By 2020 it is estimated that up to 40% of America workers will be classed as independent contractors of freelancers. This is a fundamental shift in the way people choose to work.
Freelancing provides individuals with greater freedom and flexibility, reduces the need to commute to work and always people to work on a greater number of projects during their lifetime.
The downside however is the lack of security that comes from not have a fixed role and time cost involved with constantly finding new work.
For businesses looking to build a team of freelance employees these are all things that you need to consider. Just as freedom and flexibility can be a benefit for the freelancer, it can be a hindrance to your business if you don’t have consistently of staff or expertise in your team.
On the other hand, the use of freelance employees does have its advantages, including:
- You only need to employ freelancers when you need them to complete a specific task.
- You pay a set rate (either hourly or per project) for a defined period of time. As they are not an employee you may not be liable for medical costs and insurance, etc.
- You can hire freelancers from across the world. This can help reduce cost and allow you to access expertise that may not otherwise be available in your country.
- If you have a short term project that requires a particular skill set you don’t need to pay a consultant. You can opt to bring that skill in-house for the defined period of time you require.
If you are looking to build a successful team of freelance employees you should first consider the following criteria.
Determine How You Want To Work:
The team of freelancers you hire must match the way you prefer to work. There is no point hiring someone on the other side of the world (and in a different time zone) if you need to reach them during your 9 to 5. Things to consider include:
- Do you need your freelancers to work in the same time zone as you or can be in different time zones?
- Should they all speak the same language?
- Should they be native speaking in your language or would a basic level be sufficient?
- How will you manage their tasks and workload?
Finding Team Members:
The people you hire can make or break your team. A lot of businesses turn to freelancing as a way of reducing costs. While this can be true, you also need to balance cost with the skills and knowledge of the freelancer you are hiring.
It’s important to find the right fit for your business otherwise you can often end up spending more time, energy and money than you expected.
When finding freelancers to hire you may want to think about the following points:
- Going for the cheapest option may not be the best one. Way up cost with their skill set and effort required to manage them.
- Seek out recommendations from those who are already freelancers as they may know others who can support you and achieve the results that you want.
- You may want to use a freelance website where you can review the freelancer’s ratings and client feedback on similar jobs that this freelancer has done.
- You could also consider posting a job advert certain social media groups geared towards freelancers. This helps you tap into the wider freelance community and also avoid fees that can be charger by freelancer marketplaces.
- Check to see if the potential candidate is on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram to see what kind of content they are publishing and any feedback/recommendations from others.
Interview Potential Candidates
Even though you are hiring freelancers as contractors for a particular role or task that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t conduct a proper interview. This helps you get to know them, allows you to see if there is a good fit for how you like to work and ultimately test their knowledge/skill for the area of expertise you require.
When you build your team of freelance employees and are looking to interview them its worth thinking about the following issues:
- You should conduct a proper job interview with them to assess their hard skills (expertise) and soft skills.
- To test their hard skills, you could provide them a sample task of what they would need to do. For example, you could provide them an Excel file to filter data or enter specific data if you are looking for a data entry assistant. You may also want to consider giving them an online typing test if you want to ensure they type well and accurately.
- Use the opportunity to see if they would be a fit for your organisation and requirements.
- The interview should also tell you if they would potentially fit into the team that you are building and their willingness to work with other people who have already bought on-board.
Hire The Freelancer & Then Manage The On-Boarding Process
After you have hired freelancers the work doesn’t stop there. You need to successfully on-board them, especially if you plan on working with them for some period of time. This will help ensure they integrate better into your team and understand the common policies and procedures that govern how you work.
A number of things to take into account during this period include:
- A widespread, diverse freelancer team will need to feel as if there is some culture within the team/organisation. You need to think about how you will build and maintain this culture even though people never meet each other in person.
- You should manage the on-boarding process closely to integrate the new hire into the team successfully. Ideally you will pair them up with someone else on your team so that they have a go to person to ask for advice and assistance during the first few weeks.
- Consider that the on-boarding process will require additional effort and detail from your side to be successful. Building the team culture starts with the on-boarding process and how you want to the culture to grow within the team. If you don’t get the on-boarding right it can be hard to change the culture or way people work at a later date.
Don’t Reply 100% on Text / Email
One of the benefits of running a team of freelancers today is that there is a wealth of technology that exists to manage your team. That said, you can’t just rely on email and text for 100% of your communications. You should combine this with face to face discussions (i.e. over skype) at times. This helps build a stronger relationship between staff. Plus, sometimes its easier to sort things out by talking.
- While the cheapest communication channel may be via text/email, this is not always the best. Especially if it is a hard or complex discussion that may take some time to work out.
- You should have some regular calls with them to have a more personal interaction, e.g. using Skype or Viber. This will help build team loyalty and also allow you to get to know your freelance staff better.
- Have regular team meetings with the team that include a phone call/Skype call so that team members can have interactions with each other and also be updated on what is happening in the company.
Keep Track of Performance
When you build a team of freelancers who work across the world it is easier to lose track of who is doing what, compared to when they are directly opposite you in the office. Therefore, its important to track performance regularly and have an appropriate plan of attack for when things need to be improved.
In particular, you should take account of the following points:
- A successful team requires that each team member pulls their weight and contributes equally to the output
- Hold regular performance reviews by providing regular, consistent feedback to the freelancer
- If there are any deviations in performance, then you have to consider immediate action to improve the performance. Often people don’t perform as expected because they haven’t received clear instructions, so consider how you inform and manage your team if this issue arises.
Hiring freelancers may provide you with the necessary expertise that you need for your organisation. You need to carefully consider a number of items, including the skills required, the quantity of freelancers, and how you want to structure the team. Each of these factors plays a key role in determining how you will build your team.
Once you have hired the freelancer, you should always ensure to on-board them correctly with an intensive, well-structured on-boarding process. Finally, you should ensure you regularly interact with the team and have a plan for keeping track of their process and results.