Business growth runs in cycles. You may see a sudden surge in customer interest for three or four months, only to have a few weeks of little to no interest. For that reason, it can be difficult to commit to a full-time worker, complete with a salary and benefits. You don’t want to hire someone, only to have to dismiss that person when things slow down again.
The Internet has given businesses a great alternative to full-time staff members, allowing them to bring in people on a short-term basis. Businesses can outsource work to remote workers by the task, by the project, or on an agreed-upon regular basis. Whether you’re outsourcing to virtual assistants, web developers, consultants, or other professionals, here are ten tips to help you make sure you get the most for each dollar you spend.
Before you start your search for a remote worker, ask colleagues for referrals. The best way to find a great professional is from someone who has already had a great experience with that person. If no one in your immediate circle has a recommendation, ask around in the online networking groups in which you hold memberships. As you begin adding remote workers to your team, they may be able to refer others who would make great additions.
As you approach virtual workers or place ads on outsourcing boards, be sure you meticulously detail the work to be performed. This will save everyone time. Professional contractors are drawn to jobs where the hiring manager knows exactly the type of work that needs to be performed. While your wording should be concise, it should also be friendly. You don’t want to come across as someone who will be difficult to work with if you want to attract top professionals in that field.
One major problem with hiring remote workers is that you can’t meet candidates in person during the hiring process. Thanks to technology, however, it is possible to have a face-to-face meeting with candidates before you make a final choice. If you’re planning to hire someone who will work with you extensively for a period of time, request they meet you via a popular video chat option like Skype for a brief interview. During this videoconferencing session, you can ask the questions you’d ask if you were hiring an employee to work on site. This will help you avoid wasting time and money by hiring the wrong worker.
Don’t commit to a large project with someone new before trying that person out first. Even if you’ve interviewed the person first, you may find the style of work just isn’t what you’re seeking. Instead, dip your toe in the water first by assigning a small paid project to a remote worker. If you like what you see, you can gradually progress to bigger projects.
Provide an SOW
A Statement of Work (SOW) outlines exactly the work that will be performed, as well as the timeline in which it will be provided. The SOW should include the purpose of the work, the full scope of the task including tools that will be required to perform it, and the deliverables schedule. There are templates available to get you started, but the remote worker will likely want to offer his own input into items that should be included.
Schedule Regular Meetings
As part of your SOW, you should include regular meetings by phone or videoconference. These brief chats will allow you to discuss the progress of your project and mention any issues you’re seeing with the work. When a remote worker knows you’ll be regularly convening about the project, he’ll strive to meet milestones before that call takes place.
Use Collaboration Tools
There are a variety of collaboration tools now available that make working with remote teams easier. Everyone should have a place where they can meet to update each other on the status of projects, share files, and communicate. These tools can also make it easier for you to assign new work and track that status of those assignments. If you choose a piece of software that allows accessibility from your mobile device, you’ll find it’s easier to manage your teams, even while you’re on the road.
Create a Team
Unlike on-site teams, it can be easy for remote workers to be treated individually. If your team involves more than one worker, remote or on site, you should have at least an occasional group chat to make all team members feel as though they are part of the organization. If possible, bring everyone together every year or two in one place to allow remote workers and on-site workers to meet each other and put a face to the names they see every day.
Pay for Work Completed
One of the biggest problems you’ll experience with remote workers is that you’ll have no way to know whether someone is actually working or not. In an office, you can see employees playing instead of working. When they’re at home, they could be watching daytime TV all day on your dime. For this reason, it’s important to pay for work outcomes rather than having someone charge you hourly. If you’ve hired someone to design your website, for instance, you would pay a set fee for the delivery of wireframes, mockups, and final pages.
If hourly pay is necessary for a specific position, consider using tracking software that employees must log into each day in order to work. Employees check in when they’re ready to work and check out when they need a break or they stop working for the day. Choose an option that offers screenshot capabilities to allow you to audit a worker if you aren’t receiving the work you’re expecting for the hours worked. This may seem intrusive, but employees have the option to log out of the software when they want to stop working, so the technology is only running when the worker is performing work for your business.
Remote workers can be a great way to address the cyclical nature of a growing business. By putting the right processes in place from the beginning, you’ll be able to avoid wasting money on ineffective employees and be sure you’re paying only for the deliverables you’ve requested.