The working world is rapidly veering in the direction of the distributed model. Rather than seeing company teams sitting around a single boardroom table, employees are becoming freelancers and cubicle compatriots are transitioning to remote work - from their homes, their private or shared office, their favorite coffee shop; you name it.
But while the company’s management does take pride in knowing its team is happier in their new work environment, turning to freelancers and service providers to complete their marketing activities can lead to significant management, communication, synchronization and measurement, and other issues. How is the modern marketing manager to thrive?
Today, we’re taking a deep dive into the world of managing and supporting your distributed marketing freelancers, so your company can create and launch winning campaigns that drive sales, every time.
Common freelance & service provider management dilemmas
#1 - Distributed model, distributed attention
When working with freelancers and service providers, some of your hires will work in-house, while others will opt to work remotely. How can you effectively manage all your marketing freelancers, oversee their tasks and performance and ensure the lines of communication remain open and clear between everyone, at all times, when you might be dealing with different work hours, work environments and time zones, some of which are less conducive to conference calls?
#2 - Synchronization despite displacement
When tasking multiple freelancers and service providers with the same project, like a new marketing campaign, how do you ensure that those independent marketing freelancers working from diverse and remote locations remain up-to-date and in-sync with your brand’s language, identity, latest materials, and other relevant content and information?
#3 - Multiple freelancers in a single funnel - how can you measure success?
When you have multiple marketing freelancers and service providers working on the same funnel, how do you know to whom to attribute successes and failures? Can the metrics and measurement criteria used for in-house performance and KPI assessment apply to the displaced model?
#4 - Complex payment processes
And with several freelancers and service providers now on your payroll, each demanding fees according to their pricing practices, not your company’s traditional salary scale (a major advantage of going freelance for the worker), how do you keep track of who you owe what and when, and do so in a timely fashion?
#5 - Motivating from afar, is it even possible?
Last, motivation is the key to any team’s productivity and success. But when your hires are outsourced, how can you keep them on task and motivated? Must you resign yourself to the “honor system,” trusting that they’ll get the job done, or can you find a way to light a fire in your hires’ hearts and drive them to succeed?
Your checklist for freelance and service provider management success
Set expectations from the start
Freelancers management begins with good and open communication. Speak clearly with your freelancers about the scope of the job, the depth, and breadth of the work expected and the level of ongoing and open communication you demand. Also important, ask your hires to explain their expectations, and what they need from you, to be able to succeed.
For a comprehensive list of the questions you should ask any new candidate to determine best fit and set expectations, read this blog post.
Establish clear management practices and protocol
Explain how the company hierarchy works, how you expect them to report to you on progress, and what your role as manager entails. Make sure to get everything in writing, to limit future misunderstandings and to ensure your freelancers management process is documented.
These can include:
- Using task management software to track project status and timelines
- Sending out periodic (per task/daily/weekly) reports to management vis-a-vis project progress
- Proper etiquette and deferment to superiors
- And more.
Maintain clear and regular lines of communication
Check in with your hires regularly, to assess their progress, determine whether they need any help, and provide motivation from afar. Freelancers management is also about encourage hires to speak with one another, to make them feel part of the team and improve the results of their marketing efforts. To do this, explain that you (and they) will be using:
- Real-time messaging apps for real-time communication
- Emails for larger content transfers, task assignment, etc.
- Conference calls for remote communication between multiple team members
- Scheduling apps to set fixed and emergent times for one-on-one update and review calls
Trust your hiring decisions
Do not micromanage your freelancers and service providers. Once you’ve established the foundation for successful marketing activity, give them space to create the campaigns and content you know they’re capable of. A little breathing room goes a long way when it comes to creating a positive and productive work environment, especially in a distributed model. Practically speaking this freelancers management route involves the following process:
- Assign the task and provide necessary instructions
- Ensure the task is understood and provide time and space for questions to be asked
- Step aside and allow the freelancer to work on the task, uninterrupted
- Check in at pre-set times/intervals to assess progress
- Upon completion, review the project and make suggestions for improvements, as necessary
Feedback, constructive and positive, is essential in motivating your hires, as well as in ensuring they’re up-to-date with your company’s content and needs. Feedback is also a great way to motivate your freelancers and assure freelancers management that is built on long term relationship.
Tell them what they need to hear, to get the job done right. Here are some practical tips:
- Use the sandwich approach - positive comment, negative/improvement comment, positive comment
- Provide suggestions for improvements
- Ask what the freelancer needs to be able to modify the project successfully
- If time is of the essence, offer the help of another teammate, without making the freelancer feel that they cannot get the job done on their own, for any reason.
Own your project
As a manager, you are in charge of your project’s success or failure. But that doesn’t mean letting your freelancers get away with poor performance. As you are responsible for the final result, it is up to you to constantly go over generated marketing materials as soon as they’re handed in. That way, you can immediately identify and contact the provider responsible for sub-par work, and make any necessary changes, without haste. You’ll need to:
- Organize task delegation
- Ensure all team members understand their role in completing the task
- Ensure all team members know they can contact you with any questions or concerns, and that you’ll be checking in from once in a while to assess progress.
- Review the final product on micro and macro levels
- Contact the team member/service provider responsible for sub-par results
- Ensure adequate results are obtained