For the past six weeks, I’ve been writing a series called Adventures in Teamlancing (catch up on the series here) and chronicling my own sometimes twisty path from dedicated freelancer to committed teamlancer.
As I started to write this penultimate article in the series, I realized that one of the things I’m most aware of when working on my steady teamlancing gig is the almighty timer tracking my billable hours.
Balancing your time
As a full-time freelancer, I realized that though meeting deadlines and drop-dead dates was something carved in stone, the way I got there wasn’t as urgent. In other words, if I needed some time to goof off, there wasn’t another team member who might immediately need my time or attention or editing or brainstorming skills.
As part of a team, however, I’ve come to the realization that my hours are also their hours. So, if I’m working on a project as part of a larger group, I don’t have the luxury of simply working on the part that’s mine alone, I also have to find time during my billable hours to make time to liaise with fellow teamlancers. And sometimes people just need a fresh pair of eyes on their work to zero-in on what’s great or what could work better.
Here’s something else I’ve learned as part of a teamlancing crew: Some people work at warp speeds. Others take their own sweet time. When you’re in a teamlancing arrangement, chances are good that you will have to keep track of your hours while also trying to balance the time that people need your expertise and input. And as great as it is to bounce ideas off of each other, there’s always the awareness that unlike a full-time job, one’s hours might be limited. So, what happens if people ask for more of you after-hours? Or worse, what if you want to help everyone on your team but only have X billable hours per month?
As a regular teamlancer, I’ve learned some of the subtleties involved in being protective of your billable hours while still providing the most value. And spoiler alert, I’ve also realized that sometimes to get things done or to help a colleague who needs a boost, you might just shut the timer off and get the task done.
There are also two fun things that have happened over the past few weeks as I’ve been working on this column.
- I’ve heard my fellow teamlancers use the word (wait for it) teamlancing! Behold. We all are starting to embrace the idea that we’re freelancing as part of a larger team.
Which leads me to the fact that…
- I get to interview my fellow teamlancers for this series. While it’s generally frowned upon for a journalist to quote clients or co-workers in their articles, in this case, it actually moves the series forward (and I got the blessing of my editor!). If I can offer a behind-the-scenes view of what I’m learning in real-time and who I’m learning from, I can help other teamlancers acclimate themselves to the process.
3 ways to communicate with your team more efficiently
1. Don’t waste words.
If you’ve ever read a list of workplace pet peeves, you’ve surely seen people rage against overlong email introductions. If you struggle with time management issues, remind yourself to be frugal with your words when possible.
2. Be generous with your words.
Wait, what? Didn’t I just advise the exact opposite above? Why, yes, I did! But the thing is, if you don’t explain yourself or your needs clearly when communicating with fellow teamlancers, you could end up caught in an endless loop of back-and-forth messaging or emails trying to explain just what’s needed.
3. Be open to feedback.
If I’ve learned anything in my past few months of teamlancing, it’s the power of great feedback. As a freelancer, you might wait for an editor or client to weigh in. As a teamlancer, you can – and should – pay attention to what your skilled teammates think and then act accordingly. In the end, you’ll stop wasting time on back-and-forth and be able to polish your work.
It’s (still) all about balance.
“To be completely candid, hours are a struggle — in large part because we don’t have full-time childcare,” Lindsay Wissman, MBA, Senior Copywriter (and fellow teamlancer) at The Content Factory shared.
“If our daughter is at daycare, I’m typically clocked in and working. I also work most nights of the week after she’s in bed so I can try to have one day off every week,” she continued. “I try really hard to have every Sunday off so we can hang out as a family. But like anyone else who tries to balance work and kids and passion projects, things pop up in my schedule that throws everything off.”
Adding to that, Wissman did a lot of work with Moms Demand Action leading up to the election, including everything from spending her weekends delivering no-contact literature drops for local candidates.
“I don’t think I had a day off for a couple months because I’d be too tired to actually get anything done at night, and then I’d need to work on the weekends to make up for it. It was very draining. My brain needs the rest, and I haven’t been getting it. But this work is extremely important to me. I find it personally fulfilling, even though not all of our candidates won their races (not even close).”
Consider the cost of being overextended.
In a report on work/life balance, the Mayo Clinic shared a few things you might suffer from if you’re overextended, including fatigue, poor health and lost time with friends and loved ones. They also offered a few actionable ways to find more time for yourself including learning to say no and learning to detach from work. Which becomes nearly impossible when the majority of us are still working from home.
Vince, (who chose not to share his last name in this article), is an art director who has worked almost exclusively on a teamlance basis for the past two years. He confessed that he was close to the breaking point in terms of elusive work/life balance before the pandemic began.
“I was working too much and not taking time for myself or my husband. Since the pandemic hit I have completely lost sight of what’s my time and what’s my boss’s time.”
For that reason, Vince chose to take what he calls a “psychological leave of absence” from his two main jobs. “I technically still work for the same companies, but I don’t drive myself crazy anymore if everything isn’t perfect.”
3 ways to be better at respecting other people’s time
1. Be realistic about your timelines.
Can’t have something ready by Friday? Don’t say that you can. Try for Monday instead or find a compromise and deliver part of a project on the desired date and the balance at a later date.
2. Be honest.
Are you overwhelmed or anxious right now? We all are. If you have a family emergency or simply can’t finish in time, let your clients or boss know.
3. Give yourself a treat.
Find a reward system for yourself for completing a task. Find ways to make time for your creativity. As an avid knitter, Wissman doesn’t quite have the time to craft as much as she’d like, but she values the creative outlet.
“The thing is, creatives need to do their creative stuff. They need to write, draw, paint, make music, etc. That’s their outlet for stress, anxiety, anger, or whatever is going on in their lives.”
If work becomes too much for you, find an outlet that allows you to at least express your frustrations or channel them into creating something beautiful or useful.