How To Manage Online Workers

Managing people online is like prying a toy from a cat: painful and can bite you back. Many of us, me included, sometimes forget that when you’re giving tasks to someone in front of your computer, you’re actually talking to a real human and not an app or a robot.

Here’s some of the things I’ve learned in my years of handling dozens of online workers.

1. Give Explicit Instructions.

If your instructions are lousy, the output will be lousy. Don’t blame it on the worker. Here’s how I do it:

  • Be clear about your project’s goals. What’s the output you want? Is there a peg they can aspire to?
  • Give the resources they need. Access to software, especially paid ones, that will help them do their work faster or more easily counts a lot in their book.
  • Ask and test. One, ask them at the end of the message if they understood the instructions and to message you back if they have questions. Two, give a simple test to see if they really did understand.

2. Never Give Rush Work.

This is similar to my earlier point. If you make them rush, expect the work to be subpar. Give them time to do it well and, this point is important, don’t pressure them too much:

  • If you set a deadline, add a buffer so that you aren’t rushed yourself when you receive the work.
  • Don’t put your worker eggs in one basket. Slice and dice the work and give the tasks to multiple workers. Some might be fast, some are slow but the law of averages will help you get it done on time. Doesn’t work for all projects though.
  • Never micromanage. You’ll get stressed. The guy gets stressed. We all get stressed!

3. Keep Calm.

Stay cool and be like that professor you had that never seemed to be fazed by anything. Bringing negativity in online work is not worth it. Your workers can leave you any time after all.

  • Don’t over promise. Sometimes we get too excited about an opportunity that we begin selling not to our customers, but to our workers. While this is good, you don’t want them to expect something you might never deliver, like a bonus after every project or long term work:
  • Rant to your mom, not your workers. Your guys online are there to work and not be your therapist. They’d rather get their drama from the TV, not you.
  • Forgive easily. If a worker makes a small mistake, don’t go berzerk all over it. It’s not worth your time. But do remember those incidents and end the relationship if it happens too often.


4. Be Their Rock.

Your role in the project is to be your worker’s support team. They will look to you for guidance, advice and resources:

  • Mentor them. I’ve found a lot of joy mentoring my workers since I probably learn more than they do.
  • Be cordial and upbeat. A bit of positivity here and there won’t hurt. A small thumbs up might even make their day!
  • Be their admin. This means that instead of them helping you, you actually help them so they can complete the project as needed. This mindset has made my own workers more productive as a result.

5. Be One of Them.

Let them know that you’re not just all work. Share your human side online with them:

  • Join and help out their communities. I’m sure your interests jive well with theirs.
  • Include them in decisions. They’re the experts in their field, I’m sure. You hired them after all.
  • Ask about life. What’s up with them, how their family is, what they did over the weekend. Not all people appreciate asking about personal stuff, though.

If you have some learnings to share, feel free to comment below. We’d be glad to add your input to the article and give you some link love!

Photo Credit: tzhaya and dex1138

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