This is a guest article contributed from Joshua*.
Let’s face it, the internet has completely revolutionised the way the world does business and unless you’re Marissa Mayer (I’m 99.9% certain that you aren’t), you’ve probably considered hiring remote workers in your business at one stage or another.
In fact, hundreds and thousands of businesses around the world hire remote workers on a regular basis, hence the reason that so many freelancing websites are currently thriving (we’ll talk about these later).
It’s easy to see why remote working is so popular as it provides huge benefits for both of the parties involved. As a remote worker/freelancer, you get an increased level of freedom and flexibility and as an employer/hirer, you get the opportunity to keep your overheads down to a minimum as you don’t have to fork out for office space and many other associated costs.
The trouble is that hiring talented, motivated and efficient remote workers is a difficult task as there are so many remote workers/freelancers that are likely to let you down. Often in fact, they seem to disappear off the face of the earth without a trace which can leave you and your business in an extremely undesirable and vulnerable position.
Plus, even when you do find the “perfect” remote worker, efficiently managing them on a day-to-day basis is yet another task in itself and some might say, an art form.
I’ve hired a number of freelancers/remote workers in the past and it was a bit of a steep learning curve to be honest. So, I thought I’d provide a bit of a guide to both hiring and managing remote workers in the hope of somewhat levelling out this learning curve for you guys.
Finding The Perfect Remote Worker
The first piece of the puzzle is actually finding the perfect remote worker for your business which, to be honest, isn’t that difficult so long as you look in the right places. To calculate the time and cost of sourcing you can use this handy tech engineering sourcing calculator.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, there are a lot of freelancing websites out there and currently, they seem to be thriving. Personally, I think these are the best sites to start your search as most of them are absolutely packed with talented individuals from all around the world.
My personal favourite of these sites has to be PeoplePerHour.com (pictured above) as for me, the quality of workers seems to be a little higher than many of the other websites (although many of the others are great too, this is just a personal preference).
Post A Job
The best place to start on PPH (or any other freelancing/remote worker site) is by posting a job. When you post a job, it will then be processed and make its way to the jobs board to be viewed by the community of remote workers on the site.
Now, there’s a lot of these job posts on the site and the trick to finding the perfect remote worker is to post a clear, accurate and informative job description that outlines exactly what you’re looking for (something that most people fail to do).
If you take a look at the example job listing above, you can see exactly what I mean. I’ve written a clear job title that defines exactly what I’m looking for and therefore, will attract attention from desired remote workers. I’ve also set a budget and provided clear details about what is required from the applicants which is designed to discourage any ill-fitting, low-quality remote workers from applying.
Here’s a transcript of the example in case it’s difficult to read:
I’m looking for a remote worker to write one 500 word (approx.) blog post for my health and fitness blog on a daily basis (5 days per week).
This will be a long-term role for the right applicant as I am in regular need of content for my site.
You MUST be a native English speaker to apply for this role, and you must be able to consistently deliver quality work in a timely fashion. You MUST also be able to demonstrate previous experience of high quality content creation/blogging.
Anyone that does not conform to these requirements will be instantly rejected.
Once you’ve posted this, you’ll start to receive proposals from remote workers from around the world. If you require remote workers to be in a certain location, you can specify this in your job description too. You should keep in mind time differences here. Communicating on a regular basis with someone in Australia when you’re in the UK might be a difficult task due to such a large time gap.
Be Mindful of Hours & Skills Required
You should also keep in mind the job that you’re posting. If you’re posting for a remote blog content writer (such as the example above), it’s unlikely that you’re going to receive high quality work from someone residing in a non-native English speaking country (e.g. India, Africa etc). If you’re looking for a skilled designer on the other hand, location might be less of an issue, except in terms of communication.
Managing Your Workers
Now you’ve found the perfect remote worker for your business, you need to ensure that you manage them on a day-to-day basis. For me, it’s all about effective communication here. You need to make sure that you’re giving your workers the time and attention they deserve, as well as clear and concise instructions.
It’s important to remember that managing remote workers is a lot different from managing in house workers, as you have to actually trust that they’re going to complete the work the way it should be done with minimal communication. Most remote workers and freelancers are capable of motivating themselves to do this, but you need to make their job as easy as possible and in a sense, fuel their motivation as much as possible.
I think remote worker management can be broken down into just three (extremely important) categories; setup, communication and collaboration. Let’s look into those.
For me, the setup is the most important part of the process. If you haven’t got a good setup, you’re going to end up wasting time on the next part of the process, communication (along with other menial tasks).
There are a lot of tools (some free, some paid) that allow you to make the management process a whole lot simpler. If you’re using a freelancing website such as PeoplePerHour.com, you’ll notice that all invoicing is taken care of through the site, as well as the processing of payments. This is a huge timesaver and although it does cost a small amount in admin fees, I personally believe it’s well worth the effort.
If you’re not using a freelancing site, it might be worth investing in an invoicing system (e.g. QuickBooks, Intuit etc).
There are also a number of tools that can further increase productivity in terms of management, with one of my all-time personal favourites being Basecamp. Basecamp is essentially a project management system that helps you to keep track of projects between remote workers and yourself. It’s often used by owners of blogs to manage the content creation process between the webmaster and multiple remote working writers.
It might also be worth looking into Smartphone/tablet apps, as they can also significantly aid in your management setup.
Clearly, as good as many of these tools are, there’s no substitute for effective communication between yourself and your remote workers. Just like regular workers, remote workers are likely to have regular questions and queries, and you need to be available to attend to these queries.
Email is a great starting point for communication and depending on the level of communication that is needed, it may be all you need. Skype is another great option that allows for a more instant and dynamic level of communication. You might also want to consider Google Hangouts if you’re looking to converse between multiple remote workers that are all working on the same project.
I also want to briefly mention Teamviewer. I find this to be an excellent tool for demonstrating exactly what I mean in regards to a project. Teamviewer essentially allows you to show a remote worker exactly what you’re seeing on your screen. If you combine this with a Skype voice call, you can literally talk them through exactly what you’re trying to explain, thus saving a lot of time for both parties involved.
I want to keep this one quite short but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important. In my eyes, you need to allow a certain level of collaboration when working with remote workers, especially if they great at what they do (which they should be).
You need to create an environment where your workers are able to make suggestions in regards to the project. Some people will disagree with this and I guess it’s personal preference, but there has been many times in which freelancers/remote workers have made suggestions in regards to a project that I would have never thought of otherwise. I think it’s important to create a sense of teamwork rather than a “boss/employee” scenario.
Sure, you are the boss, but if you’re unable to accept suggestions from your talented handpicked employees, I think you’re missing out. Plus, this will almost always increase motivation for your remote workers if they feel happy to work with you and also feel that their opinions will be taken on board.
Managing a Remote Team Infographic
Thanks to Hubstaff for the infographic below.
The key take away from this guide is that you need to put in the effort in the early days in order to save time in the long run. By spending time picking the best, most talented and most reliable remote workers, you’ll reduce the risk of being let down and/or having to search for new remote workers further down the line. By utilising great online tools and communication methods such as Basecamp and Teamviewer, you can ensure that you create an environment that saves time for both you and your employees.
However, it’s important to remember not to neglect your remote workers. It can sometimes seem like your remote workers are getting on with things without heavy management and while this might be the case, it’s important to keep a close check on things and constantly give feedback (positive and negative) in order to further improve things and increase morale.
Author Bio: Joshua is a freelancer currently working for the UK based printing company, Discount Banner Printing. He regularly uses many of the tools and tactics mentioned in this article and loves anything that allows him to save time.