In the digital era more and more of our business is happening online, which is great news for freelancers and businesses alike! Taking advantage of this new form of labour can pay off substantially – freelancers appreciate being independent and flexible, while businesses can maintain a consistent workflow without needing additional office space or conventional employment contracts. Now, if your team is comprised entirely of freelancers then you are running the risk of communication breakdown. Keeping your team connected and informed is essential to good business in the digital era, so here are some ways to ensure that your team is making the most of flexible employment.
Maintaining Work Relationships With Freelancers
This is the greatest challenge, especially as the number of freelancers on your team grows. Everyone has misinterpreted the tone of an email before, but when all of your communications are remote the potential for a misread message to cause issues is amplified greatly. Expectations should be made clear well in advance, and an open channel of communication that encourages questioning and brainstorming will pay off significantly.
To combat mixed messages, consider using a team messaging app that allows your team to instantly message in group chats. Through collaboration, freelance teams can discuss through a less confrontational messaging platform than the dreaded email. Slack and Glip are instant messaging platforms designed for businesses to communicate internally, allowing team members to create groups and foster discussion through direct contact. Beyond using instant messaging platforms for collaboration, hosting a monthly video call between your core team members can assist in airing concerns or misunderstandings that may go unaddressed otherwise.
Keeping Your Corporate Culture in Check
If your project managers are also freelancers, it is important to understand how they are handling issues internally if and when they arise. Far too often having a freelancing management team means that the quality of management drops to near zero until an issue arises, and then all hell breaks loose. Not only is this a toxic work relationship, it is going to hamper the quality of work being done by everyone involved and possibly lead to future conflicts. Having a flexible team should mean that everyone is working towards the same goal, and that means your management needs to step up to stay on top of deadlines, setting reminders, and offering assistance whenever possible to your team members. Ideally your freelancing team will become a long-term relationship that benefits both parties with no added stress or confusion along the way.
A challenge for teams that are comprised of freelancers is maintaining motivation when you rarely (if ever) meet in person. Distance work can begin to feel like a chore, unempowering and unmotivating. Without an office space in which to collaborate, finding room for improvement or constructively criticizing each other’s work is made difficult. Breaking these barriers is as simple as finding time to congratulate your freelancers as progress is made. Compensate for the lack of one on one time by leveraging the communication channels you do have. Bonus points for offering lunch + learns, team gym visits, and (non-painful) team building exercises to your freelance team — it pays off to invest in your team!
Understand Who You’re Hiring
It goes without saying that looks can be deceiving. Throughout the hiring process, you should be considering applicants based on merit, not simply who has the best designed website! Will Walczak, Director of Hiilite, believes in the phrase “Everything Communicates”, encouraging our team to consider how each detail is a part of the final product when creating new material. He believes in it so much that you can find stickers with the phrase around the Hiilite office and in the most trafficked areas. When it comes to finding new staff, whether they will be working as a freelancer or in-house, consider how they are communicating their personal brand to you.
Carefully reviewing your potential freelancer’s portfolio means actually sifting through the provided documents and critically analyzing their work. Additionally, consider how they use social media to promote themselves, and how their website is communicating their brand to you. All of these are points that you can bring up when speaking with a freelancer – not only does it show your interest, but it shows that you are serious about finding the best applicant possible for the position, not necessarily the first or cheapest that you come across. If you are still unsure, consider offering them a temporary paid job to assess their ability on the job, that way you can rest assured that your team is filled with talent even when you can’t see them everyday.
In our hiring process, we try to assess candidates by their portfolio and public facing online presence, but that doesn’t always tell the whole story. Recently, Hiilite began searching for a new junior web developer to add to our team. In our hunt we came across two applicants that seemed to be everything we were looking for, but at the time there was only room for one. After completing their interviews, we asked if they might be interested in a ‘Code Off’. Both were eager to display their skills behind the keyboard, so we set up a workspace with two opposing computers and brought them in. A Code Off is a competition where two coders attempt to solve a problem or task. The first to succeed wins the competition, simple! It was exciting for the office, non-confrontational, and ensured that the person we hired was the best for the job.
Freelancers are a great resource for businesses just getting started – forget about the massive costs associated with conventional office space and hiring, but maintain the skill and proficiency of an experienced team. Keeping everyone happy isn’t so difficult, but it does require a bit more finesse in approach. At the end of the day, everyone wants to feel appreciated and valued, so always look for ways to be considerate in your work relationships and your business’ culture will flourish – even if it’s all online!