Remote employment is the practice of hiring employees who perform work for your company from their own location – not within the walls of your office. Remote employees can be freelance workers or exclusive salaried employees who do not contract with anyone else. There are two main categories of remote employees, and both can be useful under different circumstances. Domestic remote workers are workers living in the States who are too far away (from another town to another state) to work at your office. Foreign remote workers are employees living overseas. We will explore the pros and cons of using each for several popular jobs, and how the general practice of using remote employees can be beneficial to your business if done right.
If you run a blog of any kind, the bottom line is you need content. Not only do you need content, you need consistently updated, fresh content that attracts new readers and keeps them all coming back for more. Somebody is going to have to make a near full-time job out of writing this stuff if you hope to remain relevant and ahead of your competition. This is a situation many blog owners find themselves in, and it can be easily solved by hiring a small team of domestic remote writers.
These people do not need to work in your office, as long as they deliver the content on time. In fact, it is often best for small to mid-sized blogs that the writing staff work remotely because it allows the in house team to focus on other aspects of the business, and simply receive and publish the content as it comes in. You may have to put your writers through some kind of initial screening exercise to make sure they can write well and adhere to your deadlines. From there, you can assign the team weekly topics and rest assured that your content is being produced while you get back to the rest of the tasks on your plate.
Note – it is important to stress domestic here, because although there are plenty of foreign guns for hire who claim to be content authors, you don't want to spend precious time editing every single piece to correct the spelling and grammar errors the language barrier is likely to produce.
Software development is an area where it might actually make sense to hire foreign remote talent. Due to differences in the exchange rate and expense of living in other countries, talent can often be found for far less than comparative American wages. However, unlike with content authorship, there isn't any risk of the language barrier causing spelling or grammar errors in the software.
Programming languages are universal, and if the software requires any additionally written content (for the help file or FAQs) you can easily prepare it yourself and have your developer insert it at the end. Your goal is a program works the way you specify, without bugs or sudden crashes. If you can achieve this for less than the price of domestic development, you have done your business a great service and can reallocate the savings elsewhere.
Graphic Design Work
Whether for a website, software GUI, or social media publication, graphic design is a cornerstone task of any business with an online presence, but that doesn't mean it cannot be handled by remote workers. Depending on the nature of the work, both domestic and foreign remote employees could work equally well.
Again, with foreign employees you might be able to save money on wages, but you must keep language differences in mind and decide whether that would pose an issue given the specifics of the work. A website design, for example, is almost entirely graphical (to be filled out with content by writers of your choice later) and could easily be handled by talented foreign labor. A social infographic intended to entertain and inform is traditionally quite writing-intensive. In this case, both the writing and the graphics are equally important and often interact with each other. For such jobs, it might be better to retain a domestic remote employee who can easily digest the research and turn out a product that requires minimal edits and revisions.
Aside from the long-touted benefit of overseas employees having lower salary requirements than some domestic ones, hiring remote employees offers several other cost benefits to consider. For one, having less in-house employees means you can afford to rent a much smaller office. It takes a lot of space to house a team of writers, a software developer, a graphics designer, and anyone else you may need to hire. Allowing them to work remotely means less office furniture for them to sit at, computers for them to work on, and software for them to operate.
Having fewer in-house employees also means a decreased need for managers to oversee them. One manager can easily stay on top of a good number of remote employees, where as several more may be needed to keep in-house workers on task and producing. Choosing the former means a decreased burden on the payroll and smaller, more close-knit circle of management at the office.
Find The Best Talent
Sometimes companies aren't looking for the cheapest possible labor, but instead seek the best possible talent. An unfortunate reality of doing business in a single location (especially a place that isn't a major city with a massive populous) is that the best person for the job might not live within a commutable distance of your headquarters. If this describes you, hiring remote workers allows you to find top notch skill for your project and get them working on your projects no matter where they happen to live.
For these situations, it is best to stay away from traditional labor auction sites like Rent-A-Coder and eLance, and focus on creating a solid job offer on a major employment forum. Monster.com is a good place to start, as this site is home to one of the biggest communities of serious, highly qualified professions who are seeking employment. The social networking website LinkedIn is another great resource for attracting remote top talent. The best part about LinkedIn is that you can confirm who the worker has done business with before, and view their past references, before ever contacting them.
Harder To Manage
Of course, not having all of your employees in your office during the work day makes them inherently harder to manage. Without face to face management and an office to attend for work purposes every day, some work-from-home free lancers might let their distractions get the best of them and take much longer than necessary to complete your tasks. In addition, some managers (and you may be one of them) don't feel confident that work is getting done if they cannot see it progressing every day with their own two eyes. Thankfully there is a solution to both of these problems.
Make your expected deadlines very clear by assigning them and having your remote workers agree to meet them. Check in every so often by requesting a status report and restating the deadline. In this way, the worker will know that you are serious about the deadline and that he or she is expected to meet it, no questions asked. You can also use shared online work platforms to physically check on progress as if you were in the room with the other person. WordPress, for example, tracks every revision of written content, so your content authors cannot hide behind the guise of a work in progress. Similar systems, (such as Concurrent Version Systems (CVS) for programmers) exist for other kinds of remote work.
About the Author: Joshua Bitton is a freelance writer for Echo Sign. EchoSign is the leader of the 2nd generation of electronic signature solutions — 100% web-based, fully digital signature solutions that do not require digital signature pads, digital certificates or scanning software. With EchoSign, there is nothing to install or learn.