How to Manage Contractors and Freelancers

Oct 24, 2018
Post Masthead

Managing project teams today is a bigger challenge than ever before.

We blame the Internet.

The Internet has been a blessing in many ways. It has allowed many professionals to work virtually and begin many Internet-based businesses. These are opportunities that weren’t even in our grandparents' minds 50 years ago.

However, the Internet has also created some serious challenges.

One primary challenge is dealing with freelancer disappearing acts, or “ghosting”. This phenomenon involves investing time in recruiting, interviewing, onboarding, and training new resources to work with your company or on your project. Then, after a day or two of working together, they mysteriously disappear…

You’ve just been “ghosted” by your freelancer.

So, there you sit—wondering if he or she will ever return, scrambling to pick up the slack and get things done, and worrying if your project will ever get done.

What a nightmare.

If this has happened to you, read on. In this article, we will talk about how to effectively manage contractors and freelancers.

10 Tips for Managing Project Teams

Now that you have all your ducks in a row, and your project planning is complete, here are some tips for actually managing your virtual team of freelancers and contractors.

1. Get a Written and Signed Contract.

When starting a new project, it might be easy to recruit a handful of contractors or freelancers and hit the ground running, especially if you are already short on available resources.
However, never skip the contract management piece. It’s important that each freelancer or contractor understands the project scope, project goals, his/her roles and responsibilities, and what and how they will be paid.

Ensuring proper contract management will not only properly manage expectations with freelancers and contractors, but it is also essential for legally protecting your company. It will also save you a ton of headaches later in the project.

2. Close the Loop in Communication.

Communication is perhaps one of the most important things to keep in mind when managing a project team comprised of contractors and freelancers.

In a day and age when communication primarily takes place in a chat application or via email, it’s easy for messages to get lost in the shuffle or misinterpreted. Here are some ways to avoid miscommunications:

  • Provide documented and detailed instructions on the task or project.
  • Include an explanation of the “big picture” view of the project (the HOW and WHY).
  • Identify key project goals.
  • Record a video.
  • Set up training sessions or phone calls.

Be sure also to keep the lines of communication open. Be available and accessible to answer questions when needed.

3. Provide Training.

As a project manager, it is often your job to train freelancers and contractors for your project. Don’t skimp on training; investing the time and effort in training upfront will not only boost productivity, but it will also minimize the risk for errors later in the project.

Training also shows freelancers and contractors that you value them as people and professionals, and that you care about their success. If freelancers and contractors are successful, then they are more likely to work with you on future projects.

4. Build a Collaborative Culture.

In addition to providing open lines of communication via phone, chat, text, and email, you can also encourage teams to collaborate. This could take place via a chat application, such as Slack as well as within a project team tool. For example, some teams post daily “stand up” messages in Slack.

Building a collaborative culture not only boosts morale among teams, but it also enables team members to feel comfortable with asking questions, encourages team development (more on this below), and boosts productivity.

5. Coach Teams Positively.

You can’t very well expect your team members to have a positive attitude if you aren’t positive.

Here are some ways to positively coach your team:

  • Encourage them to perform at their best.
  • Give them the confidence they need to work on challenging tasks or projects.
  • Reward and recognize positive and productive behavior.
  • Be approachable and open.
  • Treat each team member as a valuable asset to the project and company.
  • Provide feedback.

6. Plan Work Schedules.

If you are working with a team of freelancers or contractors, it’s important to ensure that each team member fully understands his/her roles, responsibilities, priorities, and deadlines. Using a project team tool can help manage tasks, subtasks, and deadlines, and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

7. Use a Team Calendar.

Even if your team is comprised of freelancers and contractors, it’s important to remember that they are still people; they have lives, families, vacations, and possibly other projects.

Keep a team calendar specifically to keep track of each freelancer’s working hours, days off, vacations, and so on. This will not only allow you to shift workloads accordingly, but it can also prevent frustrations associated with unanswered chats or emails.

8. Build a Conflict Management Plan.

Did you know that the three main causes of project team conflicts are schedule, priorities, and resources? (Number 4 is differing working styles and personalities.) When working with a team of freelancers and contractors, conflict is almost a guarantee.

However, you can proactively mitigate conflict risks by having a conflict management plan. This plan outlines how the project manager—or company—will address conflicts and offer compromises or other solutions.

9. Understand the 5 Stages of Team Development.

Once you get your project team together, don’t expect everyone and everything to jive right off the bat. It can take time for teams to get acclimated with one another and the project before they are truly productive.

Here are the five stages of team development:

  1. Forming. The team meets and learns about the project and their formal roles and responsibilities. Team members tend to be independent and less communicative and collaborative during this phase.
  2. Storming. The team begins to address the project work and working together.
  3. Norming. The team begins to work together and adjust their work habits and behaviors to support the team. The team learns to trust one another.
  4. Performing. The team begins to function as a well-organized unit. Team members are interdependent and work through issues smoothly and effectively. Productivity levels are highest during this phase.
  5. Adjourning. The team completes the work and leaves the project. This is typically a part of the project close-out process.

10. Use a Project Team Tool.

Keeping your entire team on the same page is significantly easier with a project team tool. There are many project management and task management applications available that help keep track of tasks, milestones, and deadlines, and also simultaneously enhance team collaboration.

A project team tool can also be used to assess project team performance, preferences, strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations.

Project Management is Really Project Leadership

Today project management is really about project leadership. How effectively your team of freelancers and contractors work together and provide quality work really starts and ends with you.

If you invest the time in recruiting well-qualified freelancers and contractors, managing role and responsibility expectations with them, and building a team process, you can ensure that your team of freelancers and contractors are successful.

Manage Your Team of Freelancers with Rindle

Not only is Rindle easy to use, understand, adopt, and implement in any project team, it is also equipped with team collaboration features, such as comment threads, messages, and email updates. These features make it easy to add team members, assign tasks and deadlines, provide instructions, and communicate. Rindle is also a visual tool, making it appealing for different working styles and personalities.

Now that we provided you with some tips on how to effectively manage and work with freelancers and contractors, why not make it easy for them to work with you?

Make working with you, your company, and your projects easy and enjoyable with Rindle. Give Rindle a try today.