Principles for Managing Remote Teams and Freelancers

December 11, 2023 β€’

I lead a business that works in perfect harmony to achieve our ambitious goals. Here's some tips on how I do it.

Determine responsibilities

Most employees want to do a good job, but it's hard if they don't know what is expected of them. You are expected to give clear instructions to your team, outlining their responsibilities. This helps guide them towards the future goals of the company.

You need to understand your role and what is expected of you before you figure out what is expected of your team in this new era of work.

Develop and structure an onboarding process.

New hires are often enthusiastic and understandably nervous on their first day on the job. Your onboarding process defines your employees' experience and influences their productivity right out of the gate.

I acknowledge the need for an effective onboarding process is more pronounced, as new hires cannot simply turn to their colleagues for clarification. An easy, step-by-step guide that helps new hires grasp and embrace the company culture is vital. For instance, assigning them an onboarding buddy would be a great place to start.

I have a short onboarding process tackling the tools we frequently use. I avoid complicated processes and using too many tools so people can explore and find their ways. Members of our tiger team are also granted responsibility over a particular subject, which I've found helps get them up to speed fast.

Regularly get in touch with your team.

It’s easy to notice when one is overloaded while working in a physical location. This can manifest as skipping lunch, always staying late, or other noticeable signs. It's easy to miss these signs when working remotely.

I ask my employees how they're doing with their current workload. I inquire about how they meet deadlines and if they need more time.

I hold short daily status meetings where everyone describes their work and any problems they've faced. This helps me instruct them on the next course of action. These meetings are crucial in ensuring everyone is on the same path.

Let your team members pitch ideas.

Your employees aren't just drones to work tirelessly. They are unique individuals with traits that can be advantageous to your organization. Create a conducive and nurturing environment for them to thrive in. Allow them the freedom to be autonomous in their work and to contribute to the projects.

You may benefit from asking for input on what systems work best for your employees. You could also ask their opinion on how best to get work done. It'll likely improve their job satisfaction and productivity. Your employees are more than workers and making them part of the team will help the overall growth of your organization.

Transparency and trust.

Transparency is vital in every institution, whether on-site or remote. I cultivate a culture of honesty and openness by informing my team of overall decisions and strategies made on top. This makes them feel aligned with the company's big picture and tackle challenges with this goal in mind.

I achieve this by adding a clear "Why" and "What" to every task. This way, employees can understand why they're doing that task. The "What" is merely a suggestion, and if they can find a better alternative to reach the same goal, they're allowed to improvise.

I'm also open to feedback and criticism of the workflow process from my employees. The goal is to create a system that works well and is efficient for all of us. We have meetings to discuss the process of work and if there's anything that can be improved or overhauled. We change what doesn't work and replace it with what works. This swift process creates a level of trust and transparency in our team. We work faster and better due to the trust we've built.

These are the tactics of military commands that I've implemented in our software development workflow.

Clear reporting and communication.

A company runs on the efficiency of communication. With an in-house team, it is easy for employees to walk to your office to report their progress or if they have an inquiry. For remote teams, your employees may not know where you are or if you're available for feedback.

A good practice would be to schedule specific times during the day when they can book short sessions with you. You could then provide them with a calendar so they know which slots are open. My team achieves this by holding the aforementioned daily status meetings.

Clarify the rules and goals.

It is vital to be clear about what each of the rules means. Rather than using adjectives like urgent, clarify that you need the work delivered by the end of the day or in two hours. Clarify when deadlines start and end.

I have commonly known essential work principles and core values that I live by, which help define our company culture. Though each team member works with a lot of autonomy, adhering to this culture helps ensure our continually successful results.

Productivity tools

We all struggle with distractions, lack of motivation, and many other hindrances to productivity. Give your team tools that help you overcome this hurdle.

There are a variety of apps on the internet that help you focus and avoid distractions. You can also introduce them to white noise generators and LoFi music channels to help them set the mood for work.

Be aware not to make your workflow too "noisy." We in TigerTeamX keep things simple. We partition our workflow into 1-2 hour segments. These partitions allow for maximum concentration on the tasks at hand which results in better quality of work. This prevents getting lost and boosts our productivity.

