally, you want to hire a network of reliable freelancers you can work with on a project-to-project basis. But where, exactly, do you find these reliable freelancers?
Well, it depends on what kind of freelancer you need.
Build your team, build your culture. Logo design by 99designs designer zzoo
There are different resources you can leverage for different kinds of talent. People are looking for ways of making money online in many places. So, for example, if you’re looking for a virtual assistant, we’d recommend Freelancer. If you need to find a designer, check out 99designs. If you’re in the market for a developer, Toptal may be your best bet.
The point is there are different freelance sites geared towards different kinds of talent. If you want to make good use of your time, you’ll spend time on sites that specialize in the industries and skill sets you’re looking for.
To get the most out of these freelance sites, go in with a clear idea of what you’re looking for. Comb through relevant portfolios and keep tabs of your favorites. Reach out to each prospective freelancer to get a quote for your project. If you’re looking for freelancers but don’t have a specific project yet, let them know about your company. Also, offer a brief description of what your freelance needs will be. To decide if they’re a good fit, you’ll want to find out each freelancer’s hourly rate and other important things like what timezone they’re in. Remember, your freelancer has to be interested in working with you just as much as you have to be interested in working with them. Take the time when writing your pitch to list your brand values and vision.
Getting your remote team onboard and up to speed
Improving collaboration with your freelance and remote team members happens before they ever start working on a project. That’s proper onboarding.
Taking the time to properly onboard your remote team and making sure they have everything they need to be successful is crucial. You wouldn’t hire an in-house person and expect them to know everything they need to know about you, your company, and what’s expected of them from day one. So why would you expect it from your remote team?
The future of work is changing. Illustration by 99designs designer Henrylim
Before your freelancer starts work, make sure you get them up to speed on your policies and procedures, workflow, and expectations. They will need this background info in order to successfully complete the project. You’ll also want to share pertinent brand information, like your style guide or corporate values, to familiarize them with your company.
Consider making a “Freelancer Onboarding” kit to send to freelancers when they join your team. Include your must-haves, like your brand style guide and company mission statement, plus fun items like branded company swag and a gift card to show new freelancers they’re already part of the team.
If you’re hiring full-time remote employees, make a digital version of your usual onboarding process. Send it to them so they’re caught up with your in-house team. For freelancers you’ll be working extensively with, arrange an introductory video call with several key in-house members. This way, you can get to know one another on a face-to-face level. This aspect is sometimes neglected when it comes to freelance and remote team members.
Do you need to spend a week onboarding and training a freelancer you’re hiring for 10 hours of work? Of course not. Depending on their role and responsibilities, different team members will need different levels of onboarding. The key is to make sure you do what’s necessary to set every team member up for success before they start working for you.
How to make communication work for you and your remote team
Perhaps the most important element of remote team collaboration? Communication.
When someone isn’t in the office, it’s even more important to make sure you’re communicating effectively.
Communication is key. Logo design by 99designs designer Mainstream Account for Language Mix
Here are a few best practices to keep in mind to make sure you’re communicating with your remote team in the most efficient and effective way:
- Be friendly. Email and other text-based messaging can come across as cold, so make sure to infuse a little friendliness into your communications. For example, before you dive into project updates, take a moment to ask freelancers and remote team members how their weekend was or share the latest funny gif that’s been circulating around the office. It will go a long way in building rapport with your remote team members.
- Be crystal clear. When you’re working with a remote freelancer, it’s important to be crystal clear in your directions. Things can get lost in translation. Since they’re not there to ask questions in person, things might slip through the cracks. Be more obvious, thorough, and clear when giving project directions than you think you need to be to avoid any potential miscommunications. If you’re giving feedback on a project, try writing out each point twice, but saying it in a different way each time. This’ll help you surface things that might have fallen by the wayside the first time around. Being an active listener is also essential.
- Work around cultural differences. If you’re working with a team in another area of the world, there might be cultural differences in how you both communicate. Make sure you understand those cultural differences and come up with ways to overcome potential communication issues before they occur. If there are abbreviations your in-house team refers to regularly, define these for remote team members that may not be familiar with them.
The best online collaboration tools to make working with your freelance and remote team members a breeze
When your team is in the same office, it’s easy to walk over to their desk to ask a question or give them a call when you need to clarify a detail. But when you’re dealing with remote freelancers, you don’t have that option.
And that’s where online collaboration tools come in.
Online collaboration tools make it a breeze to communicate with your remote team, assign projects, give feedback, and keep track of deliverables. There’s an online collaboration tool for just about every aspect of working with a remote team, from video conferencing to scheduling, task management, and project management.
The key to success? The right tools. Logo design by 99designs designer GoSteven for Talent Carpenters
Here are a few you can try yourself:
With this tool, you can easily schedule meetings and quick check-ins with freelancers and remote team members without the back-and-forth emails. Calendly also displays your entire team’s availability on one page. This way you’ll see when freelancers are online and ready to collaborate.
If you have multiple freelancers collaborating on a project, check out Slack. You’ll be able to create different communication channels (e.g.: create a different Slack channel for each project), invite team members, and manage all your communications within that channel. Slack makes it easy for you to upload files and search conversations. Additionally, it integrates with tons of other apps like Google Drive.
Think of Zoom as a digital conference room. It allows you to have meetings with your remote team members from around the world in a “face-to-face” manner. Or at least as close to “face-to-face” as you can get when you’re scattered in different cities or countries.
But the success of freelance and remote teams is not limited to communication. Other major factors, like time management or client communication, all have a say in remote team success. Check out this shortlist of the best free tools to improve freelancer performance.
Bringing the team — in-house and remote — together
Remote team collaboration is important. But you know what else is important? Remote team integration.
In order for your remote workers to be as successful as they can be, they need to feel like they are a part of the team. And it’s on you to make that happen.
It’s all about bringing the team together. Logo design by 99designs designer VLK STUDIO
Schedule 1-on-1’s with your remote workers to see how they’re doing. Whenever possible, hop on Skype and have a face-to-face conversation. Keep them in the loop with what’s going on with a project and the company as a whole. Look for every opportunity to integrate them with your in-house team, whether that’s through video conferencing or “digital happy hours” where you share a beer (virtually, of course).
The more a part of the team your remote workers feel, the more committed they’ll be to that team and the harder they’ll work as a result. If you’ve already built a great in-house team, apply those same methodologies to remote teams and watch productivity flourish.
Wrapping things up
You too can build a freelance and remote worker dream team. All it takes is the right group of freelancers, proper onboarding and training, and a veritable set of communication tools like Zoom and Skype to facilitate regular check-ins and conversation.
Thanks to technology, you now have the ability to hire people from anywhere in the world. But the key to success with remote teams remains knowing how to best work with them. Now that you have everything you need to collaborate better with freelance and remote team members, you’re on your way to building your dream team no matter where they are in the world.
About the author: Brea is Community Marketing Manager @99designs, the world’s largest graphic design marketplace. 99designs helps connect a global community of freelance designers with businesses of all sizes to complete their design needs. Need design work done? Find a freelancer and get started.