What Is So Special About Managing Freelancers?
Why do people prefer freelancing over regular office jobs? The answer is probably obvious: they value freedom, and like organizing their work themselves. Freelancing is an excellent alternative for all those who feel uncomfortable working in open space, despise corporate culture, or are unable to be present at work physically.
This approach is becoming more and more popular with each year. Experts believe that by 2020, about 50% of the American population will make a living freelancing. And it is not just about the United States. By 2021, approximately half of the United Kingdom’s population is expected to become self-employed. Throughout only one year, in 2012-2013, the number of independent workers in the European Union skyrocketed by the astonishing 45%.
These processes prove the simple fact: in the nearest future, the gig economy will continue growing and expanding. Which means that employers will need to cooperate with independent contractors more often.
If you plan to hire one or several professionals to work on your project, it is likely that you will have to supervise and guide their work. Respectively, to do this more effectively, you will need to find the best way to manage freelancers for yourself.
If the question, “How to manage freelancers employees?” sounds like an ordeal to you, and you find managing freelancers too bothersome, we know a shortcut. Just read on.
Oh, by the way. We wrote this article keeping in mind freelance developers, but all the following rules are actually applicable to any other profession: freelance writers, designers, virtual assistants, anyone!
What You Need to Know to Manage Freelancers
You should be aware of the pros and cons of working with independent contractors. They are many, but in this article, we will focus on the ones most crucial in terms of management. Recommendations given below refer mostly to long-term cooperation, and/or working on big complicated projects. Also, you might want to check out our guide on how to manage remote teams.
There are some distinctive cons, but mostly they can be generalized under one characteristic: unpredictability. Here are the top three problems you might encounter.
Outsourcing to a company is a safe bet. There is always someone to back up an employee working on your project; there are mutual guarantees and responsibilities. When working with a freelancer, you have to entrust your projects to the hands of a single developer. They might get sick. Or, their parents might get sick. Or, there could be a natural disaster in their country. Or, they had a blackout and lost all the data on your project. Circumstances are many, the outcome is the same: you lose your time and money.
Freelancer’s work ethics
Companies often care about their reputation and rarely tolerate slacking or postponing among their employees. They care for hiring skilled specialists and check their professional qualities thoroughly. With a freelancer, you have no real means of verifying their skills, except for their profile page and portfolio. Until you hire them, you don’t know how good they actually are. If a freelancer is bad at organizing their routine, works on multiple projects simultaneously, and generally tends to work “when they feel like it,” your project might be in trouble.
This is perhaps the number one reputation ruiner. Imagine you’ve paid $5.000 for a mobile app development. A freelancer takes the money, starts working on your order–and then goes cold turkey on you. You cannot reach them, you don’t know where they are, or what they are doing. 99% of chances are that you will never get neither your order nor the money back.
The reason they do this does not matter for now. As well as the fact that sometimes customers do the same to freelancers. These are just the things you should be aware of to be capable of managing a team of freelancers more effectively.
You might ask, “If it is all that bad, why would I even consider hiring a freelancer?” There are at least three convex reasons for you to do so:
It is typically one of the most significant setbacks when working with outsourcing businesses. A development agency can charge you with a considerable amount of money for merely replacing a button in your app. Freelancers operate with much lower hourly rates for their services, which can be invaluable if you intend to save the money. Besides, it is much easier to work with them on the on-demand basis, so you might want to consider that as well.
The amount of independent contractors on the market is enormous. For example, UpWork accommodates approximately 12 million freelancers. Freelancer.com is represented in 247 countries, operates in 34 languages, and processes payments in 21 currencies. In other words, if you want to find a specialist able to work on your specific task, you will.
Unlike bigger companies with hundreds of employees, a freelancer works on their own. In practice, it means that communicating with a freelancer is much easier than with a company. If you want to discuss and implement changes to the project, it can be done on the fly. In case of a company, it would require additional negotiations, as well as coordinating the work of multiple people working on your order.
Is It Worth It?
As you can see, the risks are significant. But so are the benefits. The good news is that the risks can be minimized or even avoided. If you develop effective management strategies, you will be able to reap all the benefits of outsourcing.
Let us now take a closer look at some tips for managing freelancers.
