Today, we have a guest post from the digital diva herself, Jo Gifford. Read on to find out a little more about co-working and managing teams remotely.
Throughout my portfolio career I have had the pleasure of working closely with some amazing people.
Co-working with others as a solo entrepreneur, when it works, can allow everyone to benefit. As a small business, gaining from the expertise of others in an ad hoc team can open new doors of sales possibilities, whilst co-workers benefit from collaborating on new projects.
As a self-employed Mum of two, co-working remotely with a team of other designers, social media experts and writers allowed me to grow my business throughout pregnancy, maternity leave and beyond. I was fortunate enough to work with loyal, trusted, talented people who were not only happy to handle clients directly but were excellent at doing so, which meant that our services could carry on more efficiently than if I was still working solo in the early years of having the girls.
That’s not to say it has always gone smoothly, far from it. Relying on others to deliver a service removes your autonomy and invites in risk, and there have certainly been a few situations where I have had to send flowers, reimburse invoices and apologise profusely. Thankfully, the overall success outweighed those bad times, and it all serves to go in the learning curve pot.
So, here are some of my tips on working with and managing a remote team as a freelancer or solo entrepreneur:
1. Choose reliable people
Ok, so this sounds obvious, but use your gut instinct here. I don’t believe you need to have a physical meeting to work with someone, and as such working remotely allows some great relationships to be formed with experts situated all around the world. However, make some time to speak via Skype or Google Plus hangouts to get a feel for who they are as people, and whether they might be a good fit for your project.
2. Try them out on a non-risk job
If you have a new client, a new co-worker and a tight deadline, don’t under any circumstances, try them out on that job. Looking back it seems incredulous, but I did exactly that, and of course it all went belly up. Try your potential co-worker on a small, low risk job that you will have time to amend if needs be, and play it safe before you commission them for bigger projects. Use your instincts; if a potential co-worker is slow to reply to communications and late with work, do you want them working on projects that affect your business?
3. Be clear on what you expect
From payment terms to delivery of the brief, be clear from the outset what you expect and require, it saves problems later on for everyone concerned.
4. Develop smart feedback loops and communication
Managing a group of coworkers, even remotely, can be surprisingly time-consuming. Build in time in your schedule to manage, as effective management will save time later on if things start to unravel.
Use a group coworking system like Basecamp, ManyMoon or others to aid project management and accountability, and ask everyone to feedback what they have done that day via systems such as I Done This.
5. Try to anticipate problems before they arise
Computers break, files corrupt, children become ill – life happens. Try to scenario plan a fail safe plan if any of the above happens and affects the work of your colleague. This may mean having a reserve team, being able to re-juggle your own commitments to do the job, or negotiating a deadline. Things will and do happen, so think about how you can deal with them without upsetting your client.
6. Share files and archive them in a sensical way
We used Dropbox with team access, but whichever service you use, the Cloud is the way to go. File items sensibly, make sure you look after drafts, proofs and final files in a way that the whole team knows about.
7. Consider documentation
If you have a workflow that team members need to adhere to, create some simple documentation to refer everyone to. This saves time when managing a few people (alongside children and other aspects of business!), and makes it easier to convey key FAQ’s and standard procedures. Say it once, and keep in on file for reference.
8. Learn from your team
A good team will have some points of view you can learn from, so take ideas on board. Allowing people the freedom to be the talent you hired them to be creates possibilities for your business. Don’t over manage and stifle your outsourcers, but do manage expectations.
9. Make sure your team are tax registered
I have my accountant to thank for this one, who pointed out that HMRC can come after you, the commissioning business, if outsourcers default on their tax. Make sure your team are registered to pay their own taxes, and consider asking your accountant for a document outline to give to new team members. It’s a formality, but no-one wants nastiness with the taxman, especially as a small business.
Managing my team as a small business owner has been totally different to managing teams in my previous agency jobs. It all comes back to you, as the linchpin, to make things work.
If tech fails, people let you down, or work isn’t filed properly it’s your business and reputation on the line.
That said, co-working with a trusted team is a great way to offer more services and run a very profitable business without the need for overheads like wages and office rent. My leveraging other people’s time the constraint of chargeable hours in the day is removed, and more possibilities can arise.
Have you worked with other people as a small business owner or freelancer? Have you experienced problems or did it help your sales?
Jo Gifford is a designer, writer, blogger and creativity passionista. Jo writes on creative tips, hacks and tutorials for productivity, business and blogging on her websiteThe Dexterous Diva. She also works with bloggers and small businesses across the globe, to help them make the most of blogs and social media to elevate their brand.
Jo is mum to Eva and Mia, and you can also find her on Twitter (@dexdiva) and Facebook.