Welcome to the distributed workforce story of 2020. If remote work and freelancing were growing at an unprecedented rate before — it’s stratospheric today.
The numbers paint a compelling picture: according to a study conducted by Freelancing In America, 57 million Americans freelanced in 2019, about 35% of the country’s entire workforce. And with where things are today, the number of freelancers in the USA has undoubtedly grown and is likely to reach to over 90 million by 2028 — which is why crafting a plan for remote performance reviews is such an essential move.
While some of have had education and experience working with and evaluating remote hires, most of us have not had the opportunity to learn the nuances of navigating these distanced professional relationships. But with remote work and freelancing becoming a more significant part of everyday work, it is now more essential than ever to institute the types of policies that have served well in a more traditional work environment, particularly freelancer performance reviews.
Freelancers do not often undergo the same in-depth evaluation process as full-time employees, and many companies do not have freelancer performance reviews at all. For both the company and the freelancer this is less than ideal. Here’s why: the company doesn’t have the opportunity to improve the work by addressing issues that need attention. The freelancer loses out on receiving overarching feedback that would allow them to grow and improve their quality work — a lose-lose.
With rates of independent contract workers skyrocketing — and with so much work remote for the foreseeable future — creating processes to help grow and improve valuable relationships with freelancers has legs. If you are thinking about folding freelancer performance reviews into your company’s management process for remote consultants, here are several things that will help make it a winning strategy.
Preparation = Success.
As in so many things, laying the groundwork sets the stage for success. Go into a freelancer performance review knowing what you want to say and how you want to say it ahead of time. Make sure to deliver materials beforehand to the freelancer, gather peer review responses, and create an outline for each performance review. Work with managers that have remote freelance staff to design a plan for reviews that works well for you company — everyone involved will get the most out of the process that way.
Schedule regular freelancer performance reviews. Not just an annual one.
Just as full-time employees benefit from regular, constructive feedback from their managers, so do freelancers. Many full-time workers have their work reviewed quarterly, with a more in-depth annual review. Extend the same process to remote freelancers and reap the benefits of improved work and strengthened work relationships. Identifying areas for improvement on an ongoing, regular basis throughout the year allows for more successful, sustained growth for all involved.
At the beginning of your relationship with a consultant, it may make sense to schedule more review time to ensure that things are heading in the right direction. Blaming an independent contractor for work that misses the mark when they have not had the chance to receive constructive feedback from managers or peers is not a sound system. Create a process with check-ins throughout the project lifecycle or over the span of a year so that all parties are on track.
Video calls have been your ally, but for freelancer performance reviews, they’re your BFF.
While a phone call may be useful for daily work, it fails to capture the tone and emotion of an in-person meeting. Physical communication conveys a lot, and video allows you to be clearer and provide physical cues so that remote contractors can feel the importance of your words in multiple ways. Video simulates focused face-to-face meetings. Find a platform that works well for you — and use it (Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc.). Unsurprisingly, 87% of freelancers feel more connected when using video conferencing.
Self and peer evaluations are clutch.
Traditional performance reviews often include self and peer evaluations — it’s a smart move to also have them as part of your annual freelancer performance review process. It may be even more critical for freelancers to receive feedback from the people with whom they work. Given the lack of daily face-to-face contact, it can be challenging to gauge how the people they are working with really feel about their work. But by including self and peer reviews, independent contractors have an opportunity to speak openly about where they feel peers can improve — and if there is potential for hurt feelings, peer evaluations can remain anonymous. And getting feedback from freelancers may open your eyes to issues you did not know were there when conducting your review of a contractor’s work. It can be hard to have a feel for the relationship of employees that pass files back and forth online.
Create a unified message.
Focus on the most important message you want to deliver; by doing so, you will have a much better opportunity to create a positive outcome from the meeting. Annual reviews are the right time to bring up the most pressing issues affecting work performance, while smaller things can be addressed in quarterly reviews or a more casual phone conversation. By curating a unified message for the freelancer to “take home,” you will help define the review’s successful outcome.
Some tips: go into every review with a single clear message you want to impart. If there’s more than one, keep it to no more than three distinct points — the more focused your discussion, the more likely the recommended changes will be made.
Make an action plan and follow through.
To make actionable change, you need an action plan. At the end of every freelancer performance review, involve the freelancer in putting together an action plan for moving forward. Having them engaged in the process will feel less like a direct order and more like something that they have a hand in shaping, to help secure their future work with the company.
Before you end the meeting, have a plan in place. The freelancer should know where they need to improve and what steps they will take make that happen. If you want to hold them accountable to this action plan, make sure you are also accountable. Reliability and consistency will help make the review process one with a positive, productive outcome.
Don’t know where to start? We’ve prepared the this downloadable freelancer performance review template — it’s as simple as that!
About the author.
An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist — Karina writes, edits, and produces compelling content across multiple platforms — including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties.