Does the idea of handing over important projects to someone across the country terrify you? Time to get used to it. By 2020, 50 percent of the American workforce will be remote—including your freelancers. But just because your remote workers are out of sight, doesn’t mean they have to be out of reach or out of your control.
The following four tools track time so there’s never a dispute about billable hours, keep you up to date with what freelancers are working on, and help you monitor progress continuously. If this makes your managerial heart pitter patter, get ready to feel weak in the knees—and a lot less stressed about overseeing your remote writers.
Chrometa / $12–$29 per month
Best for: The skeptical brand manager who doubts how much time a project should take
Each year, U.S. businesses pay employees $750 billion for doing nothing. If that gross waste of company dollars happens in the office, then how are you supposed to control what your freelancers bill for when you’re not watching their every move? There’s a way to be 100 percent certain: Chrometa.
How Chrometa Works
This ingenious passive time tracking tool records every second of what your freelancers do on their phones and computers, so you only pay for work they complete for you. The tool seamlessly jumps from task to task, tracking time spent on
- Writing and reading emails
- Talking on the phone
- Surfing the web/doing research
- Running programs on the computer or phone
Ask your freelancers to subscribe to and download Chrometa on their computers and phones (Have them add the monthly fee to their invoice for reimbursement). At the end of the month, review their time tracking reports alongside their invoices. It’s really hard to fabricate time spent on projects with Chrometa, so you can trust in the system. This tool also helps you gauge how long projects take freelancers, allowing you to set expectations with other remote workers and plan realistic budgets. Plus, transparency leads to trust which in turn takes a lot of worry, animosity, and uncertainty out of your freelance relationships.
Toggl / $9–$49 per user per month
Best For: Managers who want control of time tracking in-house
Hiring employees is already more cost-effective than hiring in-house. Although, you can increase profit margins by tracking and optimizing workflow with tools like Toggl.
How Toggl Works
Unlike Chrometa, Toggl allows managers to purchase the time-tracking program and invite employees and freelancers to sign up. Then, you can
- Track your entire team’s productivity
- View breakdowns of how and where your freelancers are spending the most time
- Optimize for efficiency so you can save money on freelance budgets
The only major downside to Toggl compared to passive time tracking tool, Chrometa, is that you have to manually turn tracking on and off. In itself, that factor is somewhat of a time waster and something freelancers may be able to manipulate. It’s recommended you use Toggl for time efficiency optimization instead of timesheet policing.
Jell / $4–$8 per month
Best For: The time-crunched manager who needs to stay organized and updated
Do you have daily stand-ups with your in-house team? Do you drop by their desks to get updates throughout the day? Jell allows you to do the same thing with your freelancers—even if they’re scattered across the globe.
How Jell Works
This web-based tool gives you, your freelancers, and your in-house team a place to convene. It offers
- Daily standups so you can see what your freelancers are working on
- Check-ins to monitor progress and make changes if there’s a hiccup
- Custom goals and metrics that connect directly with assigned tasks, so you can quantify your freelancers’ work and see if you need to bring in more efficient people
Jell is also compatible with Slack, HipChat, and Flowdock—other tools that make working with freelancers a breeze. While Jell starts with a free trial, pricing eventually jumps to $4.00–$8.00 per user per month. However, the company offers custom plans for businesses with larger freelance pools, so you can find an affordable option to manage every single one of your remote workers.
Slack / $0–$12.50 per user per month
Best For: The collaborative brand manager who needs to communicate in real-time with freelancers
Sick of video calls that cut in and out and waiting for freelancers to email you back? You no longer need to rely on these time-wasting means of communication. Slack allows you to speak with your remote freelancers in real-time through its messaging interface to speed up workflow and cut out inefficiencies.
How Slack Works
Slack offers you complete control of your virtual office—giving you the power to create a collaborative environment with dozens or hundreds of freelancers.
- Invite your freelancers to groups and chat with them live
- Organize conversations by project so they don’t get mixed up
- Make private groups for projects that don’t need to be seen by everyone
- Use video or voice calls directly through Slack if it’s easier to talk through a problem rather than type it out
- Look through chat and project history to refresh your memory about certain conversations you’ve had with different freelancers
Slack reports that its users see nearly 50 percent less emails in their general inboxes, helping you cut down on the average 20+ hours people spend checking email each week. The less time you’re stuck sifting through emails, the more you’ll have to stay organized and manage your freelancers in one easy place.
There are a lot of stories out there that blame content managers for failed freelance partnerships. But with the proper tools, it’s easy to manage every freelancer like they’re in the cubicle next door. Try these four tools to virtually stay hands-on with all of your remote workers. That way, you never have to feel out of the loop or caught off-guard by anything—and you can enjoy the cost savings outsourcing provides.