Despite being optimistic about the future, 67 percent of small business owners have not hired in the last year, according to Business.com’s “State of Small Business in America” report.
The top three reasons for this hiring freeze? Small businesses say that their business is not growing, they can’t afford to hire and they’re taking on any additional responsibilities themselves.
Rather than bringing on new full-time staff members, small businesses are increasingly relying on a robust network of freelancers in order to successfully complete both client projects and personal needs, like marketing campaigns.
Relying on freelancers to fill the talent gaps can help save small businesses money by avoiding costly benefits and salaries. However, businesses that do not have a robust project management system in place may end up incurring additional, unexpected costs as they struggle to manage a diverse team of freelancers.
The wrong project management platform could end up holding back your business’s growth and even hurt client relationships if you can’t deliver projects on time and on budget.
Whether you’re thinking about bringing on a single freelancer, part-time or full-time employees, it’s critical you have a clear process in place from day one. Here’s how to get started with virtual team management.
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1. Choose a Single Project Management Platform
Still relying on email, DropBox and Google Docs to manage teamwork?
Get everyone on the same page from day one with a single collaborative platform. Wrike and Redbooth are two web-based project management platforms that all offer real-time communication for easy collaboration. Team work spaces centralize project management so there’s a single place for everything from brainstorming discussions and to-do lists to documents and files. Plus, these platforms also integrate with Gmail, DropBox, Google Docs and other popular apps for easy management.
Image via Redbooth
Asana is another option I like for turning email into organized task lists, tracking conversations associated with specific projects and getting automated updates on the projects that matter most from your freelancers.
2. Streamline the Onboarding Process
Don’t assume that all the freelancers on your team are familiar with your chosen project management platform. A quick how-to tutorial via a video conference will get everyone up to speed and on the same name about project basics, like file naming conventions.
Image via Slide Share
Freelancers are used to self-directed work and checking in once or twice a week for long-term projects. Be clear from the start if you expect more frequent updates to project assignments and individual tasks.
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3. Set Availability Expectations
Keep in mind that part-time freelancers on your team are juggling a variety of different clients, assignments and deadlines. It’s simply not practical to expect a freelancer to instantly respond to every email. Additionally, many freelancers work flexible hours around other schedule demands.
For example, they may be available in the mornings and evenings but have other commitments in the afternoon. Since a freelancer is not a full-time employee, you can’t expect them to drop everything at a moment’s notice for a rush project or client emergency.
Toodledo is a a great tool that combines Wunderlist and Google Tasks with a simple user interface that can be used to organize and track projects. It is useful to assign projects, keep tabs on project time frames and assign due dates. Some other features include:
- Productivity Tools: such as alarms/reminders, goals, schedulers and time tracking
- Collaboration: which allow you to share and assign tasks
- Organize Tasks: in assignable folders by priority, tags or content
- Data Management: over iOS, Android and can sync to third party task applications
Image via Toodeloo
Set clear communication frequency and response time from the beginning to avoid any deadline snafus. Worried an important email will get overlooked in a freelancer’s in-box? Project management platforms with built-in messaging features let you easily communicate back and forth with each team member and skip over the email back and forth. Or set a specific time each week for a video conference or collaborative planning session.
Keep in mind that it may initially take more work to set up a virtual team than one that’s in the next cubicle over. For example, attempting to call an ad-hoc meeting at the last minute is a definite misfire. However, once everyone is on the same page with a single project management platform, your business will really start to reap the time and cost saving benefits of working with freelancers.