Remote collaboration has a lot of pros as well as a lot of cons. However, the nice thing about these cons is that,with the right precautions, they can be solved. The following are a series of things to prepare for when hiring remote people to work with you on a project.
Reliability Is Key
Have you worked with this person before? If not, consider working with them on a very small project — something that will require 2-3 hours of their time, max. After this initial engagement with the collaborator, ask yourself the following questions: Did you enjoy working with them? Did they respond to emails in a timely manner? Were they easy to talk to on Skype/Google hangout? Did they do a good job? If you answered “no” to one or more of these questions, don’t work with them on big projects. Consider sticking with them on small things every once in a while. If you answered “yes” to ALL of these questions, you have found yourself a strong remote collaborator.
Clocks Say Different Things in Different Places
This may sound silly or obvious, but it often goes unnoticed, initially. If you are in Los Angeles, and you are working with a collaborator in China, there is a good chance that you will have to wait upwards of 12 hours to get a response to an email, or to see any reaction to your feedback. This is not a bad thing necessarily, but it is something to consider when planning the overall timeframe for your project. If you are working with a collaborator who is extremely far away, you may want to reserve them for projects with longer timeframes.
Have a Backup Plan
Things can change pretty quickly in a freelancer’s life. When recruiting or beginning to work with a contractor or volunteer, have a personal conversation with them about their situation. Are they between jobs? Are they a permanent freelancer? Are they an employee somewhere? If the individual is between jobs, it is likely that they are actively applying for other full-time positions simultaneously while working with you.
While the previous three items can seem stressful and intimidating, they are simply a part of the reality of working with people on a remote basis. Don’t worry though, it isn’t all scary.
The positive implications of remote collaboration are vast:
- Remote Collaboration Diversifies Your Aesthetic: By working with a collaborative network, the aesthetic of your output has a better chance of carrying a more diverse range of stylistic and/or strategic approaches. It is no longer just you executing the work. Many people don’t realize that working with a remote collaborative network can bring with it innumerable interesting aesthetic and strategic implications. When you are working with a staff that spans multiple countries, all of a sudden, your practice/company is able to carry the weight of multiple cultural references and inspiration. This can result in a greater body of work.
- Remote Collaboration Will Bring Your Overhead Down: By leveraging this strategy for collaboration, my company, verynice, has the operational capacity of almost 300 people, but it only has the overhead of about five people. This is a prime example of the power that collaboration, and a freelancer model at large, can have on a business. By bringing people on a project basis, you are only paying out salaries when you know you have the money in hand.
This an excerpt from “How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free” which is now available for free online. How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free is a book that aims to open-source the 50 percent pro-bono business model invented by Matthew Manos known as the “double-half” methodology. The origins of this business model reside in verynice, a global design and innovation consultancy that gives over half of its work away for free, but components of the methodology have now been leveraged by hundreds of service-providers across the globe who, together, are re-defining philanthropy.