If you’re running a Web3 business, there’s a good chance you’re managing a dispersed workforce across different countries, languages, cultures and timezones. It’s also highly likely that a number of your employees are freelancers – whether that’s just a few people you’ve hired on a short-term basis to plug a skills gap, or potentially the majority of your team over the long term.
Put all that together and there’s lots of room for problems and misunderstandings. Here’s how you can make sure you get the most out of your freelancers.
Freelancer Vs Full-time
If you’ve never managed freelancers before then the first thing you need to know is that it’s not like working with full-time employees. Some of this comes down to practicalities – not least why you’re hiring them in the first place – and some of it comes down to the nature of freelancing.
Because you’re hiring freelancers to carry out a specific job, they should come into the role with all the skills they need – that’s why you’re taking them on, after all. They won’t be doing any of the more general administrative work that your full-time employees do, for example, alongside their more specialised roles; they will be laser-focussed on a well-defined task.
Freelancers should therefore be far more independent than full-timers. Unlike full-time employees, they won’t need extensive training, and you shouldn’t need to spend resources doing that (unless you make them an offer to come on board on a permanent basis). While you might end up working with the same freelancers for years, they are free to move on – and so are you – whenever they want.
What you will need to do is change the way you plan work. You’ll need to know exactly what you need at the outset, before you even hire a freelancer. You’ll also need the right tools to manage your freelancers and the tasks you allocate to them. This includes setting up suitable communication channels and project management platforms. Freelancers thrive on independence, but they’ll (rightfully) expect you to give them everything they need to get the job done. If you don’t – aside from you not getting the best out of them – you risk them simply quitting on you.
Hire The Right People
Many of the problems associated with hiring freelancers can be circumvented if you are able to hire the right people in the first place.
Freelancing and Web3 both typically attract a certain type of person. Anyone who succeeds as a freelancer will be comfortable working independently by definition, and will not need micromanaging (and will very likely resent it if you try). They will be well organised and have good time-management skills. Web3, too, tends to attract self-starters who are willing to work hard, think outside the box, take risks and try new things.
There are two questions you’ll be asking yourself as the leader of a Web3 business: where can you find experienced professionals, and how can you ensure they are suitable for the job?
LaborX is the ideal platform for sourcing Web3 experts from across the full spectrum of roles, from web and smart contract developers through to marketing specialists and content creators. As an open, blockchain-based platform, LaborX can be used to access a global market of talent without barriers, and provides smart contract escrow and instant, borderless crypto payments for security and confidence by both parties.
You can browse LaborX for Gigs – clearly-defined, fixed-price services offered by freelancers – or post a custom Job. You can use the former if you need a popular, one-off task (like creating a logo, designing a website, writing a blog, and so on). If you need something that doesn’t fall into this category, you can upload a Job with your specific requirements for freelancers to search and apply for. You can also use the service to recruit for a full-time vacancy.
You can check out each freelancer’s profile before you take things further. Each user has a decentralised reputation score that takes into account previous activity on LaborX and feedback from former clients. You’ll also be able to view their portfolio and any other information they have provided. You can use the built-in Chat function to ask any further questions you might have.
This enables you not only to view talent from as wide a pool as possible, but to set yourself up for success by making sure they have the right skills and experience, that previous clients have been happy with their work, and practical details like whether they are in a timezone that is compatible with the job you want them to do.
Once you’ve found your ideal freelancer, you’ll need to add them to all the tools and processes you’ve set up to manage them. As a minimum, that will probably include:
- One or more communications platforms: Slack is great for companies, though Discord is widely used as a flexible alternative in Web3. If privacy is key, consider an encrypted platform like Element (which is somewhat like Slack/Discord).
- Project management software. Trello is good for fairly simple tasks, while Asana is more complex but offers greater functionality. Basecamp is another popular alternative. (Bear in mind that what works best for your full-time employees may not be the best option for freelancers who will appreciate simplicity and clarity, and will not want to spend time learning to use another application as a condition of doing their job.)
Provide full documentation and briefs, without giving unnecessary detail. Writers will need your style guide, designers your brand book, developers any code guidelines, and so on.
Some organisations use time-tracking software to ensure their freelancers invoice the right amount. However, this is intrusive and shows a lack of trust, which is never a good footing for a working relationship. Many freelancers (especially in Web3) may simply refuse to work with you if you impose this as a condition.
