Do You Know What Makes a Remote Freelancer Successful?

In the past, I have worked for some employers who were not the biggest fans of remote working and feared lazy employees hanging on the couch while watching Netflix instead of doing their jobs. Due to COVID-19 and the respective social distancing, I think many companies had to overcome their dislike for working from home and get comfortable with the situation.

If you want to know how to establish successful remote relationships with your team and colleagues or if you maybe look into hiring remote freelancers to get the best support for your projects, here are the most important characteristics to evaluate whether or not a remote worker will be a valuable asset for your business.

Expert in His/Her Field

First of all, when getting a remote worker on board you should make sure he or she is an expert in their field. Because the main reason – unless you are forced into social distancing – why you shift from an in-office employee to remote staff is because that person has skills that bring true value to the team. Experience matters, a lot. Make sure they are an expert in their own field, which will be backed-up with years of work experience. This will save you a lot of time in the project process because they ask the right questions and seek to find the right answers. And point out things that maybe you haven’t even considered yet. Why? Because they know what they do.

Excellent Communication Skills

At the beginning of any remote working relationship, both parties should agree on how to communicate. Good communication is essential for the entire project outcome. Will you be working in the same systems so everyone can see the progress at any time, have the same to-do lists, or who will send whom regular update emails?

Successful freelancers are often tech-savvy and can recommend you tools to stay in touch, if you are still new to it. Platforms like slack, zoom, or even skype work very well to exchange some thoughts.

Regardless of how well organized your communication is digitally, I recommend you to hold regular meetings as well. Especially at the beginning of each remote relationship, you build trust through empathy when seeing the other’s face. Video chats can replace the usual face-to-face meetings. They build a sense of camaraderie between teams, nobody feels forgotten at the other side of the world. Even when I was still working in an office, where we see each other all day long, we had weekly jour fixe or stand ups scheduled. These regular updates or status quo meetings ensure everyone is on track, and to identify if anyone is struggling with their tasks. And sometimes talking about something helps to avoid misunderstandings, which quite frequently can happen with badly written emails.

To get the most out of these video or phone calls, make sure to have a clear agenda, and set a fix start and end of the conference call. Nobody wants to lose precious time.

While I’m an introvert – and not a morning-talking person as well – I do know though how important correct communication is. Through my experience I learned that communication can never be enough, never be too detailed, never be too polite. As my job brings a lot of contact to attendees at conferences and events, it is up to my communication skills how well-informed and comfortable the guests, speakers, and hosts feel. Representing every client with outstanding manners towards each participant is key. Keep this in mind when formulating your next email. Just because the other end cannot see you, doesn’t mean he deserves any less respect. Make an effort to make their life easier, put a smile on their face to form long-lasting relationships.

I’d like to highlight that a remote working relationship doesn’t necessarily mean never to get to meet the other person face-to-face. Depending on the type of project and remote tasks, it might make sense to fly in to meet in person to get to know each other and build trust. When working on larger events which take months to plan, I usually fly over to meet with my clients in between just to make sure we are still on the same page. For event planning projects, this can ideally be combined with a site inspection of the event venue to go through details over there.

When working with entire remote teams, an (bi-)annual team social meetup will work wonders to bond, boost inspiration and energy. Creative brainstorming very often works better face-to-face as well.

True Collaboration Sense

Same as establishing communication flows, it is important to define how to collaborate and state clear expectations of this collaboration. We all know that those who write down goals are more likely to achieve them. So set up timetables and stick to them. This will build trust to grow a good relationship because you can rely on the other party’s work. It’s the first step to working together towards success.

Successful remote freelancers will also identify themselves with their clients and think in a sense of ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ for the duration of the project. They will put their clients before themselves and meet their deadlines. They attend a conference call that might be outside of their normal working hours because of time difference. And they are honest when mistakes happened because they want to work on a solution together to keep the project on track.

In the end, my client’s success is my success. So I am as passionate and committed about their project as they are. We have a great sense of collaboration, bring in leadership qualities, and are willing to step up for our clients.

