June 30, 2015 | , | by

10 Reasons Why Working in Teams Is Always a Great Option

“I’m a freelancer” was the common answer one used to give when they were between “real” jobs (sometimes also referred to as being unemployed). But as we’re all well aware, we live in an economy and a world where coming clean as a freelancer is no longer an ostracizing admission. In many circles, in fact, it’s considered a badge of creativity, independence, intelligence, and even hipness (isn’t virtually every admiringly mocked stereotype on Portlandia some sort of freelance artisanal cheese maker?)

So, while being a freelancer is no longer uncool, it also no longer means subjecting yourself to a life of solitude. Of you against everyone else, trying to juggle customer deadlines, networking for new business, and a personal life.

Yes, you chose to go out and work independently so you could take advantage of all the trappings of the freelancer “lifestyle” – being your own boss and making your own decisions, taking credit for all of your success, and being in charge of your own goals. But it’s still hard work and as a team of one, it’s sometimes harder than it really needs to be. There are however options available to work as part of a team, even a virtual team, and to still do that as a freelancer. There are agency-like collaboratives, “hives“, and of course, the Market Network platform that we’re building