There are a few pivotal moments in a freelancer’s career. They are the light bulbs that flicker brightly for years, reminding us of where we started and shining the path for where we’re heading. For many, one moment is when they decided to branch out on their own and ‘go freelance,’ as many refer to the process of becoming a solo-practitioner. Another memorable moment is when they figured freelancing out and had a steady stream of clients and income.
And then there is the ‘aha!’ realization of seeing the potential of creating a teamlance is another. The latter can feel more stressful than the others, especially since counting on others to deliver client work requires trust, vulnerability and smart delegation skills.
But, as many freelancers turned teamlancers can attest to, it’s a decision that can supercharge your business, fueling both your financial and professional skillset growth.
Evolving a freelance business into a teamlance
Here, we spoke with two superstar teamlancers who share their journey and the spark of genius that helped them fundamentally shift their businesses:
Christina’s Story: From TV reporter to public relations teamlancer
In 2015, Christina Nicholson left her job as a television reporter and anchor after giving birth to her second child. She craved a better schedule that would allow her to be a working parent and remain career-driven. She was lured by a public relations agency that stated they had flexible hours, but it was more demanding in reality. In reaction, she started looking for a remote opportunity that would allow her to log hours remotely or have a shorter commute. She quickly figured out that the job didn’t exist, so she set out to create it for herself.
So, as many freelancers do, she searched the internet far and wide, looking for clients. As she puts it, she had no idea what she was doing business-wise, but she was taking any kind of projects relevant to her industry. After working before and after her full-time job hours for six months, she quit and founded her company, Media Maven.
For a year, she worked 10 hours a day, seven days a week, because she wasn’t sure when she’d find the next client and didn’t want to say ‘no’ to any opportunity. She was miserable but also happy to be calling the shots.
Luckily, her ‘aha’ teamlance moment came in 2016, right around the election between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.
Here’s what was happening:
- As a publicist, she struggled to score coverage for a client in the healthcare space.
- She felt by bringing in another freelancer with whom she could collaborate (who had more experience and contacts in this specific industry) she would find more success and placements.
- While it was scary, this small step toward a teamlance took a massive weight off her shoulders. “It didn’t only free up my time because I had somebody helping me do the work, but it also released me from so much stress of having to deliver everything for my client all by myself,” she shared.
From this experience, her teamlance continued to grow: every time she would take on a new client, she would bring in another niche freelancer to work alongside. Typically, she asks for referrals since she relies on others’ expertise and recommendations in her professional network. Generally speaking, she says creating a teamlance is easy since freelancers are often on the same page: wanting to work for themselves and do what they love.
Today, she has a team of multiple teamlancers, covering all sorts of job functions and offering a plethora of expertise. In fact, her teamlance started to grow so quickly that she felt stressed to her max again and decided to make another hire: a director of operations who handles timelines and deliverables, as well as paperwork and more.
What she loves the most about teamlancing is how it allows her to grow bigger or condense her business, depending on demand. It’s allowed her to streamline efforts and see results.
“After I have seen what’s possible when you bring on a team of people who are better than you at certain things in your industry, I don’t think I could ever go back to handling things all by myself. I think it’s important to have different creative minds around you and to be able to lean on other team members for help.”
3 teamlancing takeaways
Her biggest takeaways over the last four years of teamlancing could be boiled down to three main points:
- Finances: being able to pay everyone on your teamlance
- Trust: bringing new people into your teamlance
- Delegation: allowing others to exercise their passions and talents
It can feel like an immense amount of pressure, knowing you are responsible for another freelancer’s bread-and-butter, so getting clear about your financial picture is essential.
“I had to understand my numbers — the money that was coming in and the money that was going out — so I could pay this new freelancer and myself fairly,” she explains.
She builds trust by starting small, whether it’s a task or a few management duties. If they prove themselves effective and dependable, welcome them into the fold. With every new teamlance addition, you can focus on your skillset and gradually build the business you dreamt of by letting go of control.
“You have to stop thinking that only you can do the work. Other people are good at the same things you are. Many times they’re even better,” she continues. “You should hire people to do the things that you don’t like and the things that you’re not good at. I can honestly say that every single person on my team today is better than I am at what they do, and that is why they are on my teamlance.”
Allison’s story: From high-profile PR professional to media powerhouse.
Believe it or not, Allison Olmstead almost retired from her PR career at the age of 25. Once she had her first child, she felt it was impossible to have a child and a career, so she gave her notice to the boutique firm she worked out, where she covered accounts for Chanel, The Container Store, Frederick’s of Hollywood, and other high-profile brands.
However, when her old boss asked if she wanted to work from home on the Frederick’s account, she decided to give freelance a go. This was 22 years ago, when remote work was not common, but she pushed forward and started to receive more referrals and inquiries.
A few years after she started freelancing, a childhood friend became a client when she launched a beach-chic bag line. She told Olmstead about another stay-at-home publicist she knew, which felt like finding a needle in a haystack. They met for coffee, and days later, they were sitting in a lawyer’s office signing paperwork for their company, To Media Co. This instantly allowed her to expand her client list, and well, it made it more fun.
However, many years later, her partner decided to return to entertainment PR — and that’s when Olmstead had her teamlancing ‘aha!’ moment.
Here’s what she knew:
- She couldn’t handle her client list without hiring freelancers to collaborate with on accounts and projects.
- She could have to fire clients because she couldn’t service them without sacrificing the quality of work.
- She could think outside of the box and find freelancers with various skill sets to help handle the client load and keep her business thriving.
“No one wants to fire a long-term, good-paying client that you love working for, so the only option was to adapt and start finding freelancers,” she shared. “Plus, I realized the value of having a team and not just working by myself, so finding freelancers was crucial to my business moving forward.”
To begin, she contacted other publicists she worked with previously, asked for referrals, and eventually found the right people to bring on to a teamlance. Today, she has a go-to list of people she works with on an hourly, monthly-retainer or project basis.
Teamlancing takeaway: unlimited opportunities for growth
Olmstead considers herself the ‘OG’ teamlancer since she started this working method in 2011. Today, her teamlance includes specialists in all areas, including copywriting, content creators, social media experts and more, helping meet client demands and foster healthy business growth.
“I have even one teamlancer who has been working with me on an account for six years. Our client loves having two veteran publicists on their account. Just in the last year, this success story of long term-teamlancing got us thinking that we could market ourselves as teamlancers and grow our businesses even more. On the accounts where it makes sense, we bring in the other person to provide that support, know-how, relationships. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”