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1. Send Them Customer Feedback
Get more from freelancers by reminding them that their work matters. We’ve had success by providing freelancers with direct customer feedback, even if it’s not about their specific task. For example, we’ll share a customer’s thank you note when our product helps prevent a robbery at their home. This keeps the freelancer in tune with our mission and shows how her work is making a difference.
2. Keep Them as Informed as the Rest of the Team
Sharing your company’s objectives and areas for growth allows external contributors to think strategically about what they’re doing for you. If they’re out of the loop, the work becomes assignment-based and inspires less passion. Inform them of what’s going on so they can go above and beyond the scope of the work they were originally hired to do. Build that long-term relationship.
3. Schedule Regular Meetings
Clear and effective communication is key to a successful (and long-term) freelance relationship. You don’t have the benefit of everyday in-person interactions with your freelance help, so it’s especially important to set up regular calls. Schedule no less than weekly meetings and strongly consider Skype or Google Hangout so you can put a face to the name. Also consider in-person meet-ups if possible.
4. Stay Hands Off
Give them the basics of any project or assignment on the docket, along with specific expected results. Then, let them do their thing. Tech folks are normally pretty savvy individuals, and may know of easier and quicker ways to get the job done. Micromanagement is usually unnecessary.
Ideally, you’re hiring experienced freelancers coming to the table with a clear perspective on solving a given problem. Rather than prescribing specific methods or processes for getting a project done, work together to figure out what process makes sense based on your needs and their past experience. This is especially useful for ongoing relationships where their work can be improved over time.
6. Use Remote Employee Monitoring Software
The main reason we built our time-tracking software was to enable us to manage our remote workers more effectively. When you have a freelance tech team, you’ll need to see where projects are without bothering them every day, or else progress will slow down. We use a combination of time tracking, screenshots and activity levels to see which tasks are progressing and which are wasting time.
7. Put Specific Procedures in Place
The hardest thing to achieve when coordinating freelance tech talent is consistency across the board. When you have policies and procedures in place that define and lay out the workflow steps, there’s no ambiguity or room for interpretation. You’ll get a consistent output each and every time.
8. Give Them More Freedom
Trust that the freelancer you’ve chosen knows what they’re doing and has the expertise to handle any project that is thrown their way. This will help them feel more confident when working on projects and be more efficient. It will also give you a sense of their skill level and knowledge, so you have a better idea as to what projects you’ll feel confident giving them to work on later.
9. Get Them More Involved
Freelance tech talent wants to work with companies because they want to be able to say they were part of something big. So it helps to make sure they are involved as much as possible in projects. This includes giving them the freedom to experiment and seeing if they can fix certain issues. The more they know they have to do, the more likely they are to work harder and smarter.
10. Respect Their Time
You might want them to be part of your team, but because they do not receive the same type of benefits as your full-time employees, you don’t get to call them at odd hours. If you’re not remunerating their time and the issue is not directly related to something that they’ve already done, do not propose new projects off the cuff. By respecting their time, they’ll respect your project.
11. Tie Incentives Into the Big Picture
Tie freelance staff goals and incentive packages into departmental goals or to the company’s bottom line. If company revenues go up, for example, so do their bonuses. But the underlying purpose of this is to have freelancers understand the bigger picture and to become team players. If they are detached from the big picture, don’t force it. Don’t try to put a square peg in a round hole.
12. Give Them Something Entirely Different to Work On
Putting your tech talent to work on other projects where they can listen to your other team members and departments helps them better understand what you need and allows them the freedom to brainstorm other solutions for you.
13. Listen to Them
When working with a freelancer, it is easy to fall into the trap of only telling them what you want and how you want it done. You hired an expert to help you with something you are not able to do yourself. It can be beneficial to ask them what their opinions are because they have the experience that you yourself do not have.
Ramon Ray, Editor & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com
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