After hiring your freelancer online team, you may wonder how to best manage your team members. There really is very little difference between managing an onsite team vs. an online team.
Whether your team is working in the same building with you or working in a different country, you still need to define the specific team-member roles and the protocol for communication. Few things can slow down a project as miscommunication because the project’s goals and deliverables weren’t clearly expressed.
You have a team that is excited to begin a new project. You want to keep that excitement going by giving your freelancers the guidance they need to work well with one another and collaborate on ideas that can advance the project smoothly.
Pitfalls to Avoid When Working With Freelancers
One of the most common pitfalls of freelancers working together is that more than one team member may be working on the same task. Additionally, other activities may go unnoticed while the team members strive to reach their goals. Team members who aren’t given clear direction will often find tasks that they can complete without collaboration or may start to “check out” as they focus on different projects outside the scope of yours.
To avoid misunderstandings and frustration from delaying the project’s progress, it’s important to work with freelancers to identify which activities will be worked on by whom and a summary of each team member’s roles.
Here are a few possible member roles:
- First Lead: Responsible to for completion of a task
- Secondary Lead: Responsible for the completion of part of a task
- Approval Lead: Responsible for approving the results of a task before work can proceed
- Consultant: Provides support and guidance for project development
- Owner: Receives the deliverables of a task
Communicating the responsibilities of each team member’s role will help avoid critical path drag and any delays that result from misunderstanding the project’s deliverables.
Communication Strategies for Managing Freelancers
Whether you’re completing a small project or a large one, it’s important to touch base with your team members frequently. A kick-off call to introduce members to one another, identify roles, and discuss the scope of the project is a great way to start.
During the call, you want to take questions and handle any concerns from your team members until they feel comfortable with their roles and understand that the goals are feasible and appropriate.
Carefully develop standard operating procedures that support your team’s daily work schedule. This allows people to perform their tasks effectively and efficiently. It also builds team unity. Here are a few common procedures that would need development:
- Email: Do you have special hours to review and respond to email? Would emails sent after business hours require a quick response or can it wait until the next business day? What constitutes an emergency for sending and replying to an email? Are there limits to how much information is shared?
- Document templates: Is there a process for creating and delivering documents? What type of information should be included? Is there a shared database to store and retrieve the documents?
- Record keeping: How do you track informal discussions? Is there a process to capture important decisions for future reference?
- Scheduling: Is there a certain day of the week for giving status reports? What about meetings that will discuss each team member’s progress and any items that would affect its development? Will the meetings be recorded and how will those recordings be accessed?
- The Unforeseen: Every project hits a few bumps in the road. Do you have a process for addressing those moments? New software updates may cause your online collaboration platform to be unavailable for a day. Creating back-up plans can help.
The more you can create procedures for your communication process, the more smoothly your project will flow. Your team will also appreciate you setting the boundaries. It will help them stay on track and give you the results you desire.
Conflict Resolution for Managing Freelancers
Conflict is inevitable when you’re managing a team. One team member may have a different perspective on how to handle a particular issue while another team member may passionately voice his disapproval toward your decision.
You have the opportunity to confront these situations gracefully while allowing everyone to feel you’ve respected their opinion. Having procedures in place to handle conflicts when they arise will make the difference between a project suddenly coming to a standstill or moving ahead.
Here are a few such procedures:
- Normal conflict: This would include standard approaches that you would take to encourage your freelancer team to develop a mutually agreeable solution. Reminding team members of the consequences of a certain group of decisions can also be helpful.
- Advanced conflict: This requires a level of finesse. You take these steps if the people involved can’t readily resolve their differences. Sometimes a team member can’t or won’t compromise, in which case you may have to consider ending their involvement.
Identifying conflicts early will ensure they’re handled properly before possibly de-motivating the team. Frequent “check-ins” with each team member and asking how everything is coming along will reveal any need to implement your procedures.
Lead Your Online Freelancer Team
Your freelancer team will respond to your lead. If you demonstrate excellent communication skills with them and clearly define your expectations, you’ll likely have a very successful group of freelancers who will work hard to deliver quality results.
Using these procedures require decision-making that is informed and sensitive to the situation at hand. You often have to evaluate alternative options to keep your team happy while achieving your goals. Create guidelines for choosing the most appropriate choice, including consensus, majority rule, unanimous agreement, and decision by technical expert.
Also develop procedures to handle those crucial conversations, when normal decision-making approaches hit a snag.
At Coworks, we have experience with freelancer teams. If you’re in the market for building a team, why not check our freelancer directory? We’ve made it easy for you to find the right people for your special project. Let us know how we can help!