Tech is evolving the business in big ways. One of the changes that many are still adapting to is the accessibility of work from far, far away. Not only does the internet allow opportunities to start working for yourself from home (as freelancers know!), but it can even allow you to start running a team from home, too, scattered across the country (or even the world). This is essential when your freelance business grows beyond your ability to handle it alone. Additional freelancers, virtual assistants and web designers can all become potential long-distance team members.
Remote working comes with its challenges, however, and many businesses have failed to meet them. With both clients and employees, here’s how you make the long-distance thing work.
Stay on the same page
There’s a lot of information that’s going to be easy to share from person to person. Certain sites they can use, certain rules of employment, and updates to old processes can be easily transferred. Some information might be a lot harder for your team to acquire, however.
For instance, the specifics of certain work processes and responsibility might not be so easily conveyed by sending an email every time you get a new team member. Instead, it might be best to create an online employee handbook that you can share much more easily than having to explain it anew every single time.
While you want to avoid making it like an instruction manual, your handbook can contain all the necessary information on how to do jobs, so newbies spend less time asking you questions. You will always have questions to answer, of course, but a well-written handbook can make them a much less frequent occurrence and in the form of an ebook, it will be very easy to send to new employees.
Set clear expectations
Your employees need to know what exactly they should be accomplishing in a day. If you have repeating goals day-in, day-out, then posting deadlines can make sure everyone’s working on the same schedule as you. Otherwise, it might be worth having weekly conversations with team members to establish the specifics of their duties for the week and to set clear goals.
Communication is key
Whether you’re running a team or simply dealing with many clients for home, making communication as efficient and cost-effective as possible is going to save you a lot of headaches. Using online project management software or even a Google Sheet document can make it easier to share objectives with the whole team, for instance.
Meanwhile, if you have to make a lot of phone calls, then using video conferencing software or VoIP business phone systems can save you a great deal on your phone bills. It’s a good idea to set certain guidelines for which communication lines to use in which case for your team.
If they have a single question, for instance, an IM might be the best way to get a prompt answer. If they need help with a more involved part of their workload, then a call might allow both parties to exchange details more dynamically.
When to hire and when to outsource
The switch from an independent contractor to a business with employees usually comes when your responsibilities become too much for you to take on your own. However, it’s wise to really determine those additional needs before you decide whether going through the hassle of a new hire is worth it, or if outsourcing the extra work as a temporary solution might work better.
For instance, you’re not likely to have constant need of a website designer so it might make more sense to outsource them. On the other hand, if you’re running a content marketing team and you find you’re no longer enough to create all marketing content yourself, then it’s probably more cost-effective to hire an extra copywriter.
Get together once in awhile
Both with clients and with customers, the internet is a useful tool for providing a way to connect from afar, but it can’t quite match the positive impact of a face-to-face meeting.
Take the time to travel to long-term clients, showing them that they have the attention and dedication they need from a business and build a good relationship by putting a face to the name. Hosting team conferences with your employees can be a great way to build something of a company culture, a feature that’s easily missing when every individual works in isolation. Without that feeling of workplace bonding, they might not feel like a member of a team, and thus have one less reason to continue working with you.
Working remotely might be convenient to your team, but without some sense of belong in the business and some sense of team unity, it’s all too easy for them to feel like their job isn’t as fulfilling as a more traditional setup might be.
Make use of the flexibility
There are several factors of flexibility that remote working allows over the traditional working environment. The most obvious one is that it allows all members of the team to work from wherever they want, whether it’s their home, a café, or they might benefit from a co-working space. Unless you’re willing to buy them all their devices, it allows for a choice of hardware, as well.
But one extra element of flexibility to make more use of is the time they actually spend working. If having everyone stay on the same schedule isn’t as crucial to your business, then offering them the ability to work when they see fit, so long as they meet a certain deadline, can be a perk that many other businesses aren’t likely to earn. Not only can it help retain employees, but it might help you hire from further afield, where different time zones might otherwise get in the way of a team’s cohesion.