How to Boost Collaboration Between Employees and Freelancers

How to Boost Collaboration Between Employees and Freelancers

Whether it’s a software release, a campaign launch, or other type of endeavor, some projects will require collaboration between freelancers and employees. For these types of projects, results are affected by how well everyone trusts one another, communicates, and remains organized. But doing this with freelancers requires a slightly different approach than with fellow employees. Here are three tips for more successful collaborations.

Start strong by vetting well

Freelancers usually work remotely, so your team will probably never meet them in person. This makes it even more vital that you choose a freelancer your team can work well with. CEO Erik Allebest explains, “At the end of the day, I have to work with this person so I need to connect with them. It’s important even when working remote because we’re human. We have to communicate, we have to collaborate.”

If you’re using an online marketplace like Upwork, you can browse testimonials, project reviews, ratings, and portfolios for freelancers.

Get on the same page

Freelancers are usually accustomed to diving into projects and ramping up quickly. But hiccups can still occur, especially if your team has different expectations than the freelancer. To ensure a smooth project, begin by establishing a communication plan between your team and the freelancer. A communication plan may include:

A clear project goal

Before the work begins, make sure employees and freelancers understand the overall goal of the project. When everyone shares the same understanding of the objective, they can see how each person’s contribution supports that goal. In addition, individuals will know if their work’s on track as the project progresses. Also, it may help the freelancer gain context if you share how the project fits into larger company goals too.

Defined roles

For each person working on the project, it’s important to define who’s in charge of what. Without clear roles, conflicts can arise. Defining everyone’s roles can help avoid inefficiencies, duplicate work, and misunderstandings. In turn, it may preserve the project’s collaborative dynamic and keep deliverables on schedule.

A communications protocol

To further avoid misunderstandings, agree to a communications protocol. Keep in mind that freelancers are like businesses, so they work their own schedules. If your team is accustomed to attending last-minute meetings or checking emails at night, you shouldn’t expect the freelancer to do so as well. When establishing your protocol, ask freelancers how quickly they need emails answered. And be sure to schedule meetings in advance.

Cultivate connections

People who trust one another often collaborate better together. When everyone’s working within the same office, it’s easier to establish trust and build relationships. And there’s time to create those bonds organically. But when your team’s working with someone remotely, creating those bonds—especially within the project’s timeframe—can be challenging. Below are a few ways to strengthen relationships between freelancers and employees:

  • Get face-to-face: Hold video chat meetings using online programs like Skype or Google Hangouts whenever possible. Seeing faces and body language helps people connect faster than just hearing a voice.
  • Keep freelancers in mind: Freelancers can’t participate in spontaneous breakroom chats, so they could miss out on project particulars discussed offline. Keep freelancers in the loop by encouraging your team to include them when discussing project details that may affect their work.
  • Help freelancers feel valued: In addition to giving kudos, take extra steps to ensure freelancers are heard. When Upwork’s engineering team noticed remote workers were reluctant to speak up during meetings, the team made sure remote workers spoke first. And the team implemented a rule where only remote workers can interrupt at any time.
  • Use online collaboration tools: Sometimes, email may not be responsive enough, especially when freelancers are in different time zones. Online collaboration tools can help any sized team stay on track and communicate efficiently. Popular tools include virtual whiteboards like RealtimeBoard, Google Docs for sharing and live editing of documents, and Trello to communicate and track work progress.

What’s important to remember is that collaborating with freelancers isn’t the same as outsourcing work. Freelancers aren’t just highly skilled, they also bring years of experience working with multiple companies. Effective collaboration can help you leverage their knowledge to achieve higher results.


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