Managing remote employees or freelancers has become commonplace in today’s workforce. However, in relatively uncharted territory, how do we ensure it's done right? Speedlancer’s CEO and Founder, Adam Stone, says curated teams are the answer.

Cutting his teeth in startups at the mere age of 14, Stone founded his first e-commerce startup IDC.Ventures which rose to six figure profitability, all while juggling school.

With 190,000 customers worldwide, IDC.Ventures was managed entirely through a global distributed workforce.

However, Stone says he realised early on, that in order for him to manage both his studies and the business he needed to trust his team.

“I learnt I had to rely on them to get things done. I documented everything, had processes in place and got my work week down to ten minutes. That’s when I decided to start Speedlancer, with that vision in mind,” says Stone.

Spotting a gap in the market early, Stone wisely capitalised on the idea of distributed teams to help businesses with their marketing needs.

“The idea was to leverage technology to assemble teams of freelancers in workflows that solve problems,” Adam explains when discussing his initial plans for Speedlancer.

Using a fully automated project management system, Stone developed a platform that would bring the best talent together and allocate them into teams for business projects.

The key to distributed teams

Roughly 4.1 million Australian workers are now freelancers, according to a 2017 study conducted by Upwork.

In recent years, the gig economy has experienced a surge in popularity. However, in this new era of work, employers must learn how to effectively find talent online and manage them.

Stone reveals, it takes more than just a team of freelancers to make a distributed team work.

The Forbes 30 Under 30 founder, whose startup is now backed by 500 Startups and Macdoch Ventures, has had plenty of success building his own business with a distributed team.

“I don’t think in-house roles or agencies are the only option anymore, extensions of your team are really valuable,” Stone explains discussing the future of work.

Stone says arming a trusted team with the right tools and procedures ultimately leads to better business outcomes.

“We have a core team, but we use distributed teams for everything else like content marketing, strategy, research, writing, animation…,” says Stone.

Stone says, he spent hours on other freelancing platforms to work out what was missing in the market. Quality, speed and excellent communication were the outcome, three areas Speedlancer excel at.

However, Stone also explains that being outcomes oriented, instead of hourly, is the key to achieving better results with distributed teams.

How to maintain culture with a distributed team

  1. Try to hire for culture fit, while realising that remotely this can be difficult. If it doesn’t work, manage around it, don’t force the problem by trying to make the employee fit.
  2. Work with people for specific outcomes. Consider hiring specialists instead of generalists, so your team is made of people who excel at what they individually do.
  3. Do your due diligence. It can be harder to hire remotely, as people may inaccurately sell themselves online. Take your time to look into a candidate’s background, video chat and ask for evidence of their work before proceeding.

Tools for success with a distributed team

While many businesses are deterred by geographical location when hiring, Stone says the emphasis should be placed on finding the right talent.

“When you’re open to hiring talent wherever they are, you can always fill a hiring gap immediately. This has never been an issue for us. Even from just within Australia, you might find the best talent interstate, who want to work from home,” says Stone.

With staff across the world, from Brazil to Bangladesh, Stone says Speedlancer hire talent wherever they’re best in the world.

“We hire speciality talent instead of generalists and have over 500 world class freelancers, from HuffPost, PWD, BBC, who’ve all been handpicked,” explains Stone.

However, staff are just one part, when it comes to successfully running a distributed team, processes and procedures are also a large factor.

“Other than using our own products, we use tools like Slack and are outcome orientated instead of hourly,” says Stone.

Tips for running a successful distributed team

  1. Be open to having team members from outside your city or even country. You’ll be able to hire immediately, without having to go through lengthy HR processes, and have a greater pool of talent to choose from to specifically fit the role or project.
  2. When running a global distributed team, try and stick to regular hours. Avoid the trap of always being available or online. Have a few international ‘cross-over’ hours or, if that’s not possible, ask someone in your team on an easier time zone.
  3. Try, where possible, to meet everyone on your team at least once. Make an effort to renew that trust in person. I’ve met almost everyone in my team across the world.