Working with freelancers, though challenging at times, has some very specific, tangible benefits. You can get very niche specific work done. Need some SEO keyword analysis? You can hire someone to do just that. Working with freelancers also means you don’t have to train someone in a specific skillset. In other words, you don’t need to train a person on PPC advertising, only how you expect them to get the work done.
Finally, freelancers are a straight expense line, as opposed to full time workers with health insurance, equipment costs, and other related expenses.
As I’ve built my business, I’ve discovered a number of ways to build an ultra-productive freelance team. Here are 7 ways to get the most out of your freelance team.
1. All Failures Are Your Fault, Not Theirs
When something goes wrong, you’ll be tempted to blame the freelancer you had working on the project. After all, they were the one doing the keyword analysis or reaching out to potential prospects or whatever it was you had them doing.
But if you want to build a highly motivated, highly successful freelance team, YOU must own all the mistakes yourself.
First, blaming your freelancers is a great way to burn them out and cause them to not want to work with you. No one likes being blamed or criticized, and if you’re constantly running your freelancers through the woodchipper, you’ll quickly find yourself without a freelance team. Preserve your team by owning the mistakes yourself.
Second, there’s a good chance the mistake was ultimately your fault. Most mistakes are the result of poor training. In other words, the freelancer didn’t know exactly what you wanted, which led them to a misstep. If mistakes are made, it’s probably because you didn’t sufficiently train your freelancers on the what, how, when, and why of what you wanted . Own the mistake by acknowledging that you’re probably at fault.
Owning failures is a great way to build loyalty among your freelancers.
2. Adequate Training
To prevent your freelancers from making mistakes, you need to spend the necessary time creating training materials for your freelancers. You’re not training them on a specific skill set, like keyword analysis, but on your particular method of working.
Yes, this is a total pain in the butt. No, it’s not tons of fun. But the more time you invest in creating training materials, the less time you have to spend apologizing for the mistakes of your freelancers.
Thankfully, creating training materials is inexpensive and relatively easy to do. Here are three simple methods I recommend:
1. Create screen share videos using Quicktime and then load them to a private YouTube channel. That’s what I did in this video:
[youtube youtubeurl=”W4nB8eIyXZ8″ ][/youtube]
2. Take screen shots and use a program like Skitch to point to specific areas on the screen. This blog post is a good example of that.
3. Use Google Drive to easily create and share materials like documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. If your freelancers have questions or comments, they can easily initiate a dialog within the document itself.
If you want to get the most out of your freelancers, spend the necessary time to train them. It takes time up front but is worth it in the long run.
3. Pay Them What They Ask
Do you want to build a loyal base of freelancers who will do high quality work for you? Then pay them what they’re asking.
Obviously I’m not advising you to pay every freelancer what he/she wants, regardless of his skill level. But if you want to work with top-notch talent who will deliver top-notch results, you’ve got to be willing to pay what they ask.
If you just want to get the work done, and don’t care about the quality, you can post your job on Upwork and award it to the lowest bidder. But you’re going to get what you pay for.
When you start trying to undercut people, they’ll undercut you in return. I’ve been able to build a highly skilled, highly motivated team of freelancers by paying them what they want.
4. Pay Them On Time
I know what it’s like to have to constantly nag a client for payment. It is a massive pain and it makes me not want to work for them. I’ve got bills to pay, and if you can’t pay me on time, it disrespects me and lowers the value of what I do.
I don’t want to be that pain in the ass client to my freelancers, which is why I always pay them on time.
And the reward for paying them on time? They almost always meet or beat the deadlines I give them. It’s a virtuous cycle.
Or, to quote Michael Scott, it’s a win…win…win.
5. Hire Niche Freelancers for Niche Jobs
Don’t go out and hire someone to do SEO. That’s way too broad and he’ll probably end up wasting a lot of time as he dives into all the different things necessary for SEO.
You’re better off hiring one person to do keyword research, another person to do analytics and reporting, and another person to search for backlinking opportunities.
By hiring a person who has niche knowledge, like keyword analysis, you can actually save both time and money. That person knows exactly what they’re doing and can quickly produce results.
6. Create A Project Plan And Stick To It
To get the most out of your freelancers, create a detailed project plan which includes exactly what you’re trying to accomplish and who is responsible for what tasks.
I use Google Sheets to make this happen.
For example, I use freelance writers to create a variety of content for me. When I need content created, I tag a writer using the comment function. This allows me to communicate with the writer and allows the writer to see what is being requested. It also allows me to stay on top of what needs to be done and what has already been done.
Yes, there are a massive number of project management softwares available, but I find Google Sheets to be the easiest and most effective way for me to work with my freelancers.
7. Create Open Communication Lines
No matter how many training materials you create, your freelancers will inevitably have questions. The faster you can answer their questions, the faster the work gets done. Thus, open lines of communication are an absolute must when creating a top-performing freelance team.
I make myself available to my team over Skype, Facebook Messenger, email, and the aforementioned Google Sheets.
Obviously there are going to be times when you need to shut down communication so you can focus on the task at hand, but the more you can make yourself available for questions, the more productive your team will be.
Working with freelancers isn’t always the easiest. You may end up dealing with different time zones, different communication styles, and different approaches to work.
But if you’re willing to invest time in training your freelancers and you treat your freelancers right, you can create a team of uber-productive, uber-loyal people. And you can save time and money by hiring people who specialize in a very specific task.
I realize that this may not be the ideal solution for everyone, but it’s enabled me to quickly scale my business in a way I wouldn’t have been able to working with full time employees.