How to Manage a Freelancer Working from Home

05 February 2020

No business owner can run everything by themselves. Your business is strengthened and enhanced by the team you cultivate around you.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, the exact right talent may need to work from home rather than in your office.

So how do you ensure that this team member working remotely is getting all the work done and also feels included in your team?

It’s this issue that one of our clients brought up during one of our group calls – and we got some excellent responses from both our team and the wider group of clients.

If you would like to discuss or hear more, please feel free to get in touch.

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Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Jay, you’ve written here, “I’m employing a freelancer Excel expert who currently doesn’t have experience of doing this. What do I need to put in place for someone working from home, time tracking, etc.?”

Sorry, so you’re employing a freelancer Excel expert who currently doesn’t have experience of doing this. Doing this, what? Jay, I might unmute you. ‘What do I need to put in place for someone working from home time tracking etc.’ – So I’m assuming your question is you have employed a freelancer you don’t have experience of doing this, hold on. Jay, I don’t want to guess. You know what, I’ll just unmute you.

Yeah, Jay can you just explain who doesn’t have experience of what?

Jay: Ok so they don’t have experience of working from home as a freelancer. So, they are currently working for a company and they’re moving away from that to do this. And because they’re quite distant, I’d say that good couple of hours from us, they don’t really want to work here. They will prefer to come in here for a period, maybe every couple of weeks, but do the majority of work from home.

Shweta: And sorry, I’m slightly unclear on the fact that this person is currently working from the office, employed by you?

Jay: No, so it’s someone we know who has worked for one of our suppliers and they’re very good with Excel.

Shweta: So, data entry, that’s what they’ll be doing. The ecommerce side of things. Understood. So you’re simply saying well what are some of the things that you need to put in place for someone working from home, yeah? Ok so have you created a list, you and Natasha, have you looked at some of the practices that you will be putting in place before we give you input?

Jay: So… we’ve… so we’ve talked about kind of doing some kind of time tracking and putting the goals of what they’ve got to produce and then just in terms of… but so it’s obviously you don’t know how much they’re working from home or not but I suppose I guess people who normally do structure is as long as the goals are being hit, it doesn’t matter, though? Yeah I don’t know. Yeah along those lines, or is that it?

Shweta: It’s a great question there, and a great situation because anyone can come across the situation, right? So, how would you go about it? How would you make sure that this person is being efficient, productive and is actually doing a good job? And at the same time I would add there Jay, feels like a part of the team isn’t it? Not feeling left out and is also feeling a part of team. So how would you go about it?

So, give me some ideas just jot down saying ‘these are the things I would put in place’. Just expand, don’t expand on points, just give as many points as possible.

Jay, I’ll just mute you if that’s okay just to avoid background noise.

Cool. So guys what would you do?

Start With Micromanagement

So, you’ve written here Elizabeth, you’ve written here, “You keep track each day of tasks and also against milestones.” So each day what were the tasks and you know what has been achieved. “I like to micromanage contractors so check-in daily until I’m confident they are good enough.” Absolutely makes total sense.

Remote-Working Policy & Contract

Colin, “Put a home-working or remote-working policy in place.” Very good point. “We are looking at this at the moment.” So again a good idea Jay for you to connect with Colin and both of you to help each other or put your good practices together. “Take a look on the web as a few local authorities have published theirs which are quite useful. Also for a freelancer make sure you’ve got a good contract in place. You do need to agree goals and targets.

Shore Up Your Working-From-Home Communications

“Also look to use instant messaging something like MS Teams etc so you can keep them included in culture etc.” Great points guys, perfect. That’s really good.

And Neil is saying, “A good tracking or workflow platform is Scoro.” S-C-O-R-O, Scoro. I hope I pronounced it correctly, Neil.

“Depending on what you want to achieve, have a live video conference stream up.” Greg, that’s what you’ve suggested.

So some really really great points there. Really, really good. So I hope that helps and just couple of other points there Jay, from my side, which I think they have been covered I’m just emphasising.

They Need to Be Trustworthy to Be Trusted

It’s like, look, at the end of the day what you are not interested in is to police people. And nobody likes to be policed, as in ‘How many hours are you in front of your computer versus on your phone.’

But at the end of the day you have to trust people, but at the same time people have to be trustworthy for you to trust them.

And therefore, in the beginning if you have to micromanage them, as Elizabeth has said because delegation or freelancing comes with micromanagement.

Which means just saying that, ‘Look, because you’re not there, so it’s any issues that you might have or you know just the update on your work.’

So agreeing the structure or the template as to how they need to report in to you on a daily basis or on a weekly basis depending on what’s the right flow for you.

But yes you do need to have that mechanism or that template in place where you’re getting those reports at the right frequency level, you’re reviewing them, and I would tell you this… It’s like, you know, it’s really interesting. These are all practices they’re very natural in corporate world. And, okay, as soon as I would use corporate world, you’ll say, ‘Ahh I don’t like corporate world.’ But still this is how they work because they’re really good with systems.

When Amol moved from Mumbai to the London office within Morgan Stanley and he was the Vice President at that time, right. So when he moved here this was for the first time that his line manager was line managing him from a distance. Obviously he had his and they have like EDs on top of VPs, so Executive Director was line managing Amol as VP.

When he moved to London office and his boss was sitting in Mumbai, we didn’t realise what he was doing because we were like in our late 20s at that time. Pretty much every alternate day his boss would call Ram would call, pretty much every alternate day, and just have a conversation. Things like ‘How you settling in?’ ‘So what happened today? What meetings were you in? So what has happened on this one?’ Nice, you know, rapport building and everything.

It’s only in retrospect after a few months we realized that actually that was his way of making sure that Amol was not feeling secluded, so your team member is not feeling completely left alone.

There is this nice touch points of culture fit, and at the same time making sure you providing the help that’s required. You’re challenging whatever that challenge is required. So the person is performing the best level.

You need to think of this as proper line management

And that’s how you have to think, that it’s a proper line management with the required support and challenge and the right templates and the right goals.

And if someone is not doing the job then you also be need to be ok to say you’re not happy with how things are trending. Rather than being on a back foot and someone says, “Are you not trusting me?” Because that’s what people play this emotion card, right.

And I have had those situations where they say, “Are you not trusting me?”

And I’m like, “Yeah, actually you know what, I’m not seeing the evidence for me to trust you.”

And I have actually challenged people sometimes saying, actually, two times that they have not done something, I’ll be like, “You’re actually lying to me.”

And they’ll be like, “What do you you mean? I don’t lie.”

And I’m like, “You’ve just lied to me right? You’ve said you will be doing this but you’ve not done this. And the way we perform in this business is these are the value systems.”

So, again the point there Jay is whether it’s an in-house person or a freelancer doesn’t matter. Make sure you talk about the company culture, ways of working, they have a proper contract in place, as Colin just mentioned, they understand the rules with the game, you have the right templates, right reporting, phone call, video call whatever you want to do, the tech formats that you want to have, but it’s similar to managing someone in-house.

In fact, it requires a little bit more than that because you don’t have that face time with them.

And if you’re not happy with that performance and be ok to challenge it, because we all need those challenges. Feels bad in that moment but it helps you identify who is the right talent for yourself.

So I hope that helps rather than just letting it simmer in your head.

If you would like to hear more about this please feel free to get in touch.

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If you would like to have an obligation free discussion about selling your business, please email shweta@growthidea.co.uk. You can find more about our investment criterion on https://growthidea.co.uk/private-equity.

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