It is common for companies of all sizes to hire freelancers in the modern economy. Not only do freelancers (sometimes referred to as agile talent, 1099s, consultants, contractors, etc.) offer value, but they also allow companies to diversify their ideas and end products. But when you have a freelancer, or a freelance team, in charge of a project, it is a bit challenging to ensure the project seamlessly transitions to your in-house team. There are many reasons why such a transition may take place. Perhaps your freelancer is moving on to other projects for you, or you want to push the project to other teams within your company.
At 10x Management, we have learned how to make the transition from freelancer to internal team as seamless as possible. Here are a few insights that I’ve learned over the years that’s helped grow my team.
Is it a Good Idea?
One thing you have to consider is whether you would even want to change the direction of the project if it is being run so successfully. If your freelancer is doing a very good job, and they are happy to stay on board, does it even make sense for you to shift gears? Even with the best internal team, you will experience some growing pains as they get to grips with the project. Unless you deem a change necessary from a financial standpoint, or your freelancer is no longer willing to continue, it does not make sense to shift the project from his or her hands.
When Will It Happen?
One of the first steps involved in making this transition is deciding when it’s going to happen. It may seem as though it is a simple task, but one of the hardest parts of the transition is figuring out when you can successfully take the project off your freelancer’s hands, and make it the responsibility of an internal team. If you choose to make the transition too early, the project may lose all momentum. It is usually a good idea to allow a freelancer to complete the work they set out to do. Only when the initial goals of the project are complete does it make sense for you to attempt to transition the project from freelancer to internal team.
Prepare and Communicate
Now that you have decided to hand off the project, the next step is to prepare your team as best as possible. Ideally, you would want your freelancer to work in tandem with the internal team for anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the scope of the project. If the freelancer is based in another location, you may want to try and get them onsite in your office for this. If bringing the freelancer to your team is not a realistic possibility, proper channels of communication are crucial to ensuring a smooth transition.
It is not feasible to expect your in-house team to pick up the nuances and details needed to successfully take on the project if they are only communicating with the freelancer via email.
Ensure your team has the ability to talk with the freelancer over video chat because it is the best way to ensure an open channel of communication in either direction. Both the freelancer and your team should feel free to ask each other as many questions as possible and point out any mistakes the other party is making. It is better to experience some growing pains while the freelancer is working with your internal team, rather than experiencing those pains after the freelancer is no longer contracted to work for your company. It is also advisable to have a ramp-down period where you still have access to the freelance resource to troubleshoot issues and answer questions for the internal team. If you have done the process well this should not be needed much but it is worthwhile to hedge and have this option.
If your team is to successfully take over a project and run it for the foreseeable future, they must not only understand the current state of the project but how it came about. Have the freelancer run your team through each step he took as he started on the project. While it may seem like a waste of time at first, having this information will help your team develop a deeper understanding of the project. If they know how something came about, they will know exactly how to steer it in the right direction going forward. At 10x Management, we always ensure that engagements are filled with abundant communication and that the code is well documented.
Know Your Strengths
Depending on the scope of the project and the expertise of your in-house team members, you will also have to decide how many people you are going to dedicate to the project. If you had one freelancer working on the project, it does not necessarily mean one team member can handle the workload. The freelancer you hired probably had more direct experience with such projects since you handpicked them to lead it in the first place. They may have also had all their time focused on the project while your internal resource has other responsibilities. While your team member may have a rough understanding of the project and how to move it forward, an extra set of eyes and ears is always beneficial. Dividing up the workload among two or three in-house employees would allow them to bounce ideas off each other, and divide up the workload. This also spreads out the knowledge institutionally so if someone leaves you are not starting from scratch. Instead of needing one person to understand the entire project and take over, you would need two or three people to understand different portions of the project, and that takes less time to achieve.
The switch from freelancer to an internal team has the potential to present challenges for your company. First, you must decide if the transition is worth the short-term disruption in operations. 10x Management recommends making these transitions at off-peak times for your company. Once you have decided to move the project to an internal team, ensure that the original freelancer is able to oversee the transition. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your employees speaks to the capabilities of your organization. It may take some time and you may experience some growing pains with these transitions. But with the right freelancer, the right planning, and efficient communication with your in-house employees, you can ensure the transition is as smooth as glass.
Handing Off A Project from a Freelancer to an Internal Tech Team was originally published on Due by Michael Solomon.