everaging freelance marketplaces


7 Tips for Building a Lean Workforce

Continuous improvement? Small, incremental changes? Build – measure – learn? Sure, that’s the way to go with building products and developing businesses nowadays. But if you still don’t know what your goal for the next iteration will be, how do you know which expertise you will need? 

Or do you really need to know?

We’ve gave up on the old project management techniques where the requirements were frozen and the full blown product with all the possible features was built, as planned before the development has even started. Fixed price, hard deadline. There was a chance you would build the product right, but would it be the right product? There was no way of knowing, if you never allow any feedback, experimentation, or learning in the process. And so we gave up on the outdated management techniques.

And what about freelancer management techniques? If we don’t want pre-fixed project development, can we really have pre-fixed people?

Freelance marketplaces to the rescue! Here is how you should be leveraging freelance marketplaces to always have the right expertise for each iteration of your product development:

Get relaxed about hiring

It became so fast and easy to access talent on marketplaces. And so safe and secure at the same time. There are work logs, reviews, escrow accounts. No need to be reluctant. You need a piece of a specialized brain for a one hour consultation? Get online and order it!

Chat with experts prior to setting on your business adventure.

A call with a domain expert who understands the problem you are trying to solve with your product could be a miracle for your vision, clarity, perspective, even the idea validation to a certain extent.

A market researcher could take a look at the competition and tell you how bad it is.

Or a lawyer can prevent you from a legal nightmare if you are attempting to disrupt a regulated market such as the financial one.

Tips on arrangement types:

  • with a domain expert or a lawyer it could be enough to get on one call
  • the role of a market researcher is probably appropriate for a short-term arrangement (a few weeks)

Brand before you cut

That’s how “measure twice before you cut” renders nowadays. Before investing into building the landing page, designing logos, writing copy etc., get a branding strategist to join you for a few days and do a brand audit for you.

Tips on arrangement types:

  • a branding strategist is someone who’ll probably stay short-term

Make sure you know who you need to hire first

For a software application example, I always suggest that my clients consult a software architect first. That’s an expert who has experience with a wide range of technologies and different architectures. They could help you decide on the right tech stack and high level architecture for your product. Based on that, you can go ahead and hire developers who work with the chosen technologies.

My role, mainly as project / product manager, is also crucial in the initial phase, but also during the development itself in order to oversee the process and manage everyone working on it.

Tips on arrangement types:

  • a software architect is needed at the very beginning for a short-term arrangement, but it’s also a good idea to establish an as-needed basis arrangement for later phases, to keep the expert in the loop and consult when major changes are taking place
  • software developers, if you are building a software product, will probably constitute the core members and stay with you for longer-term (full time or part time), whether freelance or in-house
  • project / product management is by its’ nature a long-term role, but for small businesses, typically startups, it’s enough to have a part-time or freelance arrangement

Get some short-term arrangements aligned with the focus of your next iteration

For example, the feedback after your latest iteration was that the UX was the bottleneck. Fine, get a few weeks with an UX expert and see what your audience thinks then!

Tips on arrangement types:

  • unless your product is UI heavy and you keep rolling out new major features all the time, a UI/UX expert can contribute a lot with a short-term arrangement; otherwise it could be a long-term part-time contract

Keep adjusting based on the feedback you get on your product

As mentioned, when you build – measure – learn, after each iteration of your product, don’t be reluctant to get additional help. It can be a UI expert to help beautify your pages if they didn’t really leave the best impression. Or if the feedback is really good and you are ready to launch, proceed with a digital marketing expert to start with the campaigns and reach your target audience.

Tips on arrangement types:

  • it’s probably a good idea to keep the digital marketing expert with you long-term part-time so that they can follow up on insights and adjust the next campaigns

Keep adjusting based on feedback from the people involved

I always tell my clients that we should hold a retrospective after each iteration. (For software devs it could be a sprint, for marketing peeps it could be a campaign, or it can simply be the last week). That’s when we all (including the most transient freelancers) share our views on the work of everyone as a whole. And this is how we come to conclusions; for example, that the front-end developers were not getting enough info based on the provided designs only. That’s when we know to get a UX guy to make videos of the user interaction and then development work can resume smoothly. On one occasion, we had copywriters not being familiar with the subject. Getting a researcher to outline the facts that need to be covered in the coming articles was a convenient thing to do.

It can also be you who is buried in emails and daily tasks. Time to get a virtual assistant?

Tips on arrangement type:

  • it makes sense to keep the copywriters around on long-term basis, as it’s nice to keep the same writing style, people get familiar with the domain and topics and it’s crucial to keep the content flowing.
  • with a researcher you can work with a short-term arrangement and then proceed with the research results delivered
  • a virtual assistant would probably be able to do miracles for you even on part-time basis, but make sure to keep them long-term, as they will be working closely with you and need to understand your way of working, style of communication and how to be your shadow so to speak

Leveraging Freelance Marketplaces is Key

Freelance marketplaces have simplified the hiring procedure to the extent that you can contract multiple people on daily basis and have them do a few hours of work for you and it still pays off effort-wise. That said, of course there will always be a core group of people who stay with you long-term. That’s not to say that they can’t be freelancers as well. The ability to fine tune the group that’s pushing your products and business forward as you go is invaluable. The chance to always have the right expert at your side exactly when you realize you need them is not one to pass up. Expertise on demand adds a totally new aspect to doing it lean.

Because a lean business needs a lean remote freelancer setup.


Tijana Momirov

Tijana Momirov is a software engineer, product manager and founder of StartupSetup where she helps founders start their startups, all in a remote, agile and super lean way leveraging the gig economy. She’s been a full time nomad since 2010 and loves blogging and giving talks about nomadic lifestyle, managing remote teams, future of work, the gig economy, productized services and more.



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