How to Manage People Effectively

So, maybe you thought that when you became a freelancer you wouldn’t have to deal with people any more. After all, freelancing from home and being self-employed means that you’re the only person you’ll ever have to deal with.

Right?

Wrong!

If anything, the ability to deal with people is even more important to a freelancer than it is to a traditional employee.
Your freelancing business is actually all about people. If you think about it, dealing with the people who are your clients and prospective clients is vital to your freelancing success.

Later, when your business grows, you may also have to deal with people who work for you. Some of these people may be subcontractors that you outsource work to. Or, if your freelancing business is large enough, they may actually be your employees. In some cases, you may need to manage a team for a client’s project or for one of your own projects.

Here at Freelance Folder, we’ve already written quite a lot about managing clients. While managing clients continues to be a very important factor for freelancers, this post addresses the topic of how to manage others on projects or because they work for you.


Why Teamwork Is Important to Freelancers

Here’s a news blast for you. Contrary to the popular image of what a freelancer is, freelancers don’t always work alone.

It’s true. Large projects often require teams and it’s not at all unusual for a client to assemble a team of freelancers for a larger effort. Freelancer Folder, for example, is a multi-author blog. In other words, a team project.

You, yourself, create a team the instant you involve another person in your freelancing work. Whether that person is a subcontractor or an employee, your business now includes more than one individual.

If you’re going to succeed as a freelancer, you’d better learn to manage people.

Tips to Help You Make the Most of Your Team

So, you’ve brought a few additional workers into your business or a client has asked you to manage a project for them. Congratulations! You’re now a manager. It’s up to you to figure out how to tap into and harness the talent around you. Here are some tips to help:

  • Communicate clearly. Communication is probably the single most important factor when it comes to managing people. You can’t just assume that your team is in synch with your ideas. You need to express exactly what you need from your people in plain and unambiguous language. Often, when things go wrong, the problem can be traced to miscommunication. Don’t let this happen to you. Keep the channels of communication clear.
  • Look for strengths. A wise manager knows the strengths of those around her and seeks to harness those strengths. Several years ago, when I was asked to manage a technical writing team, I noticed that one of the team members had a great deal of experience with illustration. After discussing the matter with him, I learned that he actually preferred to create illustrations. Fortunately, the project we were working on required some illustrations. Even though the team member had originally been brought on board as a writer, I made sure that he was given those illustrations to work on. This made him happy and helped the project as a whole.
  • Give credit where credit is due. It’s very important to recognize your team members individually, and as a group. Don’t be stingy with referrals or references. Have you been thinking of giving a nice recommendation to that team member on LinkedIn or for their website? Go ahead and do it. Many managers overlook this aspect of management, but it’s important to keep morale up and to build loyalty within the team.
  • Treat your people well. Do you hate to work on weekends? What about rush jobs, do you dislike them? If you answered “yes” to these questions, but are routinely making your people work weekends or assigning unnecessary rush work, then you probably already know that you could be treating your people better. Above all, be sure to compensate them fairly. Nothing will demoralize your folks more quickly and cause them to jump ship the first chance they get than poor treatment.
  • Be patient. Even the brightest and best folks make mistakes sometimes. Your talented team will also make some mistakes. When it happens, don’t freak out and don’t panic. Work with your team member to understand what went wrong and make it a learning experience for both of you. Your patience will also be needed when your team member occasionally disappoints you. Remember that you’re not perfect either.
  • Be positive. Expect the best from your team and for your project. Don’t drag the project down with a negative attitude or by making disparaging comments. It’s okay to use constructive criticism when you need to, but make sure that you notice the good along with the bad. When necessary, find ways to encourage your team member to excel.

What About You?

Has your freelancing path included people management responsibilities yet? What tips to you have for effectively managing a team?

Share your ideas and experiences in the comments.

Image by lucamascaro