According to computer pioneer Grace Hopper, you manage things, but you lead people. Whatever you call it, managing or leading a team is no easy feat. Effective management gets even more complicated when working with an outsourced contractor.
Oftentimes, there’s a communication gap between what’s requested from subcontracted help and what’s delivered in return. When you’re working with an outsourced worker, the last thing you want is a lengthy back-and-forth email thread. After all, you’re outsourcing work because you want to save time and money—not waste it.
Here are four tips to help you manage your outsourced workers.
1) Set clear expectations
When you’re working with a freelancer, it’s tempting to just give them an assignment and forget about it until it’s due. If you’re incredibly lucky and your freelancer is a mind-reader, this could work. Unfortunately, it’s more likely that you won’t be happy with the outcome.
That doesn’t mean that it’s time for you to step in and take over. Instead, you need to set clear expectations for your freelancer.
Let’s say that you’re hiring an outsourced worker to help with your company’s internal marketing. When you begin the engagement, supply the freelancer with specific tasks, deadlines, and marketing metrics to meet. By giving them a game plan and hard numbers to hit, you’ve provided them with a clear path to success.
These expectations also help you determine whether this freelancer is helping your business in the ways that matter—or if you need someone else for the job.
Transparency is the best way to avoid those time-sucking email chains and disappointing results. Setting clear expectations will get everyone on the same page and establish a productive working relationship.
2) Don’t micromanage
Thanks to the power of the internet, it’s incredibly easy to stay in touch with someone working for you halfway across the globe. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to manage a freelancer. It’s difficult to find the right balance between staying on top of his or her work without micromanaging it.
When you micromanage a freelancer, you’re defeating the very reason you got outside help in the first place. You want to save time, remember? Try using task management apps to oversee your outsourced team.
Apps like Trello and tried-and-true Google Docs can help you keep up with task progress. Trello is a fantastic free project management tool that allows you to assign tasks and track task status. However, you don’t have to get fancy. Even setting up a simple Google Sheet can help you and your outsourced team keep track of a project’s progress.
These platforms allow you to take a step back and get a bird’s-eye view of your outsourced team’s potential. That way, you can step in when you know something is off-track.
3) Learn to adjust expectations
We hate to break it to you, but there will come a time when your freelancer does not meet your expectations. It’s an inevitable part of outsourced work.
If it’s a minor error, identify the root of the issue and create a solution that will prevent future issues. Mistakes and misunderstandings happen. Typically, working through an error will make your relationship stronger.
That’s why it’s important to learn to adjust your expectations and understand that not every task will be 100% perfect—especially when first working with a new outsourced employee.
However, if small errors keep happening or a larger issue comes up, you’ll need to carefully evaluate if it’s worth continuing the relationship. If you believe that the value isn’t there anymore, it might be time to find a new freelancer.
4) Trust your freelancer’s expertise
It’s easy to fall into the trap of a superficial, transactional relationship with your freelancer. If you’re simply telling them what you want and when you want it, you’re not making the most of the relationship.
You hired an expert to do something you couldn’t do yourself. Why not ask them about their area of expertise? They’re likely to have opinions and recommendations that could seriously improve their work for you—and your business as a whole.