Want the best people to do the best job? Nowadays the world is your oyster. You don’t need the burden of finding the perfect person to fulfill all needs and to work on-site. You can instead find the perfect people who do smaller tasks well, without arduous search processes and long-term contracts. In this global, connected world, you can outsource so much of your work to freelancers specialized in the tasks you need.
But how do you manage it all? How do you maintain a strong company culture without borders? How do you keep your current team members happy while attracting and retaining the right freelancers?
The flip side of having the best creative workers is that you are having to manage team members that live in different timezones and work off hours. Your expectations are often dramatically different from theirs. And then how do these workers fit in with your own teammates, who may also be co-located, remote or both?
While hiring the best woman or man for the task at hand has become easier, managing it all certainly has not.
Today, you’ll learn how best to smooth the remote working hurdles of communication and tools, and how to use a team agreement — a la Sheldon and Amy’s mutual relationship agreement — to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Since each remote team is different, we offer you the questions you need to answer before you start human resourcing from the global workforce.
Outsourcing Must #1: Clarify the Rules of Communication
If there’s anything I’ve learned from my fellow Redbooth writer and Happy Melly colleague Lisette, remote working success comes from speaking the same language. No, I don’t mean native English speakers — but you do have to communicate in some native language even if it’s tech talk. I mean clarifying timezone and communication policies.
When outsourcing to freelancers who may work a mix of odd hours, part and full-time, or simply project by project, you need to specify your expectations:
- How often do you need to check in?
- What is expected response time?
- What timezone are you talking in?
- What are the methods of communication? Tools? Email? Video chat?
- When do meetings happen?
- Which meetings are mandatory versus suggested attendance?
- Who does what? Who can you ask questions of?
- What defines “completed” work?
- What are your core values?
When you don’t have a physical water cooler to hang around, you need to explicitly state how you’ll all communicate.
Outsourcing Must #2: Use Tools to Work Transparently
How you communicate is important. In a time of cyber threats and quick staff turnover, how you share information surrounding a project is perhaps more so. I’ve always been a fan of “hit-by-a-bus” work. What would happen if you were hit by a bus? Or got a better job or won the lottery or a year-long Hawaiian vacation? Would everyone know how what you do, how you do it, and who you’re collaborating with inside and outside the company? This is when having a daily, weekly, monthly, and overall view of any project is essential.
Thankfully business project management apps like Redbooth offer a lot of answers to these who-does-what questions:
- Start by listing all the shared tools you use with their purposes.
- How is work shared?
- What tools do you use to monitor time?
- To monitor progress?
- To share documents?
- How do you assign work?
- How do you create task lists and assign tasks?
- How does the ball pass in any project?
But your tools aren’t just about the work you do internally. You also need to clarify how you use them to work transparently with your external clients, answering:
- What information is shared with your clients?
- What information is not shared with them?
- How is information shared?
- How do you exhibit project progress externally?
- How are you monitoring time on the project?
- How are you tracking the project budget?
- How do you offer transparency into which teammates are doing what?
Answering these questions used to involve juggling a lot of spreadsheets and losing track of who has access to what. Thankfully we have project management apps that enable us to manage shared information internally, externally, and freelancing somewhere in between.
Outsourcing Must #3: Create a Collaborative Team Agreement
Another trick I’ve picked up working with Lisette over the last couple years is to bring your core team and core freelancers together to establish a casual set of rules that reflect answers to all these questions. A team agreement is a non-binding document that reflects, as she puts it, how “each team has a unique way of communicating. And each team has a particular combination of personality types.”
So hop on a video call — typing or voice-only won’t do — and clarify all of the answers to these questions and whatever others suit your team. Then write it all down in a document your whole expanded team — and maybe even your key clients — can access easily.
Don’t forget to update that team agreement every three to six months before it goes stale. Every time you have someone essential joining or leaving your team, it’s also a good time to give it a review.
And don’t worry if you can’t get everyone on the call at once to review it together. Try using a tool like Doodle to find a common hour for as many members of your global team as possible. Make sure to share the current agreement ahead to field any anticipated questions, and then record the conversation to share afterwards. A team agreement is a living document, which means that you can polish it before, during and after any official update.
Your Outsourcing Project Management Checklist
Are you ready to check “Becoming an awesomely international agency” off your to-do list? Start by checking off these small ways to make a big difference for your growing and evolving team:
- Speak in one timezone.
- Specify which tools you use for what.
- Sync on response time expectations.
- Define “Done.”
- Communicate “face-to-face” whenever you can. This includes video!
- Clarify how and when to communicate.
- Don’t neglect your company culture.
- Put it all down in a team agreement.
- Remember that agreement will evolve as your team changes.
Communication and collaboration are areas that companies need to solidify if they’re looking to scale. This has a direct impact on how teams approach projects and exceed goals with remote teams.
Redbooth is a free project management software that allows teams, big or small, to plan, track, and execute all of your projects on one central platform. Redbooth allows for more efficient collaboration, helping organizations work smarter. As your startup flourishes to then manage remote teams and freelance creatives, Redbooth supports this growth by streamlining communication and task management.
Have you perfected the freelancer juggling act? Tell us your own tips to balance the global marketplace with your particular brand of company culture in the comments below.