How to manage projects with freelancers
So, your company has decided to hire some external help in the form of freelancers. Hiring freelancers is a trend that's on the rise, with 73.3 million freelancers in the United States alone. By 2028, that number could grow to just over 90 million. If you've decided to go this route, you'll definitely need to stay on top of freelancer project management.
There are several benefits to hiring freelancers. First, freelancers are more cost-effective than full-time employees. You'll be able to do away with overhead costs, such as office space, equipment, and employee training and benefits. You'll also gain access to a diverse and global talent pool filled with specialists who you may not otherwise have access to. Freelancers are also flexible, and you can scale your team up and down as needed. Those are just a few benefits of hiring freelancers.
There are some disadvantages, too. High turnover rates, communication challenges, and quality concerns are among the top. Plus, how do you even go about hiring freelancers to begin with? Especially if you're a small business. And it's even more daunting to manage them.
Effective freelancer project management can help. Let's go over some tips on how to manage your freelancers effectively.
1. Setting the project scope
The most important thing you can do for yourself and your freelancers is to set up your project's scope and write up a project plan. Scopes can include everything from goals and workflow strategies to tasks, deliverables, and even restrictions. Setting up your scope will allow your freelancers to manage their workloads better. It will also allow their managers to monitor their progress more easily.
Here are some tips on setting your project's scope:
Assigning tasks, determining deliverables, and setting milestones
Deliverables are what you expect to get from a project or things that your project should produce. If you're building a website, your deliverable might be a homepage design, an about us blurb, a contact form, or a working search feature. Think of deliverables as the building blocks of your project.
Milestones are the checkpoints of your project and will help you and your freelancers keep track of how a project is progressing. Checkpoints for building a website may look like choosing a host for your website, setting up the domain, and creating wireframes.
Once you have your deliverables and milestones set, it's time to assign tasks and make sure everyone has something to work towards. This will give your freelancers the momentum they need to succeed. But don't overdo it. Assign your freelancers the tasks you think they can handle most effectively. Make sure not to put too much onto a single freelancer's plate.
Define project goals and objectives
Project goals are important in guiding your freelancers on what they should be aiming for, while objectives guide them on what they should be doing. Let them know about the overall vision for your project and the smaller objectives that will lead up to it.
To make it even easier for your freelancer, use the SMART method. Make your goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
An example of a SMART goal would be:
- Specific: To increase return on investment.
- Measurable: To improve sales within six months.
- Achievable: To improve customer relationships and find more leads through networking.
- Relevant: To reduce operational and overhead costs.
- Time-bound: To have improved sales within six months.
Create a timeline
Timelines are essential in ensuring that your freelancer meets their goals and objectives in a timely fashion. Without a timeline, your freelancer may take matters into their own hands. Delays could ensue, and you may end up paying your freelancers for work that's not completed within your expected timeframe.
Instead, provide your freelancers with a firm timeline. How much time you give is dependent on your company and the complexity of the project your freelancers will be working on. Whether it's a month, six months, or a year or two, your freelancers need a timeline to help guide them in their deliverables.
Identify restrictions and risks
No project is without restrictions and risks. When setting your project scope, weigh the risks and identify any restrictions. This allows you to mitigate potential issues before they become major problems during the project.
Being proactive in this regard will help you keep your project on track and make it more likely to succeed.
Regularly review and update
Things change - it happens all the time. Make sure to reevaluate your project by writing up a status report and deciding if anything needs to be updated.
Updates may include revisions to the project's overall goal, timeline, or milestones. It's equally important to communicate with your freelancers about any changes you make. This will help them understand the evolving expectations and adapt their work accordingly.
2. Communicating and collaborating with freelancers
Communication and collaboration are key aspects of working with freelancers. Of course, you're going to want to keep your freelancers informed and you'll also want to stay up-to-date with what your freelancers are doing. And since your freelancers will be working within your company, collaboration between your freelancers and other employees is a must.
Here are a few key steps in keeping up with your communication and collaboration efforts with your freelancers:
Establish communication channels
There are several tools you can use when communicating with your freelancers. Emails, social media, texting apps. Tools like Slack, Skype, and Zoom are efficient, too. Of course, there's always in-person communication, too. But if you're working with freelancers, chances are your freelancers will be working from remote settings, especially if they're involved in tech. Provide them with the best communication channels available.
Tools like Asana, Trello, and Jira can be great for team collaboration and task-specific communication.
Handling time zones and language barriers
Dealing with freelancers across different time zones or who may not share your native language can be challenging. To address this, establish clear working hours that align with both parties' schedules.
Use time zone conversion tools to coordinate meetings and deadlines. When language barriers exist, prioritize clarity in communication. Use clear language and ask and answer questions for better mutual understanding.
Fostering a collaborative environment
Creating a collaborative atmosphere is essential for productive freelancers. Encourage open dialogue, feedback, and idea sharing. Provide access to necessary resources and information, and allow your freelancers to feel like an integral part of your team.
Regularly communicate the company's goals and values to align everyone's efforts. Use collaboration tools to encourage teamwork. These tools could be shared documents, project management platforms, and communication channels.
Encouraging teamwork and collaboration
Even though freelancers work independently, their contributions often overlap with those of your in-house team.
