Running a Remote Team

By Ignacio Nieto Carvajal

 

Last year was an intense year for me. My startup grew from one micropreneur to a team of seven remote employees. This journey led me to realize that there are few resources out there to help with this transition, so I want to share the lessons I’ve learned with entrepreneurs who are in the same situation.

 

Virtual assistants and freelancers

 

Delegating is not easy, especially as a micropreneur. Your startup grew thanks to your hard work, high standards, and attention to detail. The problem is, you now have more work than you can handle. However, you’re reluctant to find help because your previous experience with a hiring platform was a disaster. Sound familiar?

 

When entrepreneurs look to hire someone for the first time, most will turn to platforms like Upwork. But freelancers who use these websites often lack the level of skill and commitment you need, as most only moonlight a few hours a week as a side hustle.

 

My advice is to start local. Contact human resource agencies from countries and industries that are relevant to your market and needs. Don’t be afraid to ask around in your network or the staff at your co-working space.

 

Also, don’t be stingy. You can get a remote developer for US$3 an hour, but trust me, the results won’t match your expectations.

 

In terms of management, it’s important to be patient. You can’t expect a freelancer to produce the same results that took you years to achieve. Explain every process and detail of your startup, even the obvious ones, and expect some mistakes to be made in the beginning.

 

Communication tools and task management

 

You take communication for granted when all your employees work from one office. You can go to Jack’s cubicle and ask him about the progress of the new website’s design anytime. Jack is always there, a cup of coffee in hand, working on his designs.

 

Things get complicated with a remote team. Firstly, you need to take time zones into account. If Jack lives in Chiang Mai and you live in Buenos Aires, then Jack is waking up when you are about to go to bed, and vice versa. Multiply this complication by the number of people in the company, and you realize how big of an issue it can be.

 

You also need to define the right communication channels for your team. There’s a division between remote entrepreneurs on whether it’s better to use synchronous communication channels (i.e., video or audio conference) or asynchronous ones (i.e., email or instant messaging).

 

In spite of attempts to kill it, email is still king. Email clients such as Spark [sparkmailapp.com] can help you use it smartly. The key is to find the right balance.

 

If your company is small or primarily conducts one-to-one meetings, video conferencing tools such as Skype [skype.com] or Appear.in [appear.in] will be enough. Zoom [zoom.us] or Webex [webex.com] are also great options. Tools like Calendly [calendly.com] make it easy to schedule appointments.

 

When your meetings involve more people, tools such as Doodle [doodle.com] may come in handy. It allows you to publish a poll with tentative dates, so everyone can choose the option that works best for them.

 

Some companies and teams work well with chat-based tools, such as Slack [slack.com]. I’m not a big fan of them because they can be procrastination rabbit holes.

 

Task and project management tools come in all shapes and sizes, from complex applications such as Jira [atlassian.com] or Microsoft Visual Studio Tools to more straightforward ones like Trello [trello.com], Task Ninja [taskninja.com], and Todoist [todoist.com]. I prefer the latter group due to their simplicity.

 

The transition from being a location-independent micropreneur to managing a remote team can be a daunting experience. But not only is it achievable, it could very well be the step that’s needed to accelerate growth and take your startup to the next level.

 

Ignacio is the CEO of Digital Leaves and Your Company In Estonia.

 

About the Author

 

Ignacio Nieto Carvajal is a location independent micropreneur, blogger, composer, and the CEO of Digital Leaves and Your Company In Estonia. He is a frequent speaker on the topic of remote work and location independence at conferences such as Running Remote. Once a cubicle rat, he quit his corporate job and became a freelancer first, then a micropreneur, and finally a digital nomad.

 

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