Top 5 Mistakes Agencies Make When Managing Freelance Teams

Posted on July 29, 2015 by Erin M

headacheFreelancers are great for helping agencies fill the gaps in their in-house talent pool. But managing a diverse team of freelancers who may never meet in person – much less work in the same time zone – can be a serious logistical challenge. Even if you’ve worked with these freelancers on smaller projects in the past, shifting scope demands on a major project can strain team communication and create unforeseen project delays.

Take the headache out of your agency’s next content project by avoiding these common team management mistakes:

  1. Underestimating the onboarding period. Collaboration doesn’t happen overnight. Getting everyone on the same page takes time, especially when it comes to more complex projects and large teams whose members may be unfamiliar with each other’s work styles. Build extra time for onboarding into your project calendar. It’s better to finish slightly ahead of schedule than struggle to get it done at all because of a rushed onboarding process.
  2. Failing to clarify roles in advance. Smaller projects may have only one designer or writer; larger projects may require a creative team of 10 or more. Assembling a diverse team brings a range of perspectives to the project that will help everyone think more creatively. But diverse teams can also lead to role confusion if team members are not used to working with each other. You don’t want two folks locked in a territorial battle over who’s the lead writer. Clearly communicate to each team member their roles and responsibilities prior to kicking off the project.
  3. Selecting the wrong web project management system. Get everyone on board with the same platform from day one. In addition to Basecamp, I like Redbooth for freelance team management (their virtual workspace is perfect for remote brainstorming), Clickup for productivity management and Asana for streamlined project communication. Whichever platform you choose, don’t assume all your team members will be familiar or comfortable using it. Consider including a brief platform tutorial as part of the onboarding process.
  4. Failing to establish clear revision protocols. A “minor” client change can turn into a major project edit – especially if internal miscommunication leads to a complicated change process. Put clear protocols in place to manage client feedback and edits. On large projects, I usually assign one team member to serve as the change point person. This person aggregates all client feedback, submits one list of edits, and then confirms all edits have been correctly made prior to send the revised content back to the client for approval.
  5. Failing to set time commitment and turnaround expectations in advance. When most (or all) of your team members will be working remotely, it’s critical to set clear expectations around work deadlines and availability. One of my favorite freelance designers is a stay-at-home parent whose availability can vary from week to week. If I tell her a project has an urgent deadline and to anticipate time-sensitive changes, however, she can adjust her schedule accordingly and be ready to respond immediately. Be sure all freelance team members are on the same page about time commitment and deliverable turnaround.

Writer Bio: Erin M is a freelance writer available for projects at WriterAccess.


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