Are you Freelance Ready?
Most freelance assignments start small--non-staff providers are hired to complete specific outsourcing projects. But when these freelance specialists prove to their outsourcing employers that they can be relied upon, there is soon an increased allowance for more remote working hours and the performance of increasingly vital tasks. Soon freelance providers may find themselves fully integrated with the outsourcing organization's in-house staff, thus marking a change in the relationship between outsourcing employer and freelance provider. We've been there--oDesk hires freelance providers to work with our in-house staff on several different outsourcing assignments, and on some projects, one type of worker is virtually indistinguishable from the other.
For example, when a freelance provider is hired to write a discrete piece of code, the outsourcing company may not care when the freelance agent does the work--as long as the work diary and memos look good, and quality code is submitted on time. But when a freelance provider is needed for more real-time outsourcing collaboration, they might need to reach an agreement to be available during some or all of the outsourcing employer's business hours.
In the case of such changes, the freelance provider must answer some additional questions? How will they be available? Is instant messaging enough? Do they need to have a Skype account? A webcam? When the freelancer is out, will they leave an away message telling the team what time they'll be back? Will the outsourcing company's in-house staffers do the same?
Outsourcing companies trust freelancer providers to work around their own personal daily life. This might mean the remote worker doesn't log on until after midnight, or that the freelance agent frequently suspends sessions to handle family needs. But, once a freelance provider has agreed to be available at set times, as a more permanent member of their employer's outsourcing team, the remote professional must take extra steps to create a distraction-free work environment, just as the "in-house" telecommuter opting for a home office instead of a cubicle. Flexible freelance workers are masters of clever workarounds, but as the team becomes more interdependent, everyone needs to understand that expectations evolve.
Integrating oneself into the outsourcing company's daily workflow can seem like a daunting move, but by thinking each challenge through, we at oDesk have found that it's easier than one would expect for far-distant team members to become close colleagues.