We use Goleko to enhance our productivity. It is a state-of-the-art project management tool with beautiful features that enhance productivity. We communicate, handle tasks, make edits and corrections, and progress various tasks all in one place. It is fast and user-friendly as well which makes it an excellent choice for all of us.

Well-documented procedures.

Remote employees can't just walk up to their colleagues and ask how something should be done. Having clearly defined standard operating procedures (SOPs) for damn near everything makes things simpler. Experience tells me that it is better to keep it simple. Have task templates that you fill out.

Never overload your employees.

It is easy to distinguish between work hours and time to call it a day when working physically. With remote work, it is not so clear-cut. You could find some team members working longer, negatively impacting their work-life balance and long-term productivity.

In our team, we have two personality types. Some people have low self-drive. They need to be motivated with fun and exciting tasks that they'll feel nice accomplishing. The other is enthusiastic people who take on whatever assignments you assign and overwork themselves without complaining.

It is crucial to know your team and each of their personality types. If you have a personality one person and don't give them exciting tasks, they'll get disengaged, underperform, or even leave. Over-tasking a personality two-person, on the other hand, will lead to burnout.

Small things matter

Such things as water-cooler chats and small talk at the office are generally viewed as distractions. Such informal interactions help bond your employees and prevent feelings of isolation, which fosters team spirit.

Encourage these informal interactions when working with remote teams. You can host virtual team-building activities or use your communication channels to host non-work-related social interactions. We have Friday meetings where we banter and discuss off-topic stuff. We play online games to strengthen our bonds.

Avoid micromanagement

It's easy to fall into the dangerous trap of micromanaging your team. This often leaves your employees feeling like you have no faith in their abilities but that doesn't mean there's no place for it.

I micro-manage when I first hire a new employee. I make it known clearly to them that I will be doing less and less micromanagement as the days and weeks go by till we reach a point where they will be working autonomously. The less I do the better as this will allow more work to be done faster and better. I do this to help them get up to speed with the work structure before I let them proceed on their own.

I let my employees do their work and give feedback on their results but not on their process. If you have suggestions on more efficient ways to do things, approach it gently and explain why your way might be better. Give clear and sufficient guidance to get the job done. It is important to calibrate your instructions to each different team member, as some will need more guidance than others.

Look for opportunities for collaboration.

Remote workers often struggle with feelings of isolation. You can solve this by encouraging interaction among your team. Divide and distribute tasks into small groups rather than having one person do all the work.

Emotional support

Employees may have different emotional setbacks affecting their productivity. We've established loneliness as a common struggle, while others may have personal issues affecting them.

TigerTeamX members are happy to have a professional who comes in once a quarter to talk to people and see how things are going. I've found that this helps alleviate a lot of their stress and ensure their well-being.

Provide remote-specific training.

The dynamic around working remotely is different from in-house work. You should train your employees on the skills they need to work effectively while physically separated. This has been the trend in most companies gravitating towards remote work.

We have multiple employees for the same roles. They work together on one thing, sharing ideas to figure out the best way forward.

Motivate your workers

You usually need everyone in your team motivated to do their best. You can achieve this by setting goals and recognizing their success. I think it is vital to highlight whenever things are not going well. I am sufficiently direct and solution-oriented in these instances. Don't call people out in front of teammates. Let them know privately where they went astray and how to improve it.

Listen to your team's inputs and any issues they raise.

Create opportunities for people to move up in your company and encourage problem-solving, growth, and education. This lets them know you're involved and invested in their future with your company.

How to effectively manage freelancers

Working with a team of freelancers rather than permanent employees has several benefits. They come with the required skill, saving valuable training time and resources. Their flexibility can also benefit large organizations that serve customers from different time zones.

Managing them can often prove difficult since they aren't familiar with your company culture. Here are some pointers on how to effectively go about it.

Positive relationships and communication

It is crucial to maintain a positive relationship with your freelancers. This will significantly improve their responsiveness and the quality of work they produce.

Select a communication channel that they can all reach you on. Establish a required communication pattern, such as a compulsory weekly or daily check-in.

