[tech tools and tips]
The freelance workforce is already 53 million strong and an estimated 40 percent of the labor force is expected to be freelancing by 2020.
While working with freelancers can offer several advantages for small businesses, managing freelancers can also be a daunting challenge.
Since freelancers work for so many different clients, as opposed to employees, it becomes essential ensuring they are on the same page about workload, deliverables, and deadlines. Things can get even more complicated when building freelance teams.
The Need to Manage Freelancers Wisely
Freelancers are not employees; they are independent consultants who can work wherever and whenever they want. Your best bet as a small business owner is to manage them by communicating effectively and by setting consistent deadlines. Attempt to outline the rules of your freelance relationship ahead of time through legal documents, and invest in project management software that may help with communication.
If you’re a freelancer, it’s important to be communicative and understand the needs of the client upfront, and get an idea of their vision. Make a strong effort to understand and be understood. When miscommunication occurs, you can easily lose a job or get a poor rating.
As we are in 2017, more and more software platforms will give startups the ability to manage freelancers. Many will will be turnkey solutions. SaaS products like Basecamp allow the project manager to create a task list, and allow both the company and freelancer to communicate through shared notes, documents, and deadlines. I highly recommend creating processes for your freelancers, and being very clear on the objective and deadlines. This guide on invoicing freelancers has proved to be helpful.
There are also freelance management systems (FMS) that help you find as well as oversee freelancers. Work Market is an example of an FMS that helps find, verify, onboard, track, and keep companies compliant when it comes to an on-demand workforce. It also allows the community to rate work. Most of their clients are enterprise level, so if you’re a freelancer, it could be an opportunity to get in front of larger companies.
Here are some of the tips to manage the freelancers
Understand what they want
The first question you need to ask is: Why are they interested in doing this job? “It could be money, the chance to develop new skills, or the opportunity to work with great people,” says Pink. “What are you giving that person in exchange for lending his or her talent to your organization?” Because you won’t know freelancers as well as the people on your team, you may need to put this question to them directly. (“Just asking is a woefully underused technique in life,” says Pink). You might say, “Tell me what you’re hoping for from this assignment.” Then make sure you’re delivering on that.
At the same time, you need to be clear about what you want in return — whether it’s a well-designed brochure, a new website, or advice every two weeks. It’s good practice to draft a statement that details exactly what you need and when. It’s also important to provide them with context. Because freelancers aren’t around all the time, “they’re not getting the purpose of the exercise through osmosis the way your employees are,” says Pink. You have to spend extra time talking about what the goal is, how it connects to the big picture, and why it matters.
Build the relationship
“It’s fair to say you don’t have to invest as much in a freelancer as you do as an employee,” says King. But, “don’t fall into the trap of making it purely transactional,” warns Pink. Get to know them by asking questions about their family, what they’re interested in outside work, and the other projects they’re working on (assuming you aren’t their only client). This is especially important if you want to work with this person again in the future.
Make them feel part of the team
King’s recent (and not yet published) research on freelancers shows that they prefer to work for employers that treat them like part of the team. So try to avoid all the subtle status differentiators that can make contractors feel like second-class citizens — for example, the color of their ID badges or access to the corporate gym — and be exceedingly inclusive instead. Invite them to important meetings, bring them into water-cooler conversations, and add them to the team email list. Compliance departments in some organizations might worry that doing these things makes freelancers look too much like employees for legal and tax purposes, and managers certainly need to be careful not to overstep any employment laws or HR guidelines. But, King notes: “There’s nothing that says they can’t come to a team lunch.”
Your contractors likely got into freelancing because they wanted autonomy. King and Pink agree that it’s important to give them freedom. “To be a successful freelancer, you need to be self-motivated and able to work without someone looking over your shoulder,” says King. Be flexible with their schedules and other commitments. You’re likely not their only client. And give them space to do their work. “You shouldn’t have to manage the work product of a contractor. If you are, find another one,” he says.
There’s no need to do a formal review with freelancers (“I’m not even a big fan of giving employees performance reviews,” admits Pink) but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on the feedback. Telling them what you think of their work will improve their performance and deepen the relationship. “Besides, most freelancers are starving for that kind of input,” says Pink.
