In August, I started a new consulting position that had me working as part of a remote team located in various parts of the globe and the U.S. Joining the team shifted everything I once knew about freelancing to a brand-new sphere.
Instead of adding input as needed or creating or producing content, or analyzing the work of others, I became part of a team, albeit for a limited number of hours weekly. I’m not sure the exact moment the proverbial lightbulb went on over my head and I realized that I was officially a teamlancer, something we’ve been spending a lot of time discussing here at ClearVoice.
Catch up on teamlancing
A Teamlancing™ collaboration involves a team of freelancers working together, with the word itself a portmanteau of team and freelance. What’s probably new here are the tools and methods of connectivity and sharing ideas, information, and updates.
It’s also incredibly timely since, as more of us work from home, we’re increasingly collaborating on our work as well. But unlike new corporate gigs that usually come with HR warnings, if not rule books, teamlancing is most often something we figure out as we go.
And that usually means a lot of trial and error, which is normally just part of the process but potentially more stressful these days. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to create ongoing content that helps teamlancers figure it out since there’s no official guidebook and there certainly haven’t been any books on the topic… yet.
Who’s teamlancing now?
This has been a year of change for all of us. And for most, that involved settling into different variations of our previous roles or giant career shifts for many long-time freelancers and more traditional office workers. In an effort to tap into some of those changes and to help ease the transition for anyone who newly found themselves teamlancing or simply to offer my own input on the process, I wrote an eight-part series called Adventures in Teamlancing.
It was an interesting and enlightening process because it forced me to figure out the key differences between being your own boss while being answerable to clients, or becoming part of a somewhat elastic team structure in which we help each other create a better experience for our clients. In writing that series, I opened up about my experiences — something I rarely did when running my own shop. I also offered my own perspective on learning as I went along with input from my very wise fellow teamlancers.
And now, we’re going to take a deeper dive into teamlancing and feature interesting folks who earn a living as teamlancers as well as their background stories, challenges and recipes for success.
2 quick rules for success as a teamlancer
- The word team literally comes before the part about freelancing. No matter how great you are on your own, you should always remember that this will be a team effort.
- There’s no room for your ego. If you’ve ever ghostwritten anything, you know how great it feels when the piece receives kudos, but less so when it starts garnering awards and you’re left out of the loop. Now is a good time to check your expectations. You’ll probably have more of a success rate if you realize that the team’s success is your own, but that your name won’t take top billing.
Why you should up your teamlancing game
As 2020 draws to a close, we’re all seeing a lot of worst-of-the-year lists along with a sparse amount of best-of lists to counter all the doom and gloom. The thing is though, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that there can be tremendous opportunity in even the worst of times. If you can stand out and set yourself and your talents apart during a global pandemic, who can even imagine what you’ll be capable of when all the dust settles? Which brings us to teamlancing on the whole.
Maybe you’ve never considered a different professional structure for yourself because you felt great about what you were already doing. Or maybe you’ve dabbled with the idea of teamlancing in the past, but could never get it to stick. Or maybe you’re simply trying to convince a potential employer that you want the job, but not on their terms. Whatever your reason for taking interest in the teamlancing trend, your timing couldn’t be better.
3 reasons why now is a great time to be a teamlancer
- All the tools: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google docs, Slack, Asana… you get the idea. With more collaborative tools than ever, you can take part in weekly or daily team interactions that allow you real-time interaction that’s face to face. It’s hard to describe, but even a long-time freelancer (read: professional hermit) like me feels a bit more connected when I see a colleague typing their thoughts into a shared document. It’s weirdly comforting and reassuring.
- It’s completely accepted: Remember what it felt like back in the day trying to explain to your in-laws that you worked from home? Well, everyone does now.
- You can keep trying different teamlancing arrangements until you find the one that suits your talents and bandwidth capability. Now is the perfect time for you to figure out just how much of your professional life you can or want to commit to teamlancing. Do you prefer a rigid structure or something low-key? How much time do you have for each gig? There’s never been a better time to try on a new career path for size, no one will judge you if you move on from a not so great fit.
So who are these teamlancers anyway?
And now we get to the fun part: meeting teamlancers and hearing their stories. From a graphic artist who’s been freelancing as part of a team since the 1970s (and only recently realized she was a teamlancer!) to the bleeding edge international networker, teamlancers are everywhere and they want to share their stories with the rest of us. The idea behind sharing their stories is to create a spark that might just inspire you to take another look at the way your own professional life looks right now.
My new ongoing series Meet the Teamlancers will cover everything from brand ambassadors to project managers. I’ll also be interviewing people from my extended networks (or even you, scroll down for more on that) since, in trying to understand the way they work, I hope that we all will find interesting tips and tricks to improve the way we work.
Teamlancing and freelancing, same but different
Over the years, I’ve interviewed thousands of people in the corporate and freelancing worlds. Add to that all those on the C level, the creatives and communication professionals and I would generally have a pretty good idea of where the interview would go before it even began.
More than that, during all that time, I had a fairly common goal: find the commonalities, share the takeaway lessons, create an environment where the things we learn become evergreen career lessons. So far so good, right? Only the teamlancing arena is a more nuanced thing and while once you’re in a team you’re part of the crew, getting to that point can be a bit tricky.
Things you should know about teamlancing before you begin
- There’s definitely a learning curve. Whether you’ve spent your professional life as part of a team, or are the poster child for the gig economy, teamlancing has a different vibe than either. Because you’re part of a team but also a freelancer, you’ll be tasked with figuring out their rules and the way they fit in with your own.
- It’s not one size fits all. If you’ve ever worked in a rigid work environment, you’ll have noticed that sometimes corporate culture takes over to the point that it erases originality and growth. With teamlancing, the basic idea is that you bring your quirks, specialties and ability to play nice with others to every engagement.
- There’s actually an I in teamlancing. Well, not literally, but as much as you’ll be part of a team, you’ll also be figuring out a lot on your own. This is why I’m looking forward to sharing the stories of teamlancers who’ve figured out some of the intricacies involved in the process… so you don’t have to.
Where you fit in
One of the things I’m most looking forward to about writing this new column is finding a way of sharing a wide variety of stories from a wide swath of teamlancers. And that’s where you come in.
Are you a teamlancer or do you know someone who is? If you or they have an interesting story to tell or methodology that we all only dream about, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and give me a brief sketch of your/their teamlancing prowess and I’ll follow up if it sounds like a good fit or if I need more info.
Want to be interviewed for a future column?
- Please share your name, title and industry
- Tell me if you’re a newbie teamlancer or have been doing it for a while
- What do you love or hate about teamlancing?
- What’s your number one tip for working well in part of a teamlancing environment?
In many ways, teamlancing is literally and figuratively a group effort. I’m excited to start the next phase of my own teamlancing journey and hope that you’ll join in by sharing your own stories while also letting us know the industries, ideas or teamlancers that interest you most.