Managing a team of freelancers, remote employees and contract workers across multiple time zones can lead to communication confusion and missed deadlines. Did Alexis just make changes to the latest design or is she working off an old version that Jamie’s already updated? Which of my designers is free to take care of these rush edits? How can I get an overview of all the project tasks so information isn’t siloed?
Avoid the most common project communication pitfalls with these tips for collaborative project management:
Problem: You’re still relying on email to assign tasks and track project status.
Solution: Use a single project collaboration platform. The first step to eliminating coordination chaos is to pick a single web-based project collaboration platform. While Basecamp has long been an industry standard, I also like Asana, Redbooth and Wrike. All of these options are great for hosting real-time workspace collaboration, document sharing, task management, and big-picture overviews. Whichever option you pick, onboard everyone from day one.
Problem: A lack of team unity leads to low morale and motivation.
Solution: Put a face to a name. When everyone is working out of the same office, you get to know little quirks about your co-workers. You know Heidi down in HR has a weakness for “Taco Tuesdays” at the local Mexican food truck, for example, and that Joe over in Marketing coaches his nephew’s Little League team on the weekends. Freelancers and remote workers, on the other hand, can seem like an amorphous “other”, hurting team unity. Be a more cohesive team by putting a face (and personality) to a name. Create a list of all your team members with their headshots and a short “about” blurb. Skip the boring bio details and get interesting; ask folks to tell you what are the three things they’d take on a mission to Mars, the last movie they watched, or their favorite guilty food pleasure.
Problem: Herding cats is easier than finding a conference call time that works for everyone.
Solution: Establish clear availability expectations. One of the upsides to freelancing is the ability to set your own hours – this can also be a downside, too, especially for project managers coordinating work across multiple time zones. If you want team members to be available once a week for a status update call, pick one day and time (e.g. Wednesday afternoons at 2pm EST) and stick to that time. Midday calls are generally best for teams spread out across multiple time zones.
Problem: No one has availability for your rush edits.
Solution: Give folks a heads up if you’re expecting changes. Many writers and designers take a daily break from email so they have time to concentrate on their work without distractions. If you know that you’ll have a set of urgent revisions coming later that day, give your team a heads up so they can anticipate edits and know they’ll need to turn these around quickly. When your best freelancers feel like you respect their time, they’re a lot more likely to say yes to rush jobs.
Writer Bio: Erin M is a freelance writer available for projects at WriterAccess.