Elance Blog

3 Tips On Managing Relationships With Online Freelancers

Occasionally we invite Elance-oDesk clients to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are more thoughts from Tobias Schelle, a Danish entrepreneur who is the Founder/CEO of 24slides.com. Check out his blog post and video below, on managing freelancers. Also check out his other posts and videos in this series, including ones on finding the perfect freelancer and on collaborating with freelancers.

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One tradeoff in working with online freelancers is that some “teamwork” benefits can become compromised. For example, when working remotely it can become challenging to establish rapport or build a more enriching relationship among team members.  Here’s a quick video, and be sure to read more below.

Ironically, being connected online can make clients and freelancers feel more disconnected – especially on a social level. To make things easier, here are three tips to help you manage freelancers online:

Tip #1: Set up a reporting system.

At 24 Slides we use a tool called 15five. It’s basically a questionnaire containing 3-4 questions sent out bi-weekly to all employees. Each team member responds and sends back their reply.

Examples of questions you can ask include: “What have you been most proud of in the past week?” or “What challenges have you faced?” While the questions can vary, frame them in a way that they can engage your freelancer while giving you clearer insights on what’s happening on the ground.

Feel free to explore other tools like 15five, but what’s crucial is setting up a similar automated process. The goal is to gain a better and more accurate picture of what’s going on.

Moreover, establishing a similar reporting tool can help you effortlessly manage more people than you would if you were all working in the same office. For instance, it takes only five minutes to read through their responses and add comments. You can then quickly move on to the next submission. Yet the overall insights and feedback you get are tremendously valuable. 

Tip #2: Set up a video conference call.

When you work with a team within the same office, it’s convenient to meet them over coffee or lunch. This allows you to engage in small talk. This kind of interaction, although described as “small”, can make a big difference in building relationships over time.

However you don’t usually have these types of conversations when working with people online. More often than not, it’s rather tempting to get down to business right away when you do get the chance to speak with them.

So for at least twice a month, I’d recommend setting up a medium like a video conference call wherein you talk about stuff other than business or project-related concerns. It’s another kind of “get-to-know-you” conversation, which makes team members feel valued.

Tip #3: Use a social project management tool.

When working with online freelancers, what you don’t have is that social atmosphere you often experience when working with people in an office.

Fortunately, there are project management tools to address this need. These tools act as social platforms to post photos and updates – not necessarily related to the work or business.

At 24Slides, we use Podio, which has a social feed allowing people to talk about things not business or project related. Yet, it’s also flexible. For example you’re able to build and customize an application that suits your business, even without prior programming skills.

Great work happens when teams feel like a team.

Tools like 15five and Podio are important in creating a social culture, and in feeling like everyone is part of the team. When you have tools like these working for you, you can more efficiently manage your talented freelancers. The result is a remote team that’s equally empowered and productive as your own on-site team. 

Comments

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