Managing Freelancers: Tips and Hints
If it is your first time hiring freelancers to work on a project, it might look like an ordeal to you. Come to think of it, you will need to gather people all over the world, and supervise their work!
If you are looking for the best practices managing freelancers, there are probably no universal solutions. However, a structured approach to management should make working on your project more comfortable for both sides.
In general, there are five phases you can break your management process into:
5 Management Phases
- Decide the tasks you need freelancers to help you with.
- Search for narrow-profile specialists. They are easier to find, and their services are usually cheaper. On the other hand, freelancers whose expertise include multiple disciplines might be easier to manage (due to a smaller number of employees).
- Estimate the deadlines, in which the previously defined set of tasks must be accomplished.
- Plan your budget. Calculate the amount of money you can spend on freelancers’ services. Set a rate (hourly, or per task completed), and get ready to pay it off regularly. Make sure you do not plan tight: leave yourself some additional funds to cover extra expenses.
- Testing your candidates’ English speaking skills might be a good idea. Proficiency in the English language is one of the conditions of effective communication within your team.
- If you are searching for specialists in countries with lower labor prices, you can face underperformance. Rest assured, they do know prices freelancers from richer countries work for. They may have to set low hourly rates for their services just to be able to bid for orders, but it will not motivate them to work well.
- The only source of information you have on a freelancer’s skills is their portfolio and their profile page. To make sure you hire an appropriate candidate, consider interviewing them first. This should better be done in person; thankfully, the Internet and other modern technologies allow face-to-face communication across continents.
- While planning the budget, consider allotting a certain amount of money for testing your candidates. A paid test task is a reliable way to check on freelancer’s expertise. It will also show them you mean business.
- Pay particular attention to a candidate’s language skills. If a candidate you consider hiring speaks poor English, it could obstruct communication within your team later on.
- Keep in mind that freelancers often work in different time zones. A difference of one or two hours is not critical. But imagine a team, whose members work in PST, PDT, and GMT time zones each. Time differences of +7 or -5 hours will affect deadlines greatly, so you should plan accordingly.
- While running your team, you can discover genuinely amazing specialists. Consider offering them long-term cooperation. Finding a reliable specialist online can be difficult, and each one counts.
- The sooner freelancers you hire get acquainted with each other and learn the responsibilities of each other, the better. Consider introducing the newcomers to the rest of the team.
- Provide them with the context: what there is to do, what has already been done, what are the peculiarities of the work process, and so on.
- Provide them with all the accounts, passwords, and services needed for work. You might want to make respective preparations in advance.
- Create the semblance of corporate culture for your freelancers, and encourage them to adhere to it. Members of your team will never meet each other in person.most likely, they will be from different regions of the world, with diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. Established etiquette will help prevent possible conflicts and give your freelancers the sense of working in a team.
- Let them know you are ready to answer all of their questions regarding the project, their role and functions, and so on.
- Make sure all of your instructions on the project are clear. Encourage your employees to clarify any misunderstandings they have, with you.
- Set a schedule for organizational meetings. During them, you and your team will discuss your plans, update each other on the progress, brainstorm, and report on the tasks.
- Although it might be tempting to use email and messengers for communication, consider making personal video calls if you need to discuss business matters with a freelancer. Personal connection gives a sense of greater importance and responsibility. This is precisely what you need from people working from all over the world via the Internet.
- Organize regular performance reviews. You need to know who has been working on what. Let your freelancers present their weekly (for instance) results to you and other team members. Provide them with constructive feedback.
- Plan your possible actions and sanctions against slackers in advance.
- Regular practice is to release payments using freelance platforms, or services such as Escrow.com, which allow you to disburse money in controlled verified transactions. This minimizes mutual risks of fraud and ensures the security of all the parties. Also, freelancers often prefer to work on a prepaid basis, meaning that you will need to pay a part of the sum in advance.
- Set the order in which payments will be released, and stick to it. If your freelancers work well, you have no excuse to late their payments.
- You might want to make up a system of fines. This is optional, but penalties could be a useful tool for negative motivation. If you decide to use them, make sure to inform people you hired about it, and explain how the fines system will work. Mind that the best practice, though, is to discuss all the nuances and conditions in advance.
- When planning your budget, remember that your expenses include not only payments but also purchasing all the necessary software and service subscriptions.