Encourage teamwork by setting clear roles and responsibilities so everyone understands their part in the project. Use collaborative platforms to share progress and updates, allowing both freelancers and employees to provide input and assistance when needed.
3. Monitoring progress
Regularly monitoring progress is important for keeping your projects on track. This involves tracking milestones, deadlines, and deliverables to help everyone meet their targets.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you monitor progress:
Addressing potential delays
If you notice that a freelancer might miss a deadline, communicate with them early and work together to find solutions. It could involve adjusting the timeline, reallocating resources, or reevaluating the scope of the project. By addressing the issue early on, you give both yourself and the freelancer the opportunity to brainstorm solutions that can keep the project on track.
Revisions and improvements
Maintain quality standards by setting clear expectations and reviewing deliverables for quality. Provide constructive feedback and guidelines to help freelancers improve their work.
Give feedback in a constructive and actionable manner. Focus on specific points for improvement and offer praise for what's done well. This approach fosters growth and motivates freelancers.
Continuous improvement is essential to making the perfect project. Be open to revisions and refinements in the project as you receive feedback and as the project evolves. This flexibility helps the work meet your evolving expectations.
Recognizing and rewarding exceptional work
Acknowledge outstanding work and exceptional contributions. Recognition can take the form of bonuses, praise, or additional opportunities. It builds motivation and loyalty. Recognizing exceptional work can also involve providing public testimonials, highlighting the freelancer's achievements within your organization or on your company's website.
Remember, such recognition not only motivates the freelancer to maintain their high standards of work but also fosters a sense of loyalty, which can lead to long-term and fruitful collaborations.
Keeping the project on track
Proactively manage the project's direction. Regularly review the project's status and make adjustments as needed so that it remains aligned with your goals. Be ready to adapt to unforeseen circumstances and have contingency plans in place. Encourage accountability among your team, including freelancers, so that everyone takes ownership of their tasks and deadlines.
Keeping your project on track allows you to make informed decisions about resource allocation, scope adjustments, and risk mitigation, ultimately contributing to the project's successful completion within the set parameters.
Use tools to monitor progress
Using tools to monitor progress is a necessary aspect of effective freelancer project management.
Project management software, such as Asana and Trello, streamlines task assignment and tracking, ensuring that deadlines are met. Communication platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams facilitate real-time updates and collaboration. Time tracking software, such as Toggl or Harvest, helps you monitor how freelancers allocate their time, ensuring productivity.
These tools provide a transparent and organized way to oversee project progression, making it easier to address potential issues and keep the project on track.
4. Managing payment and invoices
Smooth payment processes are essential in maintaining a positive working relationship with your freelancers.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when managing payment and invoices:
Establishing payment terms
When onboarding a freelancer, specify how and when they to expect payment. This should include the payment method, payment frequency (e.g., weekly, monthly), and the agreed-upon rate.
Be transparent about any additional compensation, such as bonuses or incentives tied to project milestones. Clarity in payment terms helps manage expectations and fosters trust between you and your freelancers.
Handling invoices and payments
Request detailed invoices from freelancers that include their contact information, a breakdown of services rendered, and the agreed-upon rates. Organize a secure and streamlined payment process, whether it's through online platforms like PayPal or traditional methods like bank transfers.
Make sure you keep a record of all payments, which will be necessary for both financial tracking and tax purposes. Timely and accurate payments contribute to a positive working relationship and motivate freelancers to deliver their best work consistently.
Resolving payment disputes
Despite best efforts, payment disputes can occasionally arise. When they do, it's important to handle them professionally and fairly. The first step is to open a line of communication with the freelancer to understand the issue. Review the project agreement, invoices, and any supporting documents to help with accuracy.
If a dispute remains unresolved, consider involving a neutral third party, such as an arbitration service or legal counsel, to facilitate a fair resolution.
5. Resolving conflicts
Conflicts can arise when working with freelancers. It's important to know how to handle them when they do.
Freelancers can experience conflicts with their clients for various reasons. Misunderstandings and disagreements about the project's scope are one of the most common conflicts. These conflicts can lead to quality issues, missed deadlines, payment disputes, creative differences, and availability issues. To avoid such conflicts, it is important to establish clear communication channels and set expectations from the beginning. It is also crucial to have a transparent invoicing process and clear compensation terms.
If conflicts do arise, the best way to resolve them is through open communication and clear discussions. Negotiate mutually acceptable solutions and encourage compromise, while also managing availability issues through open dialogue and adjustments to the project plan. Throughout the process, maintain professionalism and fairness, with a focus on respect, empathy, and collaboration.
6. Building long-term relationships with freelancers
Fostering long-term relationships with freelancers hinges on effective freelancer management. Clear communication, defined expectations, and constructive feedback can help maximize your freelance talent.
Freelancers can benefit your business in many ways. You'll have access to specialized skills, cost-efficiency, flexibility, and more. As the freelance economy continues to grow, businesses that successfully integrate freelancers into their teams will be well-prepared to adapt to evolving work dynamics.
But in order to work effectively alongside your freelancers, freelancer project management is a must. Implement these strategies into your project management plan and you'll be set to go. If you need help, Breeze can help you manage your freelancers effectively all within their platform.