The work-from-home concept is the strongest trend in office working system today. Companies offer the flexible working setup to its employees as an added perk or benefit. Freelancers work online and offer services to clients from all over the world. The explosion of internet and ease of connectivity led to the emergence of virtual offices and remote workers. The traditional four-walled office setup has found a more efficient and dynamic alternative – the virtual office system.
The dynamics of a virtual office is hugely different from that of the traditional office. Employers also must observe working etiquette when engaging freelancers;
Respect their time – Most, if not all freelancers have more than one clients. Know that they could be working on multiple projects at a time. Unless you are prepared to hire them fulltime, do not expect a freelancer to be at your beck and call. Give then ample notice when requesting meetings and always consult with them before setting up goals and deadlines. A professional freelancer will always be on time and will tell you if he or she can make the deadline. If the freelancer is busy, you can always find other remote workers available to work on your project.
Clearly communicate your expectations – Communication is key to productive and efficient working relationship with freelancers. To get the desired results, you must be clear with your expectations. Confusion and misunderstanding can easily ensue in virtual offices. Be concise with the requirements, set milestones and deadlines, and conduct periodic reviews of the project. The seasoned freelancer will always welcome concise and complete job descriptions.
Feedback is important – Communicate any mistakes and misunderstandings as soon as you see them. Remote workers might never know of the error unless you point it out to them. Always practice constructive criticism. Feedback is not only for mistakes and opportunities. Let your freelancer know that he or she is doing a great job. It will not only boost their morale but will also point them to the right direction. Take every opportunity you have to give kudos.
Provide necessary tools and training – Every job or project is specific and unique. It may be similar to other projects the freelancer has done before, but there will always be unique specifications required. You can expect remote workers to be skilled in what they do and to have a very good idea on what you need. But, they will still need specific orientation and instructions to better understand your needs. Hence, you will need to provide your freelancer with the necessary training and tools that will help him or her to fully understand your requirements and accomplish the job accordingly.
Give notice when making business decisions – It is a non-question to inform employees – including freelancers, of any changes in their working status. Make sure to inform them ahead of time if you are ramping up or closing down the project. Aside from changes that directly affects their working status, it is also recommended to advise all employees of any material business decisions. Freelancers are part of your team, despite the remote working setup. They are invested in the success or failure of the company.
Bargain wisely, not shrewdly – There will be all types of freelancers offering professional services. Expect the more experienced and skilled professionals to ask for higher pay rates, and the newbies who are probably trying to gain knowledge and track record to ask for lower salaries. The former will probably finish the job faster and work with minimal supervision, but that doesn’t mean that the beginners can’t deliver a great job. The quickest way to lose a valued freelancer is by bargaining hard on his or her pay rate. It is better to find a freelancer that will best fit your needs than try to bargain with their asking pay.
Hear them out – Freelancers are great resources of information and experience. They have worked different projects for different clients around the world. They have been exposed to different working cultures, systems, and practices. Prompted with the right questions, they will gladly share with you their knowledge and experiences. When they suggest, listen and take it into consideration. The right freelancer will only have the best intentions for you, the company, and your working relationship.
Avoid micro-managing – There are a lot of reasons why a freelancer opted to work outside the structured employment system. Work hours and location flexibility and freedom, and autonomy are top reasons. That is why micro-management will not work well with freelancers. They are independent workers who follow their own working system. Give them the instructions, your requirements, any tools and training necessary, and then let them work.
Respect cultural differences – In a virtual office setup, you’re likely to be working with freelancers from around the world. Different cultures, upbringing, and practices can easily lead to misunderstanding and clashes. When you hire remote workers from across the globe, take the time to know the basics of their culture and working habits. They might ask for days off due to local holidays or religious events. Be open to unfamiliar practices, and refrain from making any comments or jokes that could be culturally offensive.
When setting up a virtual office system, consider getting only the best freelancers for your team. And that doesn’t necessarily mean the most experienced or skilled worker you can find. Freelancers have a unique set of strengths, experience, and skills. They are in different time zones, prefer different work schedules, and follow their own working system. Find freelancers and remote workers whose skills, experience, and working habits match your needs.