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Tolar Systems has been serving the Abilene area since 2000, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Using Virtual Teams to Grow Your Business

small-medium-businesses

Do you have project hanging over your head, but no bandwidth or staff to get it done?

Many solo and small businesses find themselves in the position of needing to do more work than they have the staff or ability to take on. They want to take advantage of opportunities as they arise, but are limited in terms of having the capacity to manage hiring, firing, training and managing new team members. They also may lack the financial resources to hire full or part time employees.

In years past, this might have limited a company’s ability to grow. But not anymore. Today the internet has enabled what is being called “the gig economy,” which connects local and global freelance talent in an ever growing range of professions and roles, with businesses that need the services they provide.

Freelancers and businesses can now connect on a growing number of freelance platforms that allow freelancers to advertise the services they provide, along with their expertise, preferred rates and a portfolio of past work. These freelance platforms also act as job boards, where businesses can advertise the work they are looking to have done. Some of the platforms can even handle the billing and payment side, giving businesses and freelancers a one-stop shop to find help and work.

Where can I Find a Virtual Team?

The number of freelance platforms that can be used to find virtual team members, and the types of tasks that they can accomplish is growing quickly. Some of the leading platforms include:

Upwork: Upwork (formerly Odesk/Elance) is one of the top freelance platforms for creative workers such as marketing and public relations, web content writing, web and graphic designers, as well as a wide range of other roles such as virtual assistants. Upwork is the original one-stop shop for hiring a freelancer or finding a freelance gig, as it features jobs and freelancers from around the world. Upwork offers a platform where freelancers and businesses can find each other, track time spent on projects, and pay or get paid for work accomplished. It also provides the opportunity to rate the effectiveness of both freelancers and businesses offering jobs, which acts as a sort of quality control mechanism for the platform.  In fact, the platform is so popular, one of the biggest challenges of using it is sorting through all the inquiries that top ranked employers and freelancers will receive.

HourlyNerd: If you need help that is more strategic or management-oriented in nature such as developing a business plan, doing financials, raising capital, or other executive-level work, HourlyNerd is a great platform. Instead of hiring an expensive consultant from a large firm, you can hire it done through HourlyNerd. HourlyNerd screens freelance consultants who have MBA’s or past business and consulting experience with top consulting firms like IBM, Deloitte and many others and provides a place for them to connect with employers who need their services. Unlike Upwork, which relies heavily on user ratings rather than screening to control quality of the freelancers that use its platform, talent and employers on HourlyNerd are carefully screened by HourlyNerd to ensure that the freelancers and jobs available are a good fit for each other.

These are just two of the most popular freelancing platforms. There are many other ways to connect with a freelancer, either globally or locally.

How to Manage a Virtual Team

Once you find a virtual worker to complete those tasks that have been holding you back, you may be wondering how to manage their work? This can be a big challenge when working with a team member who is not able to physically work at your location.

Although a freelancer relationship should be “self-managing” to a degree – i.e., you generally should not have to train an experienced freelancer to do the work you’ve hired them to do – you will still want to track progress of your projects, especially if the work you are doing is ongoing in nature.

Fortunately, there are many cloud-based project management tools to assist with this too. These platforms enable you to communicate with team members, assign tasks, track progress, and manage files created by your virtual team. A few of the most popular of these tools include:

Asana – Easy to use and available via a free download, Asana is one of the most popular project management tools for managing creative work. Asana is available for desktop use through a browser, or on any mobile device, allowing you to assign tasks, manage work and track project status anytime or anywhere.

Basecamp – With its simple user interface and low price tag, Basecamp is also a popular choice for managing virtual teams. However, some users find that the interface is less straightforward than Asana.

Microsoft Project – For Office365 users, using the Project tools built right into Office365 offers some distinct advantages: file management and email are integrated into the application, and for advanced users, Project offers more functionality for complex projects. However, for most small businesses, the functionality may actually be too complex – less advanced users generally find other tools to be simpler.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to managing virtual teams, but knowing how to find and manage the freelance team members that can help you take advantage of the next opportunity is a great place to start.

Do you have questions about how to manage virtual teams? Leave us a message and tell us about it.

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Monday, 25 September 2017

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