Key considerations for finding and managing freelancers effectively

Posted by Rebecca Appleton on 1 May, 2017
View comments Marketing
There's no doubt about it – the on-demand economy is growing at a fierce rate and looking likely to touch almost every business sector in the next few years.

For website owners and marketers, the rise of the on-demand worker puts a wealth of talent, knowledge and skills at fingertip reach, with everyone from web developers and app coders to content marketers and social media pros touting their services via popular freelance sites such as Upwork and People Per Hour.

Building a freelance or on-demand team has many benefits:

  • Ability to keep overheads low with remote workers
  • No ongoing salary commitments, just pay for what you need
  • Easier budgeting and flexibility
  • Access to a larger team of experts, from around the world

It also has its pitfalls too, which mirror the benefits almost exactly. Remote workers can be harder to manage for example and having access to a larger pool of experts is all well and good but, with a whole world of choice, how do you go about selecting the best fit for your project? We touched on this in our playbook for outsourcing to freelancers but if you’re now ready to start building your on-demand team, the following tips will help you structure a reliable, capable workforce which taps into the many benefits of the on-demand economy.

Consideration 1: What do you really need?

Many of us will admit to being caught by surprise with last minute deadlines or an unexpected project. The on-demand economy can be a lifeline here, especially if you’re a start-up or small business without the time and resources in house to accommodate sudden pressing demands. While sites like Upwork make it easy to turn to freelancers in a pinch, you run the risk of having to use a service provider that you don’t know or whose work isn’t tested.

Counteract this risk a stage earlier by building a framework of the skills you need. Sit down and determine where the gaps are in-house and where pressure builds up. If you only have a part time blogger for example who also has to handle social media posts, it makes sense to add a copywriter to your list of required assets. Likewise, if you handle the SEO along with running the business, a digital marketer should probably go on the list.

Once you have a list of skills you need, you can set about building an on-demand team that ticks those boxes, ready to be called upon as and when needed.

Consideration 2: Which platform suits your needs?

There are a whole host of freelance and on-demand marketplaces springing up and, depending on how specialist your requirements are, you might need to use one or two to create a truly stellar team.

Get familiar with the most popular sites. Create an account and shortlist the top performers so you don’t find yourself scrambling when work piles up. Top choices include Upwork, People Per Hour, ProBlogger and Freelancer.

Consideration 3: Do you have a clear project scope?

You’ll only receive a piece of work back that ticks all the boxes if you start out with a clear project scope. If you have pieces of work that you often require, such as certain pieces of content marketing collateral or landing page design, working up a template project scope which you can then adjust slightly for each job can be a time saver. The project scope could include considerations such as:

  • The amount of research required
  • Estimated timeframe
  • Any deadlines
  • Required content length for blogs and articles
  • Any design specifics
  • Desired programming languages or software
  • Word count
  • Rounds of amends

Having a clear brief and scope of project will not only help when it comes to selecting the right provider, it will also help to set your chosen freelancer up for success.

Consideration 3: What’s my budget?

This is a crucial one. Although it’s true that hiring someone as and when needed is often cheaper than taking on a full time staff member, costs can quickly spiral if your budget isn’t strictly managed. Set a budget per job and stick to it – you’ll also need to review regularly to ensure that your budget is buying the right caliber of on-demand worker and that it isn’t becoming more expensive than in-house hiring.

Consideration 4: Who do I choose?

There will always be an element of trial and error when it comes to selecting your remote worker via an on-demand platform. Obviously you’ll want to check feedback from other clients (this will typically be displayed on the worker’s profile) and previous work, but you should also consider trialing shortlisted candidates with smaller projects where possible.

Consideration 5: how can I make communication easy?

Working autonomously without a boss breathing down their neck is often a big draw for freelancer and on-demand workers, with many preferring the sense of freedom that comes from being able to set their own hours and work independently. However, this doesn’t mean that regular and scheduled communication should be taken off the table. If you have an ongoing project, set up regular virtual meeting times to catch up and check in on progress via Skype, phone or other apps.

For one-off projects, a call at the start and mid-way through the project is advisable. Always make sure your on-demand team knows how to contact you, either via email, Skype or at the office. As you don’t have the luxury of being able to walk across to your employee’s desk when working with a freelancer, setting up a schedule of contact times and sticking to it is the only way to keep your projects on track and lines of communication open.

Have you used an on-demand team? What problems have you faced? What benefits have you noted? Share your experiences with us in the comments.

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