Remote teams are a wonderful way to scale a business. But, there are certain nuggets you need to assess first.
Scaling Full-Time Freelance
I worked as a full-time freelancer for nearly 2 years before starting the company. My business hours were flexible and a lot of my work was done from home or in coffee shops.
Switching to an office environment wasn’t an intuitive decision for me. I spent a few years working until 2am or later, which is why traveling in the middle of the night wasn’t a smart move.
Working With Other Freelancers
Over the first couple of years, we only had one or two full-time employees. There were a couple of freelancers and two outsourced developers handling a high-scale SaaS project, and that helped us manage our income in a sensible manner with limited risks.
It also helped to work across time zones with several clients without sticking to traditional business hours.
An on-site team requires office space, desks, computers, utility bills and a bunch of other expenses. While your team is comprised of 4–6 people, the initial investment is still a lot, increasing the risk of going bankrupt if you lose an important client.
There’s another caveat with office spaces, too. You don’t want to rent a small room for 2–3 years and outgrow it in a matter of months if you get lucky and close larger contracts. And renting a large space is expensive (and again, risky) unless you manage to scale with decent profit margins quickly enough.
Legal and Accounting
Hiring on-site staff usually increases your accounting costs.
More importantly, some countries (especially in Europe) treat employees significantly better than employers. Firing someone isn’t easy, and letting them go voluntarily often requires the employer to pay several salaries upfront after the trial period is over.
From an employee standpoint, that’s wonderful. But starting a small business with the legal framework in mind may suddenly turn the tables around if you’re really unlucky.
On top of that, hiring locally may be bound with longer leave notices. It’s not unlikely for us to wait for 40+ days after extending an offer for a full-time role. On the other hand, hiring a remote employee may happen within 2–5 days.
Holidays and Working Hours
Many distributed companies hire staff across different countries (and continents). Time zone mismatch may be tricky to handle internally, but it also helps covering for clients across the world, monitor projects outside of standard business hours, and handling emergencies within hours.
Also, different countries and religions celebrate different holidays. It’s possible to have staff working on Christmas or Ramadan, Diwali, Hanukkah if some of your team members don’t usually celebrate at the same time.
In terms of cons, communication often takes a bit longer in a distributed environment. There’s certain “management overhead” keeping everything in the project management system, documentation, weekly logs and status updates, and the like.
Briefing people across time zones may take longer, too.
Different cultures may perceive information differently (or people simply have different work habits). This requires adjustment and finding the right approach.
Larger companies often have enough work for juniors and entry-level folks. It’s usually repetitive work that is already laid out and requires following an established process. But training juniors remotely is massively complicated, and many prefer to just hire mid-level people remotely than spend 6–12 months hiring a junior person remotely.