In the early days of your business, an individual freelancer is perfect for your marketing and PR needs, giving you top-notch expertise and fantastic results, at the fraction of the cost of a full agency.
But as your business starts to scale, and your needs evolve, it’s natural that you’ll be on the look-out for more extensive support.
The default route for many businesses is to say goodbye to the freelance model and instead opt for a full PR or marketing agency, or bring a permanent in house team, that can provide the diversity of skills, manpower and expertise required. But while for some, these are good options, many find this is a big shift from working with one freelancer, often with higher fees attached. As a way of overcoming this challenge, an increasing number of businesses are choosing to work with a team of freelancers, who operate in a similar way to an agency or in-house team, but on a virtual basis. This means you get a highly experienced, bespoke and flexible resource for integrated campaigns, but without the overheads that come from being office-based, or the commitment of in-house staff – it’s the best of both worlds.
Freelance teams can also work as a solution for agencies themselves, if they’re looking to boost their offering for a particular project, to cover absence gaps, or while hiring on a permanent basis. These virtual teams can also enable agencies to offer a more integrated service, by bringing in complementary skills when needed.
Giving agencies access to the ‘expert’ support they lack in house, freelance teams can also help pass knowledge to permanent staff and provide a more agile workforce, particularly as work becomes more project-based. Others operate a full virtual agency model, working with freelancers on a long-term, flexible basis to provide a complete solution to clients, while supporting each other.
Here’s how to make it work:
• Outline the scope of your project: A clear and comprehensive brief is essential when working with freelance teams, so make sure you include all the different elements of the project, along with timings, your objectives, expectations and any targets. This will ensure you can identify the best freelancers for your needs and a team of the right size and mix of skills to deliver what you want.
• Find a lead freelancer: Rather than recruiting the whole team at once, most people choose to work with a lead freelancer, who will project manage the work and be your main point of contact. You’ll need somebody with extensive team and project management expertise, as well as an understanding of the various aspects involved in an integrated campaign. Each individual freelancer will be relatively self-sufficient and experienced in self-management, but it will be the job of the lead freelancer to ensure there is an integrated approach. You can find the right person by posting the role of a lead freelancer or project manager on The Work Crowd, with details of the brief and skills required.
• Recruit your team: Based on the needs of your project, your lead freelancer will then work with you to recruit the additional team members, using The Work Crowd to identify the best people. Hiring a team of freelancers means you can hand-pick individuals with highly specialised skills – media relations, social media and content marketing for example – giving you the diversity you need to manage an integrated campaign. How hands on you want to be with recruitment depends on you – you can leave your lead freelancer to choose the team, or work with them to vet candidates. You’re likely to find they have various contacts they work with regularly, and can recommend.
• Clear roles and responsibilities: Your lead freelancer will ensure everyone in the team has clearly defined roles and responsibilities and all account management and communications processes are agreed and understood in advance. When managing virtual teams, it works best if project management is highly centralised, so your lead freelancer will take on this role, keeping all aspects of the project on track, collating work centrally and reporting back to you on progress.
• One or multiple points of contact: The majority of clients prefer to have just one point of contact, but for certain aspects of the project, it may make sense for you to deal directly with a particular freelancer in the team. It entirely depends on what works best for you and the time you have available for managing individual team members.
• Meetings and calls: If possible, it can be beneficial to get the team together face-to-face at the outset of the project, to build those relationships, talk through the details and agree roles and responsibilities. But if this isn’t possible due to time or geography, then a video conference provides a good alternative. Then as the project progresses, make sure you have regular weekly or monthly telephone catch ups booked in, to ensure everybody is on the same page and to discuss any issues and challenges.
With the wonders of modern technology and a booming freelance population, it’s now even easier to work with talented freelancers, whether individually or in teams. So, if you’re looking for more support than can be offered by a single professional, but aren’t quite ready for an agency, now could be the perfect time to create your freelance ‘Dream Team’!