How to Manage a Team of Freelancers

While many entrepreneurs start out as the only employees of their company, the smart ones end up hiring help, even if it’s just a handful of freelancers to help them do more faster.

Delegating one or more tasks has several benefits. First, it frees you up to work on growing your business, rather than sending invoices or updating your website. It also gives you the right kind of help in areas that you don’t specialize in. While you may not be equipped to design a killer logo, when working with a freelance graphic designer, you have the ability to produce one that catches eyes.

When starting up, you probably don’t need to hire full-time help. That’s why freelancers are so valuable: you pay only for the work done on a particular project, i.e. logo design, or a monthly retainer for a specified set of services, like content marketing. You don’t pay benefits or for them to sit at a desk for 40 hours a week.

Related: 4 Steps to Go From Freelancer to Full-Time Entrepreneur

Start by building your dream team

If there’s one downside to hiring freelancers, it’s that it can take a while to find reliable ones. Be patient with the process. Start by asking your network (online and off) for referrals for the specific type of help you need. Someone who comes recommended by a colleague will be more likely to work out.

If that doesn’t net results, expand your search. There are websites specifically designed to connect businesses with freelancers, like UpWork, or you can post your gig on Craigslist.

Know exactly what you’re looking for, including:

  • Tasks you need help with
  • How many hours a week or month you need assistance
  • The rate you’re willing to pay
  • Specific industry expertise, if required

Manage expectations with clear communication

Once you’ve onboarded your chosen freelancers, let them know how you want to work together. They’ve probably had clients all over the spectrum, from those who want to be very involved with the work on a daily basis to those who are quite hands-off. Which will you be? Is it necessary that you provide your input regularly, or can you trust this professional to get the work done per your initial specs?

The first project will likely require more input from you. Provide feedback at every stage so your freelancer can get a better understanding of what you want and how you work. Ideally, at the end of this initial project, you’ll be happy with the results and you can set him or her loose to work on future projects.

When the team gets big

Once you have several freelancers who need to work together, it’s really important that you either take the role of project manager on or hire one. If the writer for your blog needs the images created by the graphic designer, do you have time to nudge the designer to ensure he sends them to her? If someone isn’t managing the process, things can easily fall through the cracks.

Hold regular check-in calls for your regular team of freelancers, especially if you work remotely, to ensure that everyone’s on track to finish their component of a shared project. Work to overcome any bottlenecks on the project.

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Final tips for managing better

Just like any employees, freelancers need feedback and approval from you. Take time to regularly show your appreciation for their hard work, and if you have suggestions, give them in a constructive manner so they don’t come off as criticism.

The longer your relationship with each freelancer, the more fruitful the relationship. If you can keep a freelancer happy, pay him or her well, and show appreciation, they’ll stick with you for years. This keeps you from having to deal with turnover and training someone new, and it provides consistency in the work.

If you can consolidate the work you hire out for, you can have fewer freelancers doing more of your work. For example: check to see if your blog writer can also help with your social media management. Having fewer cooks in the kitchen (so to speak) ensures that your marketing message is consistent and one freelancer isn’t stepping on the toes of another.

Not every entrepreneur is up for managing a team. If that’s the case, it’s well worth it to hire even a part-time project manager to take on this role on your behalf.

Freelancers can really expand what you are able to do with your business. Keep in mind, hiring and then managing a team is hard work, so decide whether you’re up for it or if you want to hire for that position, as well.

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