Communicating effectively with freelancers can be difficult to judge. The aim is to give them all the information they need to do their job well, but not overload them with unnecessary messages and irrelevant details about the company. At the same time, you don’t want them to feel peripheral or excluded, especially if you plan to keep them around for the long term and maybe offer them a more formal position one day.
Decide what needs to be communicated in real time and what can be asynchronous, and the best way to do that in each case (email, Slack, Trello, etc). This is especially important if you’re working across time zones.
Don’t silo information unnecessarily. Try to communicate with all freelancers through the same channels to avoid them missing notifications that might be useful, but ideally minimize the different ways they will receive messages. Slack and Discord allow you to invite users to different channels, which allows you to establish a primary means of communicating with each freelancer or group according to their role (developer, marketer, content creator, etc), but also gives the others visibility of those conversations in case it’s helpful.
Meetings are a double-edged sword at the best of times, and especially for freelancers. They’re far too widely used in regular business, and most of what they’re used for is a waste of time. Having said that, it is generally useful to get everyone together periodically – perhaps in a weekly All-Hands meeting at a suitable time – to go through any major business and make sure everyone is on the same page. Initially, you might invite but not require some of your freelancers to attend these.
In short, managing freelancers forces you to be highly judicious with your use of meetings. Often, how much information you give them and which meetings they are invited to attend will depend on the extent to which they have bought into their work and the loyalty they feel towards your company. The nature of freelancing is that it tends to be highly transactional, and freelancers have very little job security – so if you want them to feel a part of your business, that needs to come from you first.
When you hire a freelancer, it is vital to set expectations clearly, including the scope of the work and the deadline, and of course your budget. It’s important there isn’t any room for uncertainty when it comes to invoicing.
In some cases, it will be appropriate for freelancers to bill you by the hour, using whatever hourly rate you set. But that’s not always ideal, and it can raise questions of trust and efficiency. It’s better, if possible, to work on a per-task basis, with payment for specific milestones. In some cases, as with content writers, you might set a per-word or per-article fee.
Unlike permanent employees, freelancers will generally invoice you for work they have completed. Like regular employees, they will expect to be paid promptly. Many organisations treat their freelancers badly in this respect, and it’s one of the primary reasons freelancers will choose to move on and look for a more reliable arrangement. Setting up the right accounting systems is therefore a critical part of working with freelancers.
If you’re using a freelancing platform like LaborX, then you’ll agree payment prior to work starting, and escrow the required funds. When the job is satisfactorily completed, they will automatically be released to the freelancer.
Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) are a special case of working and hiring in Web3. These are organisations that are built on the blockchain and do not have a centralised management structure; decisions about how they are run, including hiring and payments, are made by consensus following community votes.
There are many different possible structures for DAOs, and different ways of hiring. Larger DAOs are typically broken down into smaller units, which manage their own budgets and have a high degree of autonomy in how they operate. MakerDAO takes this approach with its Core Units, which oversee different aspects of the ecosystem, and may be informal groups or more traditional incorporated companies. The community as a whole allocates a tranche of funding to each Core Unit, and leaves the rest up to them (with regular reviews to ensure accountability). Every Unit decides how it goes about hiring and organising work.
Smaller DAOs may operate at a more grassroots level, with the community hiring people directly. Generally this is done through a process of informal conversations and more formal proposals made on various online forums, followed by on-chain votes. This is not sustainable for large DAOs, but can work well enough if only a few hires are being made. DopeDAO, for example, which oversees the Dope Wars game, engages freelancers directly following Discord conversations to establish their suitability. When work is completed, the community votes whether to pay for it – something that many freelancers may find daunting, since there is the possibility of not receiving funds due if the work is deemed to be below the required standard (fairly or otherwise).
In practice, freelancers are typically well known to the community and have been involved over the long term, so there is seldom a problem. If you are setting up a DAO, bear in mind that unless your requirements are fairly simple, you will probably need some kind of intermediary layer or layers, even at the cost of decentralisation. (A very high level of decentralisation generally reduces the efficiency of operations, and can prevent work from being approved, due to the difficulty in gaining consensus from disparate groups of DAO stakeholders.)
Freelancers can be an excellent resource for Web3 companies, but managing them requires a different set of tools and processes to working with your permanent employees. It’s critical to define tasks clearly, provide all the information they need (but not too much more), enable robust communication, but also allow a high degree of autonomy. Good freelancers thrive on independence and trust, so once you’ve found and hired the right person, the best you can do is let them get on with the job in hand with all necessary support but minimal interference.