- February 22, 2023
- by Kat Ciesielska
- One comment
Managing a freelance team still seems to be hard for many companies. Even hiring remote team members is not a piece of cake for some managers. Working remotely may not be your cup of tea, but why not get what’s best from these people who are simply good at it?
Probably you already have been in this situation: a valuable team member got sick in the middle of an important project, something unexpected happened or the deadline was simply moved. These are the situations when you really don’t want and don’t have time for hiring someone. Your sick specialist will be back at work eventually, and the next project might be handled exactly like you plan it. No need for extra people in the team.
Nowadays, more and more companies decide to hire freelancers. Forbes did a great piece highlighting how hiring freelancers has risen in the last couple of years. More and more tech companies embrace flexible working hours, which allows teams and freelancers to find a better fit when establishing their go-to work schedule. Many companies find it challenging to hire iOS developers who can seamlessly integrate with remote teams and freelancers, balancing the need for specialized skills with the flexibility of modern work environments.
Finding a reliable freelance team can be a daunting task, but there are many professional sites and freelance platforms that allow you to hire experts. You’ll find any type of freelancer you could need, from photographers to freelance web developers.
But how to handle all these people properly? Don’t worry. I’ve got some tips for managing freelancers.
Table of Contents
Why do managers decide to switch from office work to freelancing?
The answer is pretty simple: they mostly desire more flexibility when it comes to their responsibilities. Working under other’s commands isn’t easy for anyone, especially those who care about their own independence.
There are many reasons behind such a decision, like being tired of working just for one employer or the simple will to change something. On the other hand, many people want to try and challenge themselves in new conditions. That’s why they decide to put their talent into good use handling multiple projects on their own.
How do freelance project managers work?
Common internet availability and a variety of project management software made project manager’s work no longer only office-related. One person can now handle multiple projects with project portfolio management software in different companies instead of working for one employer only. So, basically, freelance project managers are contractors who provide their PM service for their clients, multiple at once if needed.
As a freelance, you can find project manager jobs by yourself or register in staffing agencies. Other third parties and recruiters find the best job opportunities according to your education and experience. But it’s up to you how you want to find new, interesting projects and organizations to work for. No matter how you do it, your main responsibility will be helping companies and start-ups to succeed in their assigned projects.
Why is managing freelancers so hard?
Well, it’s not. You just haven’t found your recipe for success, probably. Managing freelancers causes so many problems usually because:
you try to treat them exactly the same as a team at the office space,
you don’t trust them from the first day of the cooperation,
your team members are not even aware of their existence,
you don’t know exactly what are they doing, and it drives you crazy,
you haven’t explained your project expectations clearly.
Let’s think about it for a moment. Hiring freelancers may seem similar to hiring regular employees, but it’s not. Freelancer is between a small business and the employee.
In fact, many freelancers decided to work like this because they got sick of being full time employees. And you can’t forget about it. Even you’re working together on some project, you’re not their boss. And probably not the only partner they are cooperating with.
That is why managing freelancers can’t look the same way as managing your full time employees. They are your partners, aware of their skills and not attached just to your company or you. A successful freelancer won’t let you become too bossy and won’t stand your management mistakes for a long time.
They are independent creatures with other commitments, usually pretty skilled, confident, and proactive (another way they wouldn’t survive).
Once you understand this simple truth, everything will be much easier.
How to manage projects where both freelancers and team members are included
Because the question is not simply: “how to manage freelancers?” Most companies hire also their in-house crew, and freelancers are just an addition. That’s why you need to learn how to manage freelance teams and the rest of the team at the same time. Don’t forget that a freelancer’s work is just as important as that of a full-time employee.
Whether you have a small piece of work to delegate or you need to hire a freelancer to extend your team, you’re aware of the challenges of working with a new, remote team member. Different time zone, lagging video calls and unfinished tasks might be some of the struggles.
How to track project progress, assign tasks, meet your deadlines and make everybody feel okay?
Here are some tips:
Choose wisely who you are hiring. Sometimes you need to employ additional freelance workers really soon, but it’s not an excuse to implement the recruitment process poorly. Most freelancers have some portfolio or recommendation. Of course, NDA may be a problem in many cases, but it’s almost impossible that a good one can’t show any proof of work. New freelancers will be more than happy to make some recruitment exercise if they treat it seriously.
