With businesses outsourcing an increasing number of their services to freelancers, the result can often mean working alongside several, or in some cases, an entire group of colleagues you’ve never met before. If done correctly, outsourcing can save a company both time and money, while freeing up their resources to focus on their core capabilities. But how do you keep a remote workforce motivated?
The majority of companies outsource without even realising – for example, by using an external bookkeeper or copywriter. Especially in the initial stages of growing a business, you may need to call upon the services of a number of experts – these can range from marketing gurus, SEO specialists and web developers.
To make life a lot simpler, a great solution can be to appoint a freelancer, or team of freelancers to cover all bases – be it for small pieces of work or entire projects. Not only does this save you considerable amounts of money in the first instance, it always keeps you from being tied up in contracts with staff you may not need, or be able to afford to keep on, after a certain point.
As with anything in business, communication is king and even more so where a large number of staff work remotely. These days, even the largest office-based firms are taking advantage of communications software, such as Skype and Gmail Chat, enabling real-time video conferencing and instant messaging. For the most part, instant messaging is ideal for quick feedback or advice on a task, while video conferencing can easily mimic breakfast brainstorms around the table.
If you do not have your team physically present, it’s vital that you establish strong routes of communication as well as scheduling in regular points of contact. This will keep everyone talking as well as help monitor progress and share ideas. It also ensures that although there are people in different places working on separate parts of a particular project, they have an understanding of each other’s work throughout. This gives greater coherence throughout the duration of the project.
A good employer should recognise that they have a duty of care towards a freelancer, just as they would for any other staff member, be they permanent or temporary.
Remember – giving regular feedback is one thing, but it is important that it’s constructive. Apprising them of codes of conduct is also a must, particularly if you have any email or computer usage agreements – it’s your reputation on the line otherwise. And if you’re working with a freelancer who is based at home, consider whether you need to draw up a contract about place of work.
If you’ve gone to the trouble of hiring a skilled freelancer to manage an area of your business, resist the temptation to micro manage them! Not only is it a waste of time that could be spent on growing the business, it can be pretty demoralizing for a freelancer.
They are experts in their field with specialist knowledge and skills to bring to the table and will not want to feel as though the boss is looking over their shoulder the whole time. Micro managing completely defeats the purpose of hiring freelancers. Any business owner should be busy enough organising their own schedule, let alone someone else’s!
Freelancers are always looking for the next project to ensure they have regular work, and more importantly, income. If you have found a good freelancer, make sure they are aware that you value their work and that there may be potential to work together in the future.
Building up a good bank of freelancers gives you the option to work with people again who understand your business and how things work there. This means that on future projects, they are up to speed on the processes and systems you use, as well as the business culture and guidelines. They will also have built up a rapport with many of your permanent staff, which makes building working relationships far easier.
It is important to remember that remote working can occasionally be a lonely business, particularly for those who are based at home. Of course it’s important to discuss work-related topics, but to foster camaraderie among a team of people, a little light chit chat about their personal lives can go a long way – it may transpire that your team have shared interests that extend beyond work. Encourage bonding – it can only help to get the job done!
In essence, to get the most out of remote workers, you should treat them in the same way you would your own staff – as a happy worker is a better worker. Although sometimes this may be difficult when buying just small chunks of their time, if you adopt good working practices across all staffing, you stand in good stead to find, and retain, the best workers.