5 Steps to Assembling the Perfect Freelance Team
BY: BRIAN HUGHES ON WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2015
From content marketing to web development, small businesses are increasingly choosing to outsource these needs to qualified freelancers rather than hiring in-house. Freelancers are generally far more affordable than hiring full-time staff with greater flexibility, independence and, in some cases, more in-depth experience. The freelancer revolution is a driving force in today’s economy, with an estimated 53 million freelancers in the U.S. contributing $715 billion in earnings to the national economy.
Even if your business has worked with the occasional freelancer in the past, however, building an entire team of freelancers to manage marketing or web needs can be a daunting undertaking. The good news is that even within the same field, most freelancers are very open to working with one another on projects. “Freelancing isn’t necessarily like other businesses where there’s always fear of the competition. Freelancing embraces more of a community vibe,” says Due.com. As a solopreneur who has worked with many talented freelancers in different capacities over the years, I certainly agree.
With so many different freelancers out there, finding the right ones for your team can still be a challenge. From locating freelancers to negotiating rates, here is how to get started assembling your perfect freelance team.
Find the right freelancers.
Looking for that one perfect freelancer can seem like hunting for the proverbial needle in a haystack – it’s not easy! Start by searching on top industry freelance sites. If you need skilled writers to plan and execute your next content marketing campaign, WriterAccess is a site dedicated exclusively to connecting businesses with top freelance writing talent. UpWork (formerly oDesk and Elance) includes writers, designers & creatives, accountants & consultants, virtual assistances, sales & marketing experts, and web developers. If you need premier tech talent, head straight to Toptal, which delivers vetted senior software engineers for serious tech projects, including high-end app development.
Some sites, like WriterAccess, have a fixed pay system based on a freelancer’s rating that guarantees a certain payment per word (with the company taking a percentage off the top). Other sites, like UpWork, allow freelancers to submit project bids; you pick the proposal and price that’s acceptable for you. (Like WriterAccess, UpWork takes a percentage off the top as well). Both sites hold money in escrow until certain project milestones are reached, protecting both you and the freelancer.
Other freelancers may be willing to work directly with clients if they receive a deposit in advance via PayPal or another online payment system. Want the protection of a third-party billing and time tracking system without using a site that takes money off the top? In addition to serving as a clearinghouse for freelance talent, Staff.com is also an open platform, so if you connect with a great writer on LinkedIn you can manage the project via Staff.com.
Get the whole team on the same page.
I strongly recommend using a web-based project management system that will get your entire team on the same page from day one. Collaborative, real-time systems typically offer a centralized dashboard so you can keep an eye on milestone achievements as the project progresses.
Team members can securely exchange files and message with one another about project details as they unfold, eliminating the need to sort through endless email chains. While Basecamp has long been a top favorite, I also like Wrike and Zoho Projects. PC Mag recently published a fantastic comparison chart for some of the top project management software for 2015.
If you’re paying freelancers by the hour (rather than a flat project rate), time tracking is essential. Apps like Toggl are built specifically for professional time tracking and also allow for project tags, multiple projects and client management, making these apps easy to adapt for your specific needs. I recommend Toggl, Jiffy, and Hours, all of which are free or include low-cost premium versions.
So you’ve assembled a team of talented freelancers, negotiated pay, and gotten everyone on the same page with a great project management system. What could go wrong? A lot, actually, if your expectations are misaligned. Freelancers typically juggle multiple projects and clients at once, which means they don’t have the same 24/7 availability that full-time staff offer. Additionally, many creatives, including writers and web designers, take “email breaks” during the day where they completely unplug from the Internet in order to focus on creating amazing work.
This means if you send an urgent update email, your freelancer might not see it for a few hours– or have the flexibility to address the problem. While freelancers in general are usually extremely responsive and as flexible as possible, it’s important to set expectations about availability via email or phone during the day so there’s no misunderstanding.
Bottom line: Working with a talented freelance team offers many important benefits, especially for small businesses and entrepreneurs who would otherwise be unable to afford to hire top industry talent on a full-time basis. By setting expectations from the beginning everyone will be on the same page and ready to do their best work possible for your business.
Image via shutterstock