Remote freelancer performance reviews are an essential component of today’s increasingly distributed workforce. Remote work and freelancing are growing at an unprecedented rate. In a 2017 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 23 percent of respondents stated that they did at least some work remotely in the last year.
Those just entering the workforce might have had education and experience on evaluating and working with remote hires. Many even just a few years older, however, never had a chance to learn about navigating these interactions and were forced to learn on their feet.
In the process of remote work becoming a more regular part of everyday work, many companies missed the chance to institute the types of policies that have served them well in a traditional office setting. Chief among these is freelancer performance reviews. Often, freelancers do not go through the same in-depth evaluation process. In fact, some don’t have freelancer performance reviews at all.
This is less than ideal for both the company and the freelancer. On one hand, the company isn’t able to improve the people that are working for them and work toward getting closer to the exact work product that they are hoping for. Remote freelancers also miss out because they don’t receive that overarching feedback that lets them improve at their work.
Remote freelancers can already feel disconnected from the day-to-day operations inside of a company. By not providing freelancer performance reviews, you are taking from them that feedback that you would be giving to any other freelancer. This only furthers that divide. In companies with well-run remote operations, on the other hand, freelancers on the whole are intrigued by the idea. According to a 2017 survey by Flexjobs, 32 percent of people have considered quitting due to a lack of flexibility.
If you are considering conducting freelancer performance reviews, there are a few things that you should know:
Use Video to Simulate Focused, Face-to-Face Meetings
If you can’t meet with a remote freelancer in person, it is a good idea to schedule a time to chat through webcam instead. If you don’t use video chat in your daily work, this request will make it clear that the meeting is different and important. Showing your face also solidifies that they are important enough to your organization to get some focused time from you. 87 percent of remote hires feel more connected when using video conferencing.
A phone chat might be useful for daily work, but it fails to simulate an in-person meeting in the same way that a video chat would. It gives you the chance to get to know the people that work under you more closely. With face to face meetings, you can attach more than a picture and a voice to the person and get a general sense of their demeanor. This can help you to react to their tone and emotions during the review. This is a very valuable component in conducting freelancer performance reviews.
Delivering freelancer performance reviews through video chat increases the chances that they take it more seriously. Physical communication plays a large part in your message hitting home. Video conferences give you the opportunity to be more clear and provide the right physical cues so that remote freelancers can understand the importance of your words.
Lay the Groundwork for Successful Freelancer Performance Reviews
Go into the freelancer performance reviews you prepared. Know what it is that you want to say and the way that you want to say it. Work with each remote freelancer beforehand to deliver materials, gather peer review responses, and put together an outline for each review. You should never go into freelancer performance reviews without knowing what you want to touch on ahead of time.
Managers aren’t the only ones that need to be prepared going into freelancer performance reviews. Many companies will deliver an outline of the issues that they want to discuss with freelancers so that they don’t feel caught off guard by any of the issues that are discussed. Work with other managers to devise a plan for all freelancer performance reviews.
An Annual Performance Review Shouldn’t Be the Only One
Another mistake that companies often make is not scheduling regular freelancer performance reviews throughout the year. Full-time workers in a traditional setting are used to having their work reviewed quarterly, with a more in-depth review coming at least once per year. You should extend the same courtesy to remote freelancers as well.
Just like the people that work in your office, they would benefit from having regular, constructive feedback from superiors. By identifying areas for improvement on a regular basis, you’ll notice regular improvements in their work product as well.
Try to schedule regular freelancer performance reviews throughout the year. In the beginning, it may be a good idea to review work product with them more often to make sure that they are headed in the right direction. It is tough to blame a remote freelancer for subpar work when they haven’t had the opportunity to receive constructive feedback from superiors or peers.
Provide an Opportunity for Self and Peer Evaluation
Often, traditional performance reviews may include self and peer evaluations as well as a discussion with the direct remote manager. You should also include remote freelancers in these plans. In fact, it is critical that remote freelancers receive feedback from the people that they are working with.
Often, remote freelancers get to know the people that they are working with only through chat. They may belong to a Slack chat or something similar and occasionally hop on the phone. But without that daily personal interaction, it can be difficult to gauge how the people that you are working with really feel about your work. When you don’t have more personal interactions, delivering critique can be awkward.
By including self and peer reviews in your annual freelancer performance reviews, you give freelancers the ability to speak freely about where they believe that peers can improve. If you anticipate hurt feelings as a result, you can always keep the peer evaluations anonymous.
Giving remote freelancers the ability to provide feedback to each other helps them to feel like they’re shaping outcomes. This can help them to feel more appreciated and attached to the work. Everyone knows what it is like to work with someone that continues to do the same things wrong over and over again. But if they are not receiving the right feedback from others, you can’t reasonably expect them to fix those issues.
By soliciting feedback from remote freelancers, it also might open your eyes to issues that you didn’t know were there when conducting your own reviews of their work product. It can be hard to know the ins and outs of people who often pass files back and forth before they reach management.
Create a Single, Clear Message
When you go into freelancer performance reviews, think of it like any other review with any other hire. You want to create a single, clear message for them to take home. Giving a freelancer a laundry list of things for them to improve is going to make it difficult for them to absorb any of the items that you speak about.
By focusing on the most important messages that you want to deliver, you have a much better chance of a positive outcome from the meeting. Small things can be addressed in a less formal setting, but annual freelancer performance reviews are the perfect time to bring up the most serious issues affecting work performance.
Go into every review with a single clear message that you want to deliver. If you have more than one, try to keep it to less than 3 separate messages. The more limited that you can make the main points of your review, the better the chances that they will implement the changes that you discuss.
Make Solid Plans and Follow Through
At the end of freelancer performance reviews, work with every remote freelancers to put together an action plan for moving forward. By getting them involved in the process, it will feel less like a direct order and more like they will have a hand in shaping their future with the company.
Have a plan in place before you end the meeting. Each hire should know where they need to improve, the steps that they are going to take to make that improvement, and have an understanding of how they can work with peers and supervisors to facilitate a positive outcome.
As a manager, you might also have your own action plan for each freelancer. Make sure that if you are going to hold them accountable to the plans that you set that you are also holding yourself accountable as well. Be reliable and consistent and you will improve your chances of a positive outcome from freelancer performance reviews.
Reviews with Remote Freelancers are Different, But Not
At its core, freelancer performance reviews shouldn’t be all that different from the ones that you might have with other people working for you. You still need to go into the review with an idea of what you want to say, deliver it in a way that will be received well, and work with the person to put together an action plan that results in positive outcomes moving forward. The main difference is that this review will be conducted from behind a screen and webcam, and not directly in front of the person.
Reduce the disconnectedness that remote freelancers feel from the day-to-day operations of the company by conducting regular freelancer performance reviews. Use these reviews to remind them that their work is appreciated and that you want to work with them to improve where possible.
Ryan Bozeman is a copywriter and content strategist who specializes in working with marketing and SaaS companies. You can connect with him at www.BozeContent.com or on Twitter at @RyanBozeman.