The rapid growth and expansion of the internet hasn’t just enabled the free and easy flow of communication and commerce.  It’s also empowered receptive companies to look further afield when it comes to identifying and hiring top talent from around the world.

That said, remote workers come with their own set of business challenges.  So before you find yourself swayed by the lower overhead expenses and salary requirements that remote workers can represent, take the following items into consideration:

Delegate and minimize before outsourcing virtually

Before you begin drafting the job posting for your new virtual worker, take a moment to first determine whether or not a remote employee is truly necessary.

Many companies see virtual workers as a quick and easy way to reduce overwhelming workloads – sort of as a “plug and play” solution for overstuffed to-do lists.  But hiring a remote employee – whether as a full-time member of your team or on a limited time, per-project basis – comes with its own set of tasks and responsibilities.

Because these workers require every bit as much management and supervision as in-person employees (if not more, in some circumstances), it’s a smarter move to eliminate redundancies and increase operational efficiency before bringing on a remote team member.

Cast a wide net to find qualified workers

In the past, the only way to find remote workers for your team was to post a project to freelance portal websites like Guru or Elance.

However, as remote work arrangements become more and more common (with a recent infographic by app maker Yast predicting that more than 37% of the world’s workforce will be mobile by 2015), your hiring options have increase as well.

These days, any of the following job posting opportunities can help you to identify the remote employee that’s right for you:

  • City-specific classified ad websites, like Craigslist
  • Mass-appeal job boards, like Monster
  • Industry-specific job listing sites, like Gorkana
  • Worldwide freelance job boards, like Guru
  • Task-based outsourcing programs, like TaskRabbit

No matter which hiring option you choose, it’s important to carefully review candidates’ resumes, portfolios and application materials.  Keep in mind that anybody can create false records online, so consider conducting face-to-face interviews over Skype and contacting references to confirm that your desired candidate actually has the skills you need.

Evaluate more than hourly rates

As you’re sorting between remote worker applications, you’ll likely notice one striking feature – that the bids and salary requirements posed by international candidates are often much lower than those submitted by domestic workers.

In fact, depending on the type of project you’re hiring for, it’s not unusual to see international workers bidding rates as low as $.50/hour!

But before you agree to any specific compensation arrangements, take a careful look at each worker’s skill set.  To see why this is so important, imagine that you’re down to two candidates – a US-based worker who charges $20/hour and an international candidate bidding $5/hour to work with you.

While this might sound like an obvious choice, the decision becomes less clear if you ultimately find that the international worker’s poor English language skills cause extensive delays and communication issues – causing him to take five hours to complete a task the domestic worker could have done in one.  By looking at a candidate’s full package, you’ll be able to avoid the costly delays these situations can present.

Plan for extra communication time

Too often, remote workers turn into an “out of sight, out of mind” situation, which leads to internal miscommunications that disrupt business priorities and decreased employee satisfaction.

As a result, it’s up to you to ensure that all members of your team are on the same page.  Any of the following types of communication strategies can help to keep remote workers in the loop:

  • Weekly “stand up” meetings for entire companies or individual departments
  • Daily status update email messages describing progress made or roadblocks encountered
  • Internal chat tools that facilitate conversation between teams
  • Regular in-person events that reinforce connections between remote workers and their employers

Just because remote workers aren’t in your office doesn’t mean that they won’t make demands on your time.  Developing a written system outlining your expectations (both in terms of communications and other responsibilities) will minimize the friction that remote workers who are brought into unprepared companies often experience.

Understand your tax and legal obligations

Depending on the exact terms under which you hire a remote worker, you may have important tax and legal obligations to me.  Largely, these requirements will depend on whether you hire your employee directly or take on workers as independent contractors, as well as whether you use managed services like Elance.

If you hire remote employees directly, you’ll likely need to register your business with the revenue department (or equivalent agency) in your worker’s home state.  In these cases, you may be required to submit income tax withholding or pay into the Workers’ Compensation fund in the state in question.  An employment lawyer can help you to sort out the specifics and avoid any fines for improper registrations.

On the other hand, if you’re working on a limited basis with an independent contractor found through a managed service, you may find that your chosen service handles things like the distribution of 1099 MISC forms on your behalf.  Again, a good lawyer can help ensure that you aren’t running afoul of any laws when you hire remote workers.

Hiring remote workers can be a tremendous boon to your company, whether you use these opportunities to take advantage of lower salary expectations abroad or to hire a star employee in your field who’s located far away from your company’s home base.  But this process isn’t one that should be rushed into.  By taking the points above into consideration before soliciting applications, you’ll ensure that your new remote worker transitions seamlessly into becoming a productive member of your team.

About the author

Matt Faustman

Matt Faustman

Matt is the co-founder and CEO at UpCounsel. Matt believes in the power of online platforms to change antiquated ways of life and founded UpCounsel to make legal services efficiently accessible. He is responsible for our overall vision and growth of the UpCounsel platform. Before founding UpCounsel, Matt practiced as a startup and business attorney.

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