If you’re a C-suite executive or mid-level marketer, chances are COVID-19 has forced you to redefine how you speak about your company’s everyday existence.
What qualified as “normal” prior to March 2020 has transformed into “the new normal.” You’ve come to learn that “P” for “Pandemic” also means “P” for “Pivot” — and though you’re working hard to give Ps a chance, you now realize that tighter margins mean full-time employees are a costlier undertaking than pre-COVID-19… and it might just be time for your first teamlance.
Understanding teamlancing and its value
Not familiar with teamlancing? Think of it like the first dance at a wedding where a couple of people — or flash-mob-like group — are working in lockstep to deliver something sensational when all eyes are on them. For some, this may be a two-person tango akin to something called “teams” in advertising (i.e., a happy couple that just works). For others, it’s a bigger endeavor with a complementary set of puzzle pieces (a networked team) working together to support the broader team. Call that the wedding party, if you will.
Except, as the orchestrator of this teamlance, you’re not married to any of them. But you can rest assured that this group shares one common goal: doing great work to make people proud and not making a fool of each other at an inopportune time.
Prior to the pandemic, teamlancing was a preference of certain companies that preferred flexible business models and interchangeable pieces to keep things on the leaner side. But, in the face of COVID-19, that luxury is gone for many. Teamlancing is more a necessity now inspired by shrinking budgets, tighter margins and/or the need to employ a remote workforce.
Meaning? It’s never been a better time to test the teamlance waters.
5 ways teamlancers add unexpected value
Fear not, marketer, if you do the dance right and with the right teamlance squad in place, the value can exceed even your wildest expectations. That’s because the teamlancer likes to impress by design because they know their client could always look elsewhere.
So, despite the obvious benefits of hiring a teamlance crew based on their unique skill or specialty areas, there are five other places you might not realize teamlancers can add value to your workforce as you evolve in these trying times.
1. Teamlancers have perspectives that extend beyond your four walls.
If you’re in a position to build a team, conventional wisdom traditionally dictates that it’s easier to trust in-housers who live and breathe the brand on a daily basis. The thought is: it’s easier to trust the home team — the one that’s been around, who has fought the battles and has built up brand equity with your product or client base. And there might be something to that.
However, with repetition and comfort can come all sorts of other issues. When you’re dealing with the same group of employees all the time, harmful patterns can exist where ego and bureaucracy affect the status quo. Places where “group think” tends to overwhelm the process of nurturing bold, new ideas. This can stifle creativity and create toxic landmines on the road to success.
Teamlancing embraces outside views and often, thrives because of them — because you’re dealing with talent that comes from different places (literally, they may live all over the place) that possess diverse perspectives born from varied experiences, not the same.
Sure, there can be learning curves in this pursuit, but if you align stars right, teamlancers can infuse their magic starting day one.
In my interview with WONGDOODY CEO Ben Wiener, he pointed to one of the most compelling reasons why his agency’s use of freelancers had risen 25 percent in the previous years:
“You want to be able to build a custom team for what a client needs. Not give clients what you happen to have sitting around. If your agency’s got people sitting around and you hire the agency, guess what, those are the people that are going on your account. They’re not the best people; they’re not the right people; they’re the people who have the time. Freelancers allow us to custom assemble a team that’s completely right for what a client needs, to focus on what a client needs.” – Ben Wiener, CEO WONGDOODY Advertising Agency
2. Teamlancers are incentivized to be better than most.
Having worked a global launch project for Autodesk three years in a row at WONGDOODY, I can say that our team of freelancers made good on a promise to deliver the goods to the in-house team because we were focused on one thing: delivering the best possible results for this project without being distracted by other agency business or bureaucratic BS.
To be honest, we had to. Falling somewhere under the Darwinian principle “survival of the fittest,” the teamlancer’s desire to keep working demands you deliver what’s being asked for — so that calls for focus and maybe less TikTok videos at work.
When you’re a teamlancer-for-hire, you’re at the mercy of project-based, finite periods of work — so you must keep your skills, technical capabilities and overall marketability up to date. Whether through updating your software skills, refining soft skills or staying atop what’s trending in your industry, a strain of never-get-too-comfortable is an innate trait of the time-tested teamlancer.
As someone in a position to hire, oftentimes you may “go outside” the house to find talent that possesses skills that don’t exist inside your four walls. Teamlancers have often prepared for these moments — by understanding how to execute in varying degrees of non-ideal circumstances. So, if you’re in charge of sourcing talent, know there are teamlancers who are prepared for tactical situations — who are used to delivering in a pinch and can provide possible earthquake insurance if/when the ground shakes internally or a fire drill becomes necessary.
