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How to manage freelance teams way cooler than managers in FAANG and Big N Companies
24 May, 2021

How to manage freelance teams way cooler than managers in FAANG and Big N Companies

Do team managers in FAANG" and "Big N" companies hire freelancers? Yes, they hire and work with freelance talents. Freelancing will contribute 50.9 percent of the entire labor force in the not so distant future . . . In the United States precisely. Let's do the math's, shall we? The United States civilian labor force amounted to 160.99 million people. 50.9% of 160.99 is 81.94391. That is approximately 81.9 million civilians in the United States! Surprised? Nope! I would have been if I did not see this coming. The signs had been there all along. Experts believe it will happen six years from now. It is okay to doubt. People doubted bitcoin, but here we are!

Pre-COVID-19, the business community witnessed a surge in the number of professionals exiting companies for flexible, independent remote-jobs, leaving the affected organizations bereft of the best hands for their Dedalian tasks. Kudos to their resilience, many businesses are coping remarkably with the trending worker-independence culture, with some extending their workforce to include freelance talents as members of a team on projects and tasks.

Considering the talent gap in the labor market, filling these gaps with freelance talents will provide many benefits to startups, businesses, and organizations. For one, companies can outsource projects to freelance experts if they are short of talent or their in-house employees are yet to grasp the profundity of such assignments. Startups can save costs while working with a diverse pool of talents. The benefits of hiring and working with freelancers are too many to bundle into one article.

However, hiring freelancers comes with its challenges. The most challenging of them all is the ability to manage freelancers' work progress. The most complicated scenario is working with them in teams remotely. 

If you are considering hiring freelance talents, working with them in teams or you already have but got stuck while on it, here is the juice:

1.Establish Clear Expectations Upfront
Have you heard about the power of imagination? Sometimes, we imagine how much easier it would have been to get projects done if all the team involved could just read our minds. It's refreshing, you know? 
Unfortunately, freelancers are not "mind readers". Therefore, expecting freelancers to figure things out on their own will likely put the entire team at risk. Fortunately, we would have known a lot of secrets if we were "mind readers". Yes, because human beings are curious cats. We won't just stop at picking what people have in mind about their projects, we will likely explore something way deeper if there are no restrictions of some places in people's minds to prevent us from "exploring". What a messed-up brain I have!  
Nevertheless, set your freelancers and project up for success by communicating with them consistently from start to finish. Discuss the "What". This includes the project name, key deliverables, assumptions, project constraints, sustainability targets. A closer look at these 5 will tell they are a sum of the good, the bad, and ugly. Bringing them to the table will help everyone on board establish a mutual agreement and decide who takes on specifically what. Focusing on the key deliverables while ignoring the bad and ugly "guys" will turn the party sour. Put some bouncers!

2.      Learn How Your Expectations Will Be Met
Know the "How". It's the chief cornerstone. How can it be done? See it as a brainstorming session, open the floor to discussion. Leverage Hourspent audio or video call feature instead of the chat feature to get every bit of information as such discussions can be lengthy but can help one to explore the freelancers' ability and uniqueness that gives a firm starting point with clear directions on how to move forward. 
Knowing the "How" can help one estimate how flexible the budget for the project will be, plan how to mitigate the risks, set the rules of engagement, set the expected delivery time frame etc. 

3.      Before Learning "How", It Won't hurt To Tell "Why"
I know what you want to get done. It's right there on the description, Google docs, on the Workstream, notes, you name them. I get it. Oh! don't get confused, flow with the drama. I know how I can get it done, yes your project. I have the skills and I want to get paid. The whole game changes when I get to know why. 
Picture a politician in mind. Donald Trump? Joe Biden? Very well, politicians are good examples here. They always give reasons why they're the ideal candidate, leveraging case scenarios, buy into peoples' emotions just to mention a few all in a bid to influence our voting decision to their advantage. 
Your project goals and objectives can go a long way to help freelancers better explain how they can help. Share them because when freelancers feel they're a part of something bigger, something with the potential to change the world, they won't hesitate to go the extra mile to make it a reality. Freelancers are people. Think of the difference between a freelancer and your employee. There is no main difference, only a thin line on how they choose to work.

4.      Outline What Information Goes To Whom
For teamwork to work, there should be an easier and efficient tool or a way for team members to connect and share crucial information. Having used many tools as a DevOps for several startups managing their distributed teams, I recommend that one choose the right tool based on their team size and complexity of the project at hand.
First, each freelance talent that is part of the team should have a contract that defines their role, timeline, and expected deliverables for the project. This contract will be a fixed point of understanding. Identify what information goes to whom. This helps make sure team members are receiving all of the information relevant to their role, and none is left off of crucial communications. 

5.         Make Use Of A Responsibility Assignment Matrix
Yes, if you are managing a super huge freelance team you need to delegate. It's also known as a RACI matrix. According to Wikipedia, "it's a linear responsibility chart, describing participants and their various roles in completing tasks or deliverables for a project or business process." One can use the Hourspent RACI Chart feature to set all project tasks against each freelance team member, who makes the final decision, who should be asked or consulted before a decision is made, and who should know once a decision has been made. In a nutshell, your RACI matrix should take responsibility, consultation, accountability, and information into consideration. This will give one a clearer view of who is assigned to get a task done.  

6.         Get To Know If Your Expectations Are Been Met
Schedule updates, status reports, etc. that seem too oldie but they play a big role in managing a freelance team to avoid delays or even cost impact. What's going on? Where are we? What happened? All the answers should be right on those updates and reports. 
Meetings, status reports, and all that are boring, I've been there. No one wants to have lots of them but they're needed to make a better-informed decision and to communicate effectively with the team on time. These "Oldies" can help one track work progress and sum up the overall percentage of work completed and what's left to be completed and even where issues are always recurring. It allows us to know whether expectations are being met, and tackle problems as they occur before the problems turn into something bigger.
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