Define project details

A freelancer is an outsider unfamiliar with your company's way of doing things. You should provide them with project details and guidelines on how to meet your expectations.

A great place to start would be the job description you use in the selection process. Define the scope of work and the deliverables you expect from them. Then, after onboarding, you can provide them with a reference document detailing any specifics relevant to their task.

Proper documentation

Your freelancer team will need documentation to ensure that their work is up to date. This may be the tone and grammar your company needs for its publication. Developers may need directions to document their code or specific coding styles to follow.

Freelancers are not employees.

Freelancers are independent contractors. They have the right to refuse any work you assign them. They also have the liberty to work on their schedule and take time off whenever it suits them.

Do not micromanage your team. Afford them the flexibility to work as they see fit, provided they submit their deliverables on time.

Treat freelancers as your business partners.

A freelancer is your business partner. You should think of them as an organization that provides a service to yours. Offer them the same courtesy you give a client, supplier, or independent auditor.

Use project management tools.

Project management software is essential when working with freelancers. It helps you manage tasks effectively, even when tracking multiple projects. This is why we use Goleko. It is a beautifully designed project management tool with communication provisions built into it. This makes it faster to get information across as compared to using emails. It also has the added advantage of allowing for proper tracking of the work done. This makes our work faster, more efficient, and easy to accomplish.

Set expectations and budget.

Have clearly defined expectations in place, as well as an agreed-upon rate. Provide extra pay when you give them extra work. When you respect the contract, they are more likely to deliver high-quality work within the agreed-upon timeframe.

Include freelancers in team-building activities.

Making freelancers feel part of your team is essential. You can have them undergo your organization's remote onboarding process so they understand your company's culture. You should also engage them in informal activities and interactions outside their scope of work. This helps build camaraderie and trust, which are stepping stones to a healthy long-term relationship.

Provide feedback.

Freelancers are self-employed and are thus highly motivated to turn you into a regular client. They tend to strive to deliver, so you consider them for future projects. Give regular feedback to ensure their work is up to par.

This also applies when the relationship turns sour and you stop working with the freelancer. Feedback on where they went wrong and how the issue can be avoided can help their relationship with the next client.

Respect their time and autonomy.

Freelancers often work for several clients concurrently. This means that you can't expect their constant attention or availability. It would be counterintuitive to micromanage their actions. Allow them to act independently while still maintaining strict schedules.

Know their strong and weak sides.

Freelancers often have a niche or two they are particularly good at and others they struggle with. You should make a point of finding out where each of their strengths lie. You can play to their strengths and ensure they constantly deliver high-quality work.

Hold live meetings with freelancers.

It is crucial to check in regularly with your team of freelancers. One such way would be by holding live meetings. Remember that a freelancer's time is valuable, and scheduling emergency meetings may not work for their schedule. Ensure that you inform them of any meetings well in advance.

Rewards and recognition.

It is vital to keep in mind that freelancers are human. They can take time off or have a sick day. They need the recognition that their work is crucial. Reward their successes and milestones. Though you may never meet them in person, it is vital to cultivate a personal relationship with them.

How to share vulnerable data with remote workers and freelancers.

You'll often need to send sensitive information, such as passwords, securely to company software. Due to the abundance of malicious individuals on the internet, it is crucial to utilize a tool that ensures the privacy of such sensitive communications.

Goleko is an ideal solution as it has an integrated communication system created within it. It allows for communication between team members working on a project without the fear of information leaking out to unauthorized individuals. It also has the added advantage of tracking all projects that have been completed and making real-time edits and adjustments.


Leading a remote team can prove hectic, as managing people you hardly see is challenging. Maintaining clear communication is vital for remote teams. Transparency, trust, motivation, and providing emotional support enhance the productivity of your remote workers. Productive workers are crucial to the success of any organization.

There are often several issues when managing freelancers. This is mainly because they are not familiar with the company culture. Clearly outlined project scopes and details help get the best out of freelancers. Treat them as business partners and respect their autonomy.

Reading about 7 Tips for Effective Communication in Remote Teams will also help you improve remote management. Check it out, and thank me later!