Are you a freelancer who’s bitten the bullet and accepted that you’re doing so darn well that you really could do with some extra eyes, ears and pairs of hands to handle all the interesting work you’re bringing in? Maybe you’re a business owner that doesn’t want to be restricted by geographic location when it comes to picking the best talent for your growing team? Remote working is undoubtedly on the rise, so much so a recent piece by the BBC mused on the likelihood and impact of never seeing our colleagues again. If you’re ready to build your own remote team to help you smash your goals and achieve success, read on for some essential tips to get you started.
When you recruit for a remote team you will of course want to look at all the usual stuff like qualifications, work examples or portfolio and references, but there’s a little more to take into consideration. Not everyone is suited to working remotely, so you want to know if your candidates have a good work at home strategy. How do their work goals and drivers fit with your own?
Think also about whether the skills and personalities of different individuals are likely to mesh together well on projects. If you’re hiring on a project-by-project basis, working with freelancers gives you a fantastic advantage because it allows you to seek out the perfect combination of skills for any given project. This in turn should lead to a positive outcome and client satisfaction. Hiring a project manager can help to free up your time to spend on important things like pitching for more work or reporting on results, while your PM concentrates on getting the best out of everyone else. You can even use your team’s differences to your advantage. Got some social media accounts that need continually monitored as part of a campaign? When you’re working in different time zones, there’s a lot more flexibility for just this kind of thing.
Working in different places at different times isn’t without problems. You can use calls, video conferencing and Skype but you’re still likely to rely heavily on written communication. This means you need to set expectations on when people will or can be available, how long people should take to respond to messages and of course, deadlines for completion of work. It’s unrealistic to expect people to be available to chat all the time, particularly if you’re not their sole and permanent employer, besides – having no down time isn’t good for health, wellbeing or productivity levels.
When it comes to setting deadlines and assigning work, it pays to anticipate stumbling blocks and keep a track on productivity. This need not necessarily be done by check backs with your team, indeed, constant check ins can often hold things up more than it pushes things along. Investigate your technological options to help with this. A kanban software tool could help you keep abreast of work in progress, give an overview of project communications and highlight bottlenecks, so you know when it’s time to bring more staff on board.
Plan and Collaborate
If you don’t have an office, how will you handle the process of employee on-boarding? You’ll need to cover off expectation setting as above, as well as introducing work processes and responsibilities. How will you store client information, share work and manage task accountability? These are key questions that need asked and solved before you get started. If you’re subcontracting, it may be wise to have some non-disclosure agreements drawn up for the freelancers you’ll be working with too.
How you share and store work will depend on the nature of your business and along with simple options like Google Drive and Dropbox, you may want to look at collaborative software that makes use of features such as calendars and messaging functions. You can still share the same online space even if you’re not co-located and collaborative tools are an important part of this. Some businesses like the one in this article even choose to use regular team building holidays to maintain that element of face-to-face bonding and to boost engagement levels.
Budget and Boss
If you’re going from project to project and calling on the best people each time, you want to maintain those contacts and remain a priority in their work schedule. This means managing project budgets and cash flow well. Again, a project manager can help you to manage your working relationships and ensure everyone is not only enjoying what they do and given realistic goals, but also given appropriate feedback and rewarded for their efforts too. Be sure to research your legal obligations as a boss even if you intend to work with a remote team on a contract basis only, as you may be surprised as to what constitutes an independent contract worker versus an employee. This government guide will help to steer you in the right direction and protect against the potential legal ramifications of getting it wrong.
Setting up your own remote team gives you the unique opportunity of designing something completely bespoke, a way to work that works for you. But if you do have the chance to speak to other remote workers and teams about how they run things or to discuss their challenges and experiences, you may save yourself the pain of a learning curve or two. When you work remotely, networking can actually be even more important. Along with learning from others, you may just come across some contractors you’d love to collaborate with in the future too.