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The Web3 world has always relied on remote freelancers, even before teleworking became more common. The nature of crypto means that talent and communities are dispersed all around the world, and it simply doesn’t make sense to apply the same rules to a blockchain organisation as it does to a centralised company.
Hiring freelancers from all around the world means that Web3 projects can access the best talent, while only paying for the tasks and/or hours they need. They also save on fixed costs, since they don’t need physical offices to work out of.
However, there are downsides to working with remote freelancers. It’s more complicated than dealing with permanent employees. Freelancers will typically have less loyalty to the company, because the business necessarily treats them as an on-demand resource. Getting the most out of your freelancers means structuring the relationship carefully, mitigating potential problems while still gaining the benefits that access to a dispersed, highly talented workforce gives you.
In the most general and high-level terms, this comes down to common sense and decency: communicating effectively, and treating them well.
When you’re onboarding a new freelancer, you’ll need to recognise that they won’t necessarily have deep insight into the nature of your business. They should be familiar with the Web3 space, of course, but you’ll need to spend a while getting them up to speed so that you can confirm they’re capable of doing the job, and have all the information they need to perform well. Start with high-level requirements and general points, before getting into the details.
To begin with, confirm that the freelancer really does have the skills and knowledge they say they do. If you’ve hired them from a platform like LaborX, this information should have been available in their bio, but you’ll need to follow up with any references they give, check their portfolio, view their Github repo, and so on. As well as what they can do (whether that’s designing logos, writing code, digital marketing, or anything else), you should check how they do it – that is, the tools and software they are comfortable working with.
Make sure you cover the practicalities. There’s a good chance you won’t share the same time zone, but there may be hours you need to be online together – team meetings, calls with clients, meeting certain deadlines, and so on. If that’s not going to be possible, for whatever reason, then you might need to rethink whether this is the right person after all. No matter how talented they are, it can cause serious problems if they can’t collaborate effectively. This meeting is also a chance to establish whether they are fluent enough in your language to make working together possible (which is not always a given).
Lastly, check they’re set up with all the right communication channels. Depending on the work they will be doing, Telegram might be enough, but it’s often better to bring them into your main Discord, Slack, or other chat app, to make sure they have access to all the right people and information.
Once you’ve established that your freelancer can do the work, and sorted out all the practicalities involved with that, then you can move onto the information they will need for the job.
Unlike your regular employees, these contractors are coming from outside your organisation and so will probably not be familiar with all of your company's different internal processes, or standard practices. To ensure that their work meets your expectations, it's important to be as explicit and detailed as possible when you define the scope of work; don’t make assumptions about what they know or understand.
How you deal with this is up to you, but depending on the nature of the task it can be helpful to take a traditional project management approach, in which specific requirements are established for each phase of the project. For each step, you’ll set out comprehensive guidance and clear expectations, including deadlines and deliverables. In short, set them up for success – even if you spend a little time giving them information they don’t need, it’s better than if they’re in the dark about something important.
One of the things you’ll need to give your freelancer is appropriate documentation for their job. Part of the purpose of this is to provide information they will need to meet the right standards, but documentation will probably be needed no matter what they are hired for, because your organisation will always have a certain way of doing things that is intended to project your brand or help your people to work together more effectively.
For example, if you hired the freelancer to write code, then there will be conventions around commenting and documentation. If it’s copywriting (blog or docs), there will be style guides. If art or graphic design, then brand palettes and other style information. Even if it’s community moderation, there will be a certain image you want to project, and agreed answers to particular questions. It’s best that you have this information ready to go when you need it, rather than rushing to make decisions at the last minute.
In the age of AI, documentation is particularly important. AI is fantastic at generating text, code, and images to use as a starting point – but it’s not well-suited to providing final, polished material that fits the image you want to project. The availability of AI potentially increases your employees’ and freelancers’ productivity and the quality of their work, but without human input, it will inevitably come across as generic. You need to personalise it to your brand, and documenting how to do that is vital if your freelancers are going to do a good job.
Setting Budgets And Expectations
Potentially the biggest issue you’ll need to settle, and certainly the one with the most scope for disagreements, is pay. It is vital to establish a clear agreement with freelancers, in which a budget is set, assets for delivery are specified unambiguously, and milestones for part-payment (if applicable) are stated. In short, nothing should be left to chance.
