Whether as an ongoing business model or for a specific project, independent professionals are forming teams. Our 2022 State of Independence report notes this growing trend:
- Over the past year 26% of Full-Time independents said they had teamed up with other independent workers or micro businesses, up from 19% in 2020
- In the next year 30% of independent workers say they will likely team with other independents
The goal of every independent professional is business growth. Keeping the sales funnel full, taking on more projects from current or new clients, and upgrading skills to increase rates are just a few of the activities geared toward growing the business. As a business-building strategy, teaming can provide invaluable opportunities and benefits.
From Great Realization to Great Collaboration
There are numerous incentives to pursue teaming opportunities. Collaborating with a team of independent professionals to produce common outcomes offers benefits like these.
Ability to work on more complex projects
Bringing your skills and expertise to the table with other independents whose skills and expertise are in different areas creates a multidisciplinary team that can take on far bigger and more complex projects than you could pursue on your own.
Improve your chances for recurring work
Being part of a well-functioning team with successful results can offer more work opportunities without the need to market from the ground up.
Ability to work simultaneously on multiple projects/teams
Working on a project as part of a team doesn’t preclude capturing other projects and working on other teams at the same time.
Access to new high-value client prospects
As a team, you can capture projects in large enterprises with a reach you would not have on your own. Relationships you form with client staff can open doors to future opportunities.
Expand your network of independent colleagues
Other members of your team can be excellent additions to your network. In addition to connecting with fellow business owners facing many of the same challenges (and offering useful solutions), you add potential collaborators for future opportunities.
Potentially higher pay and increased rate
A team engaged by an established brand can negotiate market rates for all its members, and this may mean a higher rate for you. In addition, adding such clients to your project portfolio can support a rate upgrade in your business.
You as Team Leader
If you are positioned to be the one who forms and manages the team, you can gain extra growth, experience, and business opportunities.
Your team will produce the best results in an environment of collaboration and mutual respect. You are more likely to assemble the right mix of skills and personalities when you source members from your own network. If you need to include skills that aren’t available among people you know, be sure to thoroughly vet any candidates before selection.
Most aspects of team management are the same as those for teams comprised of employees, including:
- Clear scope of work that includes timelines and milestones
- Well-defined roles
- Project management using an online tool easily accessible by all team members
- Communication protocols using an online collaboration platform
- Relationship building
The key difference is that your team is made up of individual business owners rather than employees. The viewpoints and mindsets are different, and they are accustomed to making decisions independently. Communication and relationship building are critical to ensure that your team meshes effectively. Celebrate wins, acknowledge outstanding achievements, and foster fun in the midst of hard work.
Before you secure a project for a team, make decisions about processes and procedures and put the appropriate supports in place. Here are examples of the items you will need to cover:
- Who will be the client’s point of contact?
- Based on team member locations, what will be the common “workday” for everyone?
- What is the most effective way to distribute information to everyone?
- What tools and programs are your team members already familiar with?
- Will any training on tools and programs be needed?
- What will be the means of turning in deliverables to the client?
In the context of continuous learning and improvement, plan some form of live meeting on a regular basis—weekly, if that works—to check on progress, surface any issues or challenges, and resolve what can be resolved. One simple way to do this is to use the four-question framework of an after-action review:
- What was supposed to happen (this week)?
- What actually happened?
- Why were there differences?
- What can we do (next week) to improve?
Periodically, have a longer session to get feedback from the team and to raise questions like these:
- What is working well so far?
- What parts of our processes need improvement?
- Are there bottlenecks that need resolution?
- Do any team members need more support in their role areas?
Whether you take on the team leader role or take a seat at the table as a member, project work on a team can help accelerate your business growth and take you in new directions in your work. If you haven’t already started investigating teaming as a business strategy, start now by staying alert to possible opportunities.