Today in France, working with freelancers on innovation projects is not self-evident – yet. Between risk aversion and fear of failure, the French over-cautiousness reminds us of some of our home country’s cultural traits. Moreover, the phenomenon does not only concern large corporations but a lot of start-ups too. The latter are often more reassured to have sought-after technical skills internally, such as software engineering and data science.
With comet, we did the exact opposite.
Since the very beginning, we have been aiming at creating the best experience possible for freelancers. Then, it sounded quite logical to build it with… freelancers. But combining machine learning, AI and matching algorithms to find the most adapted expert to any technical mission does not come easy. This was a major challenge, with a lot of obstacles on the road.
We did some mistakes on the way.
A lot of mistakes. The good news is that most of them are pretty common and can be avoided.
Hence the idea of writing an article on this topic!
So here are the 5 common mistakes to avoid when working on ambitious projects with tech freelancers.
1. Having a short-term vision for the scope of your project
Postponed deadlines, exceeded budgets, deteriorated motivation: the consequences of bad project management are numerous. Hence the advent of agile methods and “test & learn” approaches, enabling to teams to lose as little time as possible thanks to fast iteration cycles. Because you can be sure that the initial duration of a technical project with a freelancer will be very likely to be extended. This is often due to unanticipated difficulties along with the emergence of new needs or features requested by your team.
With comet, we estimated that we would need a total of 20 days to shift from the MVP (“minimum viable product”) to a scalable alpha version of our product. In the end, it took us 6 months! The lesson that we have drawn from this experience is that the product that you build with a freelancer cannot be summed up to your initial expectations. Because it needs to encompass your long-term vision and aspirations.
2. Sticking to a roadmap alone rather than onboarding your freelancers
The backlog is the starting point for product development using Scrum agile methodology. It is your roadmap since it contains all the tasks included in your technical project. However, the backlog cannot be the sole guarantor of a successful mission assigned to a freelancer.
The bestselling author Simon Sinek explains in his famous book Start With Why that the best leaders inspire action not by telling their collaborators what to do but why do it. The truth is that the answer does not lie in a backlog but in the freelancer onboarding. The challenge is all the more crucial as everything depends upon it: product and business understanding, integration within the team, belief in the company’s vision, etc. Bear in mind that tech freelancers are very sought-after, so the attachment to your project will make a difference when accepting a mission.
3. Privileging skills over past experiences when hiring a freelancer
You should pay attention to the level of autonomy and degree of agility that you are looking for. Then, you need to precisely evaluate your needs and resources. This is essential to make sure that you hire the most adapted profile to your technical environment. Also, this is about finding the right balance between project management and speed of execution. All these requirements can only be verified when taking past experiences and professional background into account.
4. Refusing remote work
There is a reason why remote work is so popular among tech freelancers. High-performing developers perfectly know how to optimize their productivity. And it all begins with an environment where they feel good. Refusing remote work also means that you deprive your company of a huge part of freelancers. First, those living in a different city (or even country) are very unlikely to accept to move out for an onsite mission that will only last a couple of months.
Many freelancers (often among the best experts) will also automatically refuse your mission if remote is not an option. Again, bear in mind that high-performing developers receive job offers and missions every day. But even if a freelancer accepts a project onsite, don’t claim victory too quickly. Because what really matters is not your personal convenience but the freelancer’s productivity and motivation.
If you want to learn more about remote work, check our article about the 5 reasons to work with remote developers ?
5. Neglecting the motivation of freelancers
As for recruiting, motivation is the first criterion to be taken into account. In such a volatile talent market with a higher level of demand than that of supply, the tech freelancer is king. The success of your project and possibly – depending on its importance – the future of your company are into his hands. Then it is essential to build a virtuous relationship based on trust, respect, and transparency. Because when you accumulate difficulties (and there will probably be some!), motivation will make a huge difference. Resilience is necessary to problem-solving and eventually to the success of your project.
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Aug 8, 2017
Good read. Thanks Benjamin