It can be as simple as spending five minutes at the end of an engagement discussing what went right and what went wrong but King says continuous feedback is even better. “Regularly revisit the statement of work or contract and be clear about whether they’re hitting their targets,” he advises. “If they’re doing a good job for you, thank them, especially in front of others.” And, if they’re underperforming, don’t beat around the bush. “It’s easy to say shape up or ship out partly because you can boot them at any time and you don’t have to feel as badly about it.”
Pay them well
Don’t think just because the contractor is work-for-hire that you should take advantage. They deserve to be treated fairly. “Pay them market rate,” says Pink, “and if you value their work pay them more.” Even if you’d like to test the person out before committed to a big project with her, avoid asking for work on spec; offer to pay for the time the “tryout” takes. “People talk to one another,” Pink warns, and you don’t want to risk getting a bad reputation.
Tools to efficiently manage freelancers
Trello is a visual project management tool that allows workers to collaborate in an easy and organized way. You can separate projects into tasks and track individual contributions and overall progress, quickly and easily.
On each project, you can add comments, upload attachments, create checklists, assign due dates and more. You control the invitations to each project, so you know who has access to sensitive information.
Plus, everything happens in real time, so everyone is always seeing the same information, across all devices. Having every detail of every project stored in a single place is virtually guaranteed to make your job easier.
Good communication is the most effective way to reduce employee turnover. Businesses that have good communication practices have a 50 percent lower turnover rate than other companies. It’s no surprise then that good communication is also key to maintaining and managing a mobile workforce.
Slack is an all-in-one communication tool for teams. It offers team channels for group discussions, direct messaging for private conversations and even voice and video calling directly from the application. You can share documents and search conversation archives when needed. Take the hassle out of communicating with your team by connecting everyone with this software solution.
ResourceGuru allows you to see the availability of everyone on your team, at a glance. Freelancers enter their schedule into the calendar and then you assign tasks and projects based on their stated availability. It makes scheduling a snap and eliminates the time-consuming hassle of back and forth conversations regarding availability with individual freelancers.
Honest feedback from your workforce is something that can be difficult to obtain, no matter where your employees are located. 15Five has taken the concept of employee feedback and made it into a simple and fun way for companies to get detailed information from their workers on a regular basis. Employees and freelancers take 15 minutes a week to answer questions about everything from projects and productivity to coworkers and benefits. Then, managers spend five minutes reviewing and commenting on the responses.
15Five offers a great solution for companies to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening with their workforce at any given time. The quick delivery of the information makes it possible to see patterns and pivot quickly on issues that are causing problems for your team.
Ninety-seven percent of Fortune 500 companies use the popular cloud storage and file-sharing program Dropbox. The wide adaptation, more than anything else, clearly illustrates the usefulness of the software.
With Dropbox, you can give team members access to specific folders and they can share large files quickly and easily. You can also invite non-Dropbox users to download files by creating a link and sharing it with them.
Dropbox works with and offers support for nearly every type of device, including Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android and Blackberry. Files are automatically synced across devices, so you always have access to the most current version of your data.
Tracking employee time and managing timesheets can be a very time-consuming task for managers. Toggl is a time tracking software for freelancers that makes it easy to track, manage and bill time spent working on projects.
It features a simple online timer and offers in-depth reporting. There are multiple features that make it easy for you to monitor your team’s efficiency and better direct your organization’s resources. It also helps freelancers be more focused and has been shown to increase productivity during work hours.
If you’ve been looking for an easy way to more effectively manage your freelance team’s billable time, Toggl is a great choice.
Zoom is an online meeting service that makes it easy to hold online conferences and meetings with your offsite team. Using Zoom’s cloud-based service, you can schedule meetings with your team, whiteboard and collaborate as a group and much more.
Attendees can join the meeting via phone, computer, mobile or tablet, ensuring there’s a way for everyone to connect. The controls are simple and intuitive to learn, yet robust enough to be a complete solution for nearly any need. Organizers can also record calls, which is a valuable feature not yet available on all online meeting applications. Recordings can be reviewed later to note important points or in training new freelance team members.
Snagit is a screen capture program that makes it easy to work with and communicate with your remote team. With Snagit, you can capture screenshots and annotate them to call out important points and indicate suggested changes.
It saves time and improves efficiency by allowing you to show your team exactly what you want, instead of trying to describe an issue over the phone or via email.
Training new freelancers can be a difficult prospect when everyone works remotely. Jing allows you to create a video capture of your screen and add a voice recording to it. It’s especially effective for creating training videos to demonstrate tasks. You can save time by sharing the videos with new people on your team and avoid repeating the same training over and over.
As more companies recognize the benefits of the mobile workforce, it’s likely that your company will begin to employ additional freelance workers and remote employees. Use these tools to effectively communicate with your remote team members and you won’t miss a beat in efficiency.
It is developed as an open source application and it benefits from a simple and clean user interface similar to Twitter. It supports multiple projects, statuses, document attachments.
Remember the milk
It is a more feature packed task management solution. It allows you to organize your tasks into tabs and tags, make time specific tasks with automatic reminders and repeat intervals, and it even has collaborative features.
It is a free online invoice generator, which distinguishes itself by being incredibly simple and intuitive to use, while still being flexible enough to handle just about any invoicing scenario.
It is a prototyping tool, which replaces the sketch or whiteboard to communicate both complex ideas and initial thoughts within a virtual team. Axure allows teams to work through a design process without the need to depend on explaining visual concepts in words. Axure HTML output can be saved directly to a public DropBox folder and then becomes immediately available to all team members and stakeholders across devices.
It is a highly functional yet easy to use cloud based project management tool. Basecamp allows you to streamline project and task management as well as keep in contact with all of your important team members, files, and projects. When managing a remote team, a centralized place to store all relevant documents, files, log-ins and a calendar is essential. Basecamp provides this as well as allowing you the ability to track workflow and safely archive projects.
join me is another great tool for remote teams to screenshare workflow, presentations, and any other relevant item that may show on your screen. This allows you to visually show team members exactly what you are speaking about and is invaluable to maintain coherence in understanding.
is a tool that allows you to create diagrams such as flow charts, process maps and mind maps online. Cacoo can be very useful to virtual teams, as it allows real time collaboration. Cacoo provides multiple stencils from which you may create the diagram of your choosing, which makes it fairly easy to use.
Like Trello, Asana and Basecamp, Wrike is a project management platform that lets you create projects, deadlines and assign tasks. It also has a built-in time-tracker that shows you how much time is spent on each project. For a freelancer charging by the hour, this is a valuable tool.
Freedcamp is a free project management system that allows unlimited users, unlimited projects and unlimited storage. It offers a list feature, and enables you to move tasks from the planning stage through completion. There’s also a calendar option that lets you see events and tasks in a day, week or month view.
It is a scheduling and time-tracking tool. It lets you plan your weeks in advance, plus track time (and hourly rates) for your current projects. I always turn to Timely for ongoing projects that require time-tracking, in part. The reason is that it gives me a better retrospective look at where I spent my time in previous weeks.
One of the most reliable time-tracking tools I’ve found is Harvest. The easy-to-use UI lets you send invoices to clients right from the app. But one of its biggest advantages is its integrations with popular apps like Asana, Trello, Basecamp, QuickBooks, and more.
Podio offers “a fresh take on collaborating and getting organized,” with a slew of features and capabilities for everything from creating courses to planning and managing marketing initiatives. It is based on an app-style structure, allowing users to activate a variety of apps based on their needs for a completely customized project management system.
A perfect assistant to help your projects run smoothly, Solo is the perfect app for freelance consultants. With elegant, effortless invoicing, flexible, intuitive time-tracking, customizable dashboards to monitor all your important project details and metrics, and more, Solo is designed to simplify the freelance lifestyle.
Asana is “teamwork without email,” making it possible to get more done in less time with simple collaboration and project management functionality.It keeps conversations in-context with tasks, so that you’ll never miss a beat and stay up-to-date on every detail happening with your projects.
You can find some tools for startups here.
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