Remarkable Project Management

Actually, a good project management should always include clear goals and be up-to-date. And if you are still struggling with this, you might want to look at remote freelancers. The successful ones have excellent time management and organization skills.

Why is that? If the switch to working from home during these times was new to you, have you noticed how hard it is for you to focus all day when the sofa is offering a cozy blanket to chill, the sun lures you on the terrace to relax, and the remote is screaming for you to take it? Well, successful remote workers can resist all of the temptations at home. While many of my former colleagues always cried for home office, they might cry for returning to the office now because it takes proper discipline and dedication to work to stay productive at home.

The difference to working with remote freelancers is their own work schedule which might differ from yours. If you want the best on your team, you might have to accept different time zones or work times. But keep in mind that the good ones are willing to operate when needed – which at times might not be convenient for them – and that their flexible work schedule also allows them to work late at night which means you could have results first thing in the morning. It is not always bad to have different schedules, so embrace it.

If you are tired of tracking your projects in Excel or maybe even on paper (or not at all?), I can recommend you some fine tools, which will make your life so much easier: check out Asana, ClickUp, or Trello, and skyrocket your productivity.

And if that’s not your thing, you could even consider hiring a remote freelancer to do exactly that for you, keeping track of your projects while you dive into the madness of your creative mind and don’t have to deal with administration.

Open and Dedicated Mindset

But staying up late, giving up weekends, and wanting to be a meaningful contribution to their client’s business is not everybody’s thing. It is more than just skills that counts here. Successful remote workers are passionate about their job and also passionate about freelancing itself. They are great in organizing themselves, set their own working schedule, work towards self-imposed deadlines, accounting for themselves.

We don’t do it only for the money, but we love what we do. And because we enjoy what we are good at, we are continuously finding new ways to improve further. We are excited at the word ‘new’ and embrace opportunities.

The open mind and dedication to what we love most make us confident that whatever we are working on is possible. And because of that, we deliver. Striving for high-quality work on time and exceeding expectations is no burden, it is our joy to put a smile on our client’s face.

Thinking optimistically leads to accomplishing tasks faster and better. Give it a try! This said, as an expert we believe in ourselves and operate with trust and transparency. If you get the feeling a remote freelancer is hiding something from you, find out why that is and change it. Any remote worker should be responsive, work goal-oriented, and be kind to establish good relationships with clients.

Proactive Working

Last but not least, as anyone striving for success, it does not end up in your lap by being lazy. When choosing your ideal remote freelancer, ask them how they spend their time while they are not working on anyone’s project. The wrong answer would be to hang around lazily. Instead, we use the time to enhance our skills further. Which is what I would like to recommend to anyone who is forced to stay home during social distancing times.

When moving to Malta I suddenly was confronted with power outages, sometimes more than once a month, for several hours. But I didn’t take those outages or internet problems or rain or whatever people might come up with as excuses to stop working. Whereas some employees just go to their office to sit their eight hours in a comfy chair before they can go home again, successful freelancers want to accomplish something, we are too ambitious to waste our precious time.

Be ambitious and consistently strive for more. That is what makes a freelancer truly successful. They take the initiative not only during low seasons but also for their clients to innovate things to fit their needs. They share ideas with you. They have an eye for task optimization and act upon it.

Maybe this initiative comes from the need to solve problems on our own all the time because since we work independently we most often don’t have anyone to turn to but figure out how to proceed ourselves. While employees and team colleagues can rely on day-to-day instructions from their superior, we face problems and come up with solutions ourselves. Maybe it is even a problem we see at our client’s side – and with our great collaboration effort – we make their problem ours if it helps working towards the same goal.

I know there are many freelancers out there and unfortunately, only a few are really passionate and truly dedicated to their work. It may be overwhelming to find the suitable one for you but I hope with the characteristics outlined above it will be a little easier to identify your remote candidate.

In the end, remote working relationships are mutual benefit. By figuring out the best way of working together, giving each other the flexibility and trust they need to perform excellent work, it will pay off for both sides in increased productivity. Treat each other with respect and like professional adults and you are off to a successful start.

Have a wonderful day and embrace the change!

Kristin Sammann

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