The freelancing industry is expected to boom in the coming years, especially as more people start to explore the freedom and fulfillment of being their own boss. As experts in various fields branch out to create their personal empires, they will join forces with others who complement their skill set.
This teamlance setup is an effective, streamlined way to manage projects, attract and secure larger clients, and build a more substantial business. But for creative content writers who are used to working on their own schedule, at their own pace, setting their own deadlines, it can be a big adjustment to suddenly be accountable to other people. And to put your trust — and thus, your livelihood — in others’ hands, too.
Professional writers share how to thrive in a teamlance setup
Like with any other curve ball or change, it takes time to accept and thrive in this workstream. If you are being approached with opportunities to join a teamlance, learn from the advice of other freelancers who have mastered the fine art of solopreneur collaboration. Here, they shed insight.
Reframe how you think of ‘teamlancing’
In 2017, brand communications strategist Marisel Salazar was approached by her largest client with an ‘ask’: ‘Would she mind coming into their SoHo office a few days a week to get to know her?’ At the time, she was amenable since they paid her competitively and were easy to work with.
She quickly became part of their team, working alongside a marketing manager, a senior and junior designer and many interns. Her responsibilities included social media and copywriting, and she quickly found herself in a new situation: an independent contractor, conducting work dependent on other others.
What helped her adjust to this dynamic was reshaping how she thought about freelancing and teamlancing. Or in other words: she realized that even if you work for yourself or own your company, you are always working with someone else or another team to conduct business.
“No one works in a silo since most businesses are dependent upon a B2B or B2C relationship, which inevitably means you will have to be in communication with another entity. Working completely alone as an individual is quite rare.”
Communicate to ensure you’re on the same page.
As a marketing entrepreneur who frequently writes content for clients and releases, Caroline James has been part of many teamlance scenarios. Most recently, she began working with a public relations agency in San Francisco that specialized in helping their clients navigate the road to an IPO. Her role involves media strategy and relations, as well as content development and overall project management.
Since it’s not her first rodeo, she knows how important it is to start the relationship by addressing these topics:
- Setting expectations for every team member involved
- Being transparent about the skills needed to complete the job
- Tracking your work alongside the budget
- Adopting strong communication skills between all parties
These tactics ensure the teamlance is functioning on the same page, allowing you to avoid hiccups along the way.
Set boundaries from the get-go and assess the situation.
At first, Salazar worked onsite two days a week for her client and then offsite the other three days. However, as time passed, it became more challenging to balance her in-person presence with the responsibilities she committed herself to with other contracts. And, the more she was in their office, the more accustomed her teamlance got to her being there. This led her to feel like an employee, rather than a teamlance member.
She revised her contract several times and pushed back but eventually had to call it quits because the working setup wasn’t fostering her business goals or expertise.
It was a harsh lesson to learn, but it has helped her set effective boundaries for future opportunities. While it may feel tedious at first, she recommends all solopreneurs who are considering joining a teamlance to detail every aspect of their work situation. This includes setting your own work hours, addressing when you’re available and when you aren’t, setting a personal rule of when you take meetings (and if you charge for them), as well as what needs require an additional fee, and so on.
Figure out one another’s strengths.
In 2019, freelance writer Megan O’Neal joined the National MS Society to work on the public relations and communications team in support of her mom, who lives with multiple sclerosis (MS). At the beginning, she didn’t overlap with her teammates, but thanks to a restructure at the start of 2020 that changed their dynamics, she now works with four others across four states in a thriving teamlance.
Juggling workloads and timezones is a learning process for everyone, but what’s helped O’Neal is taking time to build trust and to better understand and utilize everyone’s unique strengths and skillsets. And coming up with ways they can join together to improve projects and deliverables.
For example, brainstorming meetings ended with entirely new ideas or angles, which, as a creative professional, was exciting for O’Neal. Through these hands-on virtual sessions, they would learn from another and then assign tasks accordingly. “The whole team working at higher vibrations has a way of helping each work at a higher level,” she adds.
Understand and respect roles and functions.
Communication strategist and content writer Brittany Bailey began freelancing in 2007 and worked alone until 2015. That’s when Star Jones’ communication team recruited her, and she started experiencing what it was like to be part of a teamlance.
While she still works from home, she is in daily meetings with:
- A communications director
- The event manager
- The development assistant
- The president of marketing
At first, it was an intimidating new endeavor: instead of only feeling pressure to impress a client, she now felt the need to dazzle the entire team. What helped her make the transition was taking the time to get out of her own lane and get to know the other superstars around her.
“I made it my point to understand their goals and what they needed to succeed. Star Jones made this easy because she is a transparent leader and made it clear how all of our roles were needed and what was expected of us,” she added.
And on the other hand, it’s also essential to introduce the teamlance to your background, skills, and expertise. As Jones says, make an effort to share your knowledge and creativity to build and earn their trust gradually:
“I always say it’s best to work with others who’ll help you lift your game, like a better player in tennis.”
Be prepared to feel a little uncomfortable.
And remember, that’s OK! As O’Neal explains, even with freelance work, the initial stages of a project with a new client are awkward at times. With a teamlance, you experience a crash course on the project, as well as the people you will work alongside to meet the deadline.
It may feel overwhelming at first, but communication will make a difference as with anything in business. And if you feel like something is still unsteady a few weeks into the work, suggest a virtual happy hour (or coffee date) session to take the edge off and better understand one another as humans.
When effective, teamlance can make a significant impact on both your network and net worth, Bailey reminds:
“Every person I have ever worked with, even if we were all in different states at the time, are still part of my network today and offer referrals and advice. So don’t be shy! It’s easy to wear blinders and do your job well but never really connect with your team. Strive to connect and build rapport.”