— November 10, 2018
Working with contractors can be a balancing act. You certainly don’t want to become an obnoxious micromanager, but you still need to stay informed about team member progress.
The ultimate goal may be to put your freelancers on autopilot, but even when they’re up to speed they’ll need to loop you in occasionally. You want the job to get done, and get done right, but you DON’T want to make your team miserable with constant nagging!
So how do you keep the work going without irritating the people doing it? How do you stay on top of things and lead your team confidently while also giving them just the right amount of autonomy? I’ve got 5 great tips to help you strike the perfect balance.
Manage people and projects using a project management tool
Overwhelm is the enemy of efficiency, and nothing is more overwhelming than a flooded inbox. (OK, that might be an overstatement … but you know what I mean! Email overwhelm is for real!) Even if you’re a naturally organized person, attempting to funnel team communication through email is a losing battle. Replies get missed, attachments get lost, deadlines get pushed, clients get cranky. Bad news all around.
So instead, invest in a project management tool for your team. You’ll get simplified communication, easy and transparent task assignment, automated reminders, multiple project visibility, and file sharing all in one place. Instead of pestering freelancers for updates, you can just hop on the program and see for yourself how much progress they’ve made.
Manage people and projects using a shared calendar
The work itself isn’t all that needs to be tracked and managed: If you’ve got a fleet of contractors supporting you, it helps to know when they’ll be out of town and when they’re available for overtime. Some project management programs include calendar functions, but I recommend using a shared calendar with project due dates so you can get a visual snapshot of everyone’s workloads and conflicts. TeamUp and Keep & Share are both favorites for teams spread across multiple time zones.
Manage people and projects with the help of a pro
Depending on your budget and project load, you could also consider hiring a project manager to monitor team assignments. Dedicating a contractor to workflow management may sound like a luxury, but if you’ve tried everything else and work is STILL falling through the cracks, getting support from an expert can be an absolute life-saver. Some teams do fine monitoring their own work through an online interface and giving periodic updates, but others only thrive when there’s a single person keeping everyone on-task.
And you don’t need to hire someone full-time! Your project manager can dedicate a few hours each day to moving your work forward. Some VAs might even be able to take on project management duties.
Manage people and projects by dividing work strategically
While it’s true that some contractors can handle a wide variety of tasks, they all specialize in something. Some are amazing at content creation, others handle sales, and still others excel at graphics. When you’re assigning work, always make sure that you’re giving the right tasks to the right person.
Don’t ask your customer service person to design a landing page. It’s probably not in her skill set, which means she’ll take twice as long to complete the project and be a stressed-out mess the whole time. When each team member is working in her zone of genius, you’ll have a far easier time keeping things rolling.
Manage people and projects by planning ahead
Know who loves urgent deadlines and surprise projects? No one! And that includes your team members! You’ll never be able to foresee every work emergency, but you can always aim to plan ahead as far as possible. If you constantly force your freelancers to juggle unexpected tasks, they’ll burn out fast. To keep them happy and productive, do your best to forecast their workloads as many weeks or months into the future as humanly possible!
The best way to build a team that does great work—on time, all the time—is to create ideal circumstances for them. Remove roadblocks, enable easy communication, and give them tasks they excel at doing. Put these 5 tips into action, and you’ll empower your contractors to perform at their absolute best!