In many cases, you will want to pay on a per-job basis (if it’s a large job, split it into smaller tasks, with payment for each, and a further payment upon satisfactory completion). This is relatively straightforward: so long as the freelancer delivers what you need, they get paid.
At other times, it makes more sense to pay per hour. If that’s the case, have a discussion with them about how long they anticipate the work taking, set an initial budget and number of hours, and encourage them to be proactive in communicating with you if they think they’re going to go over that. Transparency is key in these situations, because the last thing you want to happen is to be charged for work that isn’t being done – or, more likely, work that is being ‘padded’ with other activities, and that therefore isn’t being done efficiently.
If there’s no other option, then time-tracking tools can be used to ensure accountability. These provide a log of when your freelancer is at work, and what tasks they’re doing. However, a lot of freelancers will not appreciate you asking for this, because it shows a lack of trust and puts the relationship on an awkward footing. Sometimes it’s necessary, but ideally you will hire people who are motivated enough, and professional enough, to do the work they’re supposed to be doing competently, and bill you honestly. It will generally become clear if they’re trying to overcharge or not doing the work fast enough, anyway – in which case you’re better off moving on and finding someone else, rather than try to make things work with someone who has already proven to be untrustworthy.
Although freelancers won’t be part of your core team (by definition), you should include them in your project management tools to simplify and streamline the process of working together. Some freelancers will resist this, because they will need to sign up and track different platforms (such as Trello, Asana, and so on, as well as your Slack or Discord, Telegram and other messaging apps). If they’re working for several different clients, this can get complicated and if it’s just a temporary job, it’s an overhead they may not want. Aim to strike a balance between including them in the project management tools and communication apps that will make your life easier (and help them deliver good work, on time), on the one hand, and over-burdening them on the other.
Joining The Team
Freelancing can be a strange position to be in. There’s a high degree of freedom to structure your time and choose the jobs you want – and often to enjoy a better rate of pay, and variety of work, than if you worked for just one organisation full-time.
On the other hand, there’s a lack of job security. Companies that hire you can – in the worst cases – treat you as no more than a disposable commodity. You’ll matter to them only for a short time, and only because you’re providing a piece of work they need, and then they’ll forget about you. Of course, that goes both ways: if a freelancer doesn’t feel appreciated, and that a company doesn’t see the need to treat them well, then they won’t feel any loyalty to the organisation in return. That’s not a good way to get the best out of your relationships with freelancers.
It’s very easy, as an organisation, to treat your remote workers (whether freelance or permanent) differently to your in-house staff. Those who are located in your office, assuming you have one, will have access to critical information faster, and will form closer relationships just because they spend more time together. Remote workers can feel – and be – left out.
Freelancers will perform better when they feel as if they’re a part of your team, not simply a resource you pay to use when it suits you. Try to include them in any team-building exercises and opportunities, including off-sites – if they’re going to work with you long-term, it’s worth getting together here and there, if possible. At the very least, make sure there are effective communication lines, and include them in any #general chat channels for the equivalent of watercooler talk. It’s surprising how much useful information is exchanged in such unofficial channels, both in physical workplaces and online. It’s vital that they can speak to your other employees, and know how to get in touch with the people they need to ask any questions.
Lastly, giving and receiving feedback is one of the most important ways you can establish a productive relationship with your freelancers. Done well, this is one of an organisation’s best tools for helping freelancers perform at their best and be an asset to your company.
Try to provide feedback in a non-threatening way, that does not sound like an accusation. Look at it as working together to achieve the right outcome, rather than correcting a mistake. Of course, if they have made a serious mistake then you’ll need to address that. In the vast majority of instances, though, the issue is more likely to be due to miscommunication or a misunderstanding. Take on board any feedback they offer in return.
LaborX gives you a number of tools to help choose your ideal freelancer (decentralised ratings system), ensure a good working relationship with them (in-app chat and automatic pay upon completion of tasks), and – in the unlikely case that things do go wrong – a dispute resolution system.
Are you a freelancer? Let us know your top tips for making sure the process of working together is as smooth and positive as possible!