Welcome properly your new freelance team members. Don’t treat them like they are invisible. They may be quite independent workers, but they are part of your team for a while anyway. Show them your collaboration tools, introduce them to the rest of the team and explain who should they talk to in order to complete projects. Try to schedule your quick onboarding in an easy and organized way. When bringing freelancers on board, it is important to view the relationship as a long-term investment. By investing time and resources in building a positive relationship with freelancers, companies can create a reliable working relationship.
Speak out loud about all your expectations. Don’t leave room for guessing, just set expectations. Managing freelancers will be easier when they really understand what you want from them. Don’t hesitate to share access to your project management tool with them, if it can help them understand. This step is crucial to maintaining a workflow. Don’t forget to set project requirements and define project details to ensure successful project outcomes. Also provide a clear project brief and project description.
Analyze how much time do your team spends on similar tasks. If you’re already using some time tracking software, use your data. If not, ask your team. Estimate how much should it take, and make an agreement with your freelancers that they will deliver it at a similar time. If it’s something entirely new for your organization, just ask freelancers before, when they would set a deadline.
Go paperless and let the tools do all the dirty work and implement a time tracking tool. If you’re paying your freelancers for an hour, this is an answer for both sides. You will be able to see on your bare eyes the freelance team’s billable time. They will also feel confident enough to take care even of a very time-consuming task. Both sides will know that they are treated fairly. This is also a wonderful solution for managing in-house remote teams. And trust me, it’s not some creepy screen capture program to spy on people. It actually guarantees freedom to those who love working from wherever they want and at less typical hours.
Integrate your time tracking software with a project management tool. And of course, give all team members access. Let them see the progress and project deadline. Task management will be effortless when everybody sees everything clearly.
Give real and regular feedback. As you probably like giving your employees performance reviews, you may feel weird while giving honest feedback to a freelancer. But it’s needed. You hire freelancers to achieve some business goal, and being dishonest is actually shooting yourself in the foot. Once you show your points to freelance talent, there’s always a chance for improvement. Let them know by sending direct messages.
Give a nice review and don’t forget about them. Simply, never forget to support freelancers. If you could effectively manage your team, it would be a waste to just let them go. When the project is done, show your appreciation to everybody, including freelancers. Give them some nice reviews, write down their data and ask if you can ask them for similar support in the future. Managing freelancers is so easy when you already know each other!
Don’t micromanage. Okay, while I’m not in any way a fan of micromanagement, there’s a fine line between a hostile over-the-shoulder micromanagement that doesn’t even promote efficiency and setting up regular check-ins and status updates within your team. There’s a simple way to gauge if your “hey, show me what you’ve been working on” e-mail is productive – would you yourself like to receive this from your own boss? If no, set up official meetings where every invitee knows’ that’s the time to share assignment and project updates. Remember, micromanagement is inefficient and significantly lowers morale.
Reward on-time delivery. Another no-brainer. This doesn’t need to mean giving a huge bonus or promoting a freelancer to VP, but a simple “thanks, awesome job Steve” can really work wonders. Additionally, if you see that the freelancers deliver great content on a regular basis, talk more on perspectives – more serious involvements, raises or even equity incentivizing. Nothing works better than having someone on board for the right reasons, not only for the paycheck.
Pay them on time. That’s a really short one. Respect the people you work with. Pay separately. On-time.
Stay up to date with resource usage. Especially when it comes to time and annual budget. Technical tools like TimeCamp will help you estimate them, track time and the team’s performance.
👉 Read more about remote project management
Project management tools that help manage freelancers and team members
In the previous paragraph, I’ve mentioned some project management tools. I pointed specifically to two kinds: time tracker and tasks manager.
Task management software is pretty obvious I suppose, but what about the time tracker? Is this some freelance management system? Not exactly. Actually, good time tracking software is a powerful project management platform that can change your entire work life. In a good way, of course.
I’ll show you my ready-to-implement recipe for an ideal mix of best tools for managing freelancers.
TimeCamp as your time tracking tool
I sometimes joke in my articles that it’s so obvious to promote your own software on your blog, but I dare you. Try it by yourself. It’s 100% free, and it will change your life. It did already for many of our customers:
What’s our secret? I’d say that’s complexity packed into an easy and intuitive delicious tool. TimeCamp is great for small business owners, but also for huge companies. It helps you in managing employees at the office, those working remotely, and of course, individual freelancers.
You can essentially run a number of projects (also as a freelance project manager) and efficiently manage all of them. Your team can use our chrome plugin, desktop app, or simply set up the timer online.
What’s the most important thing for you, is that you can clearly see what everybody is doing. Managing freelancers when you know how much time do they spend on specific task is not so hard anymore, isn’t it?
They have a possibility to prepare an invoice for you, and you know where your money goes exactly.