- If you decide to end your cooperation with a freelancer, inform them about it politely and respectfully. Do not just get off the radar: thank them for their labor, and make sure you pay everything you owe them.
Useful Tools to Help You Manage Freelancers
Although it might seem that tools for managing freelancers include mostly messengers, you will also need project tracking applications and services. Luckily, there is a wide variety of software to choose from. Below is a brief overview of useful software to manage freelancers.
As a project manager, you need to assign tasks, track their progress, and plan the further course of the project accordingly. While many programs allow you to do just that, you might want to use Trello due to its simplicity. All tasks in Trello are displayed as colorful cards, allowing quick navigation and organization. Shared workspaces, voting for cards and commenting them for online brainstorming, controlled access to sensitive information – these are just some of the functions Trello can boast of. Plus, all changes made to the project can be seen by all the participants in real time.
If you prefer complex and universal solutions, Bitrix24 might be just for you. A combination of powerful cloud-storing service, live chat, and project-tracking functionality, packed into an intuitive and simple interface, make Bitrix24 a reasonable option for managers who want to keep an eye over the entire course of the project.
Communication problems are often a blocker for the teams of freelancers. Email is ineffective, and chats such as Google Hangouts may lack functionality. On the other hand, Slack might be the solution you seek. It allows creating topic threads and team channels, sharing files, and making voice and video calls. Generally speaking, it can effectively substitute the regular “email-phone-skype-dropbox” combination used by project managers way too often.
For effective management, it is essential to not only supervise the tasks freelancers work on but also to receive their feedback. Your employees’ comments on the tasks and workflow may be an invaluable source of information about the blockers, challenges, or complications they face. They could have reasonable and useful suggestions as well. 15Five is an excellent tool for collecting and analyzing such feedback. Your employees take 15 minutes weekly to answer questions regarding the work on your project. You, in your turn, take five minutes to analyze their feedback. 15Five allows you to see patterns and regularities easier, and thus to react accurately.
This software probably does not require additional presentation. One of the most well-known programs for online conferences and remote access to all the computers united in one network, TeamViewer is a must for managing freelancers’ work. Screen sharing, remote printing, channel groups, conferencing options, recording–this is just an incomplete list of what TeamViewer can do.
Creating detailed instructions can be time-consuming. If you need to explain something to a freelancer in details, or to inform them about your demands in a comprehensive way, Jing is your choice. In general, it allows you to capture the recording of your screen, and create a voiceover. The video can be then shared with whoever might need it.
Ready to Get Started?
As we can see, the key to success is in the proper organization. If you break the management process into stages, it will be much easier for you to hire and manage specialists meeting the exact needs of your project. Within each of the phases, you can determine the order of actions that need to be taken, and the rules that must be observed.
Besides, there are multiple software solutions able to simplify control and supervision. Programs such as Trello or Bitrix24 can help you track the work progress of the freelancers working for you. Slack and 15Five will help you enable and maintain effective communication within the team, and conferencing tools such as TeamViewer will make it look like you all work in one space.
A Reasonable Alternative
There is also a shortcut for all those who value their time and nerves. Here at Coding Ninjas, we can help you administer your freelancers more efficiently. We find only highly qualified development specialists for you, and we are assured of their professional qualities. However, if there are any emergencies or unexpected complications, we can help you solve them.
Each of the professionals willing to cooperate with Coding Ninjas needs to meet a set of strict criteria. We check each candidate for overall adequacy, professionalism, and knowledge of English. Which, in brief, means that we match you with skilled professionals, easy to work and communicate with.
If something unexpected happens, and the contractor you hired doesn’t respond to your calls or does not update you on their progress, we will use our channels to reach them and find out, what happened. If they cannot continue working on your order, we will find you another freelancer, in the shortest terms possible.
Or, if you have an urgent task due several hours, when reaching and organizing your team would take too much time, we will do it for you. Coding Ninjas can gather a dream team of professionals in no time so you can be sure your project is safe.
Many of the specialists we employ can provide you with constructive feedback on your project. We encourage them to consult our customers on any development-related questions they might have so you can count on thorough and topical explanations.
Contact us, and enjoy all the benefits of working with high-profile freelancing experts!