While outsourcing to remote teams has long been popular in tech industries, particularly within the developer community, more businesses are choosing to incorporate the use of freelance talent into the way they structure their teams and workloads.

Hiring a team of remote freelancers can be a great way to help keep your business adaptable and competitive, particularly when you’re faced with situations that require new ideas with quick turnarounds, as many are amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of overloading existing in-house teams, building a remote team of freelancers can help you become flexible and dynamic in busy or uncertain times.

However, working with remote teams does pose certain challenges. You’ll need strategies and systems in place to manage and pay multiple freelancers, minimize risk and also create effective communication channels to align internal stakeholders with external work.

With these key strategies, you can successfully build and manage a productive remote team. Some of these points will also help if you’re in the position of handling a remote team of in-house employees due to various stages of COVID-19 lockdown.

1. Figure out which tasks you will outsource

Many organisations make the mistake of believing freelancing services are restricted to areas like design or software development. If you’re open to it, you’ll see that there are many other areas of business that don’t require someone’s physical presence in order to be done well, and many highly skilled freelancers available to do it.

Think outside the box. Could you delegate bookkeeping, marketing, or administrative tasks to a remote worker? Perhaps you could start by looking at who in your organisation has too much on their plate. A pool of freelance copywriters could relieve your marketing manager’s workload, for example, allowing them to focus on bigger-picture strategy and other projects that have taken a back seat.

2. Develop an onboarding process

Create an onboarding process that ensures any new remote workers understand how the work they’re doing fits in with your bigger strategies. Provide them with an overview of who they will collaborate or communicate with, and offer comprehensive training so that they’re familiar with any tools or processes they’ll need to use.

To address concerns about compliance, consider using a tool like Lano. Lano can help manage the onboarding process and minimize compliance risk.

Whether you’re bringing on staff for short-term or long-term projects, proper onboarding will ensure they feel like a valued part of the team, as well as provide you with assurance that they understand what’s expected of them. It’s worth making sure you get onboarding right, as it will make things much easier and quicker if you find you need to bring someone back on for a future project or even make an offer for a permanent position.

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3. Create an engaging online company culture

A strong company culture can go far to motivate and inspire anyone involved in your organisation. This is particularly relevant today, with many organisations working from home and many using internal communications systems such as instant messaging, even when in a physical office.

Culture is designed by intention or neglect, so first of all, make sure to establish and nurture your organisational communities. You can do this by defining the value of community, engaging new members, ensuring your leadership team participates to set an example, look for feedback, and allow for purely social elements.

Once a new remote worker has been brought onboard, make sure to facilitate interaction with the rest of the team. Create specific channels or groups that fit your needs and ensure the right people and teams are connected.

Asynchronous channels of communication can be particularly helpful, as they allow remote teams that are dispersed across multiple time zones or have different schedules to catch up, collaborate and contribute when they can, so nobody has to miss out. Slack and Workplace are great examples of platforms that allow for asynchronous communication.

Remember, remote workers are often socially isolated. Many work for multiple clients at once but are often not included as part of a team. Providing your freelancers with an opportunity to feel part of your team can make all the difference to their desire to work for you and work well for you.

4. Trust your team

Trust is one of the fundamental values required in order to have a successful remote team. If you start with trust, including trust in your ability to choose the right people, you’ll find that you and your team are happier.

You can waste valuable time and energy setting up systems that track hours worked or time spent online, which aren’t always true indicators of productivity or quality of work. Doing this also will alienate people and create an unhealthy culture, which is more likely to impact performance and productivity negatively than it is to motivate and inspire.

It’s better to focus on performance and communication, rather than time spent online. If any performance issues arise, you’ll soon be able to tell, but don’t assume from the outset that you need to have an eye on every screen. Not everybody is out there to take advantage. Default to trust and you’ll have a much happier team, as well as a much better environment for creativity and innovation.

5. Create opportunities for feedback

Fostering safe channels and routines for providing feedback is an ideal way to stay on track with what your remote teams are doing and how they’re getting on. Since you can’t stop by someone’s desk to see how they’re doing, actively creating these opportunities for feedback is crucial in a remote working environment.

Honest, professional, two-way feedback has a number of advantages. You can save time and resources by identifying issues early, you can discover when and why your team lacks motivation and work together towards solutions, and you can foster open communication, which in turn positively impacts relationships and culture.

A great way to create opportunities for feedback is to plan regular check-ins, via video or voice call or a list of written questions. This could be done weekly, monthly, quarterly, or at various stages throughout a project.

6. Find the right tools to manage projects & payments

With multiple freelancers on board, you’ll need a way to get a comprehensive overview of your external workforce, who they are, what they’re working on and when and how they need to be paid.

Lano makes light work of this by organizing your remote workforce into one place, handling payments for you and even syncing up with project management tools, such as Asana and Trello.

Instead of chasing multiple invoices covering various time periods, deadlines, and payment details, you have the benefit of allocating a budget and allowing Lano to take care of everything else.

By seamlessly integrating with a wide variety of other applications, Lano allows you to link up payment with assigned tasks and projects for each freelancer. This will save you valuable time and energy.

7. Show your team that you value them

Whether freelance or permanent, anyone doing work for you will be more invested in your company’s success and growth if you show that you value them and their contribution to your goals.

If you expect your freelancers to spend time familiarising themselves with internal documents, a new system, or other training, be prepared to reimburse them for their time. If you expect a freelancer to provide sample work during the interview process, or spend time on a skills test, be prepared to sign non-disclosure agreements that protect them and their work, and pay them for their time.

Remember to thank your team, and be fair and realistic with your budget. Freelancers use their own equipment, receive no annual leave, sick leave or other benefits, and often pay for additional insurances, depending on where they’re located. You’ll find that if you show people that you value them and their work, they will be more willing and motivated to prioritise your projects and provide you their best possible solutions.