The biggest fun is hidden in a depth reporting, but this is something you want to see by yourself. Trust me. Don’t thank me later, but if you really want to… just leave us a nice review.
TimeCamp Planner as a collaboration software
TimeCamp Planner is a simple and effective communication tool that you can integrate with TimeCamp. Manage all your projects and talk to your team members in the same place.
You can monitor all the tasks in a board or list view. There is also a timeline and overview option. Of course, you can set project objectives and a project deadline.
Everyone can mark how big is the progress at the moment, they can also add important files. You can run conversations on channels and straight on task boards. When you feel like a video meeting is needed, you can run it as well inside the tool!
When you want to keep your contact with a customer smooth, add him as a guest. You can do the same for your freelancers. Make effective communication lines and watch how your team is collaborating!
One of my favorites tools ever. You can integrate it with TimeCamp as well, and I think there’s no need to speak about its advantages.
If you want to try some new approach, experiment with timeboxing or timeblocking.
What is better: a dedicated in-house team or freelancers?
Now when you know that managing freelancers is not so hard, you may even think that’s maybe better to hire just them. But hold your horses here. As freelance members are a remarkable addition to every company, it might not be wise to rely just on them.
Freelance workers are very frequently more skilled than average specialists but not necessarily. Assuming that you found just the best ones, there are still some disadvantages about them.
Freelance work means exactly what it says: it’s free of any big attachments. Even you know how to manage freelancers well, you can’t change their nature. Most of them want more from their career. They want to earn more money, they want to expand their skills, get better every day and fly as high as possible. They won’t wait for a raise in salary or promotion. As soon as they know that their value is higher, they will go where it’s noticed.
I don’t say here that freelancers aren’t loyal. They may cooperate with your company for years as well. But notice that freedom is really what’s driving them.
That’s why I am a fan of the mixed approach. Make sure that you have a great team in-house, and find a few great freelancers who will be helping you when it’s needed. Especially if in your industry you often jump into some months of a higher number of projects.
Choosing a freelance talent will be also a great option when you need some tasks to be done, but it’s just a one-time job or a one-time per month. Let’s say, you want just one article on your blog each month. A freelancing copywriter is a great choice in this case.
How do I become a freelance project manager?
Luckily, getting a part-time project management job it’s not rocket science. First, try to do some preparations:
do extensive research of the preferred industry,
ask your previous employers for testimonials and recommendations,
create a portfolio (every success is worth mentioning!),
register at a staffing agency or browse online job boards like Recruiter/Upwork/Freelancer on your own.2
Where you can find the right freelancers
The last thing I need to cover is how to find freelancers you really want to work with. It may be frustrating if you don’t know where to start.
Here are some places I recommend:
LinkedIn. It is not the first platform you think about when you’re looking for freelancers, but I think that’s wrong. You can find strong individuals with great skills by recruiting on LinkedIn. Just use its search engine and visit the best-looking profiles. A lot of freelancers treat this platform really seriously, and you will be able to find examples of their work, some recommendations, and more. What’s best, you will be able to contact them right away, without involving any third parties in the process. LinkedHelper.com can further amplify your recruitment potential on LinkedIn by automating the outreach process and efficiently connecting you with promising candidates.
Fiverr, Upwork, Dribble, and more. Pretty obvious but worth trying. Just remember that on all these platforms you will find many people without real experience yet. Be careful and don’t look just at the prices. Like always, there’s no possibility to get something fast, cheap and of good quality. If you are looking for more specific platforms where you can find experts in the scientific fields then Kolabtree is one of the best choices. It offers a range of specialists from medicine with a large number of professional Freelance Medical Writers to Freelance Data Scientists.
Recommendation. Ask your friends who already have used the help of the freelancer. There is a huge chance that they will have contact to someone they can truly recommend. Someone hired thanks to recommendation will try much harder than others.
One of the first steps in managing freelancers is to identify potential freelancers who have the specific skills, qualifications and experience required for the project. You need to set clear project expectations and open communication channels.
You should always remember to include freelancers in the company culture so that they feel they are an important part of something. By treating freelancers with respect and appreciation, you can build strong relationships with them that will benefit both you and them in the future!
Regardless of the size of your own businesses, knowing how to manage good freelancers is a great help. Use this knowledge wisely. Achieve your goals and help your company succeed.
Maybe some of these tips will also help you with improving your task management system, even you won’t hire many freelancers.
👉 Read also our article about career goals examples
Co-authors: Ola Rybacka, Jakub Szyszka