It’s in their DNA.
3. Teamlancers can have a better understanding of the competitive landscape.
If you’re a tried-and-true teamlancer, chances are you’ve moved around a bit and have accumulated hands-on experiences in a variety of settings. Perhaps you’ve even become a specialist over time when you started out as a generalist. (For example, my experience on the Honda and Acura account at RPA made me desirable for a freelance project on a different automotive assignment years later for TrueCar.)
Unless there’s a non-compete clause in play (unusual for independent contractors), you’ve likely accumulated firsthand knowledge of how things work in an industry that could hold value for a broader teamlance effort.
This is not to say that teamlancers share insider information — no, no, no — but teamlancers can up their appeal by:
- Possessing a greater holistic understanding of the competitive landscape and thereby shortening the learning curve.
- Sharing workable insights by having teamlanced for other competitors in the space.
- Smoothing processes for your company through palpable, firsthand experience gained at competitive shops (but again, without divulging industry secrets that would violate an NDA or non-compete clause).
4. Teamlancers have connections that can help build out your teamlance tree.
Truth be told, unless you have access to a pool of talent like ClearVoice, chances are you may not have relationships with quality freelancers already in place. Perhaps this works some of the time, but not when you need them most, in a pinch. This could be during a global pandemic when you’re forced to lay off or furlough employees — or during a campaign pitch when a quick turnaround requires ramping up resources so as not to tax the full-timers already spread thin within your walls.
Naturally, if you’re working with ClearVoice as your teamlancing solution, your problems are solved by the Customer Success Team. However, if you’re building a teamlance solution from scratch, you might consider tapping into the connectivity of your top teamlancers to recruit the superstars they’ve worked with on previous teamlance jobs. Chances are they’ve collaborated with talented people along the way who’ve also delivered remarkable results on time, on brand and on message.
By adding solid contacts and new branches to a company’s teamlance tree, this special ops unit can save you time and the need to post job reqs that lead to a tidal wave of resumes and applicant reviews. After all, teamlancing is all about collaboration through networked teams — so maintaining good relationships is crucial.
At several stops, I’ve teamlanced with talent that I’d recommended for other jobs in a heartbeat. Professionals I worked in the trenches with under tight timelines, who possess talent that supersedes anything ‘meh’-diocre. These referrals go a long way, benefit from magical word-of-mouth and offer the added assurance of knowing a teamlance dynamic has already worked.
It’s one of the great untold secrets of teamlance-a-lot.
5. Teamlancers are more likely to overdeliver — because they live in a world of discomfort.
If you work as a teamlancer, your livelihood is dependent on these gigs to pay your rent, mortgage, medical bills, et al. But without full-time fringe benefits, each and every teamlance job becomes a try-out for more work down the road. That’s why bonafide teamlancers must be on their A-game all the time because they know they’re more expendable than a full-time employee. It behooves them to impress at every turn in efforts to generate repeat business and a possible teamlance encore.
In many cases, this means going above and beyond to satisfy the wildest expectations of the client.
As a C-level executive or mid-level marketer, this means teamlancers are more likely to:
- Show up to work ready to go with preparations for how to succeed in the role already thought through.
- Be professional within the confines of a team that has been brought on to be tactical and to complete a task.
- Possess a positive attitude without carrying around the residue from their last raise or vacation request denial.
It also means teamlancers are less likely to:
- Call-in sick (even remotely) because oftentimes, they only get paid for the hours they work and perform.
- Book appointments at inopportune times that put stress on other team members to carry the load.
- Complain of workload because simply put: this is what pays their bills.
Luckily, in the case of another teamlance I worked as a copywriter for Harman Kardon, we were a creative collective captured from different places and put together in complementary teamlance fashion — copywriters, graphic designers, art directors.
From my vantage point, the teamlancers did able-bodied impressions of full-time professionals (despite far less job security) and were valued for their contributions. Ultimately, this made for a fun and functional atmosphere where people enjoyed clocking in.
Who will fill out your teamlance card?
Putting aside the fact that teamlancing also gives you the opportunity to test-drive talent before bringing them on full-time, the teamlance dance has other positive benefits. Given the uncertain future — in a post-COVID world where remote work is expected to be more prevalent than ever — it makes sense to work with people who are used to volatile conditions where financial risk, remote tag-teams and demanding clients rule the day.
Teamlancers are used to working without the promise of future work and have adapted accordingly — so if you’re going to teamlance, do it with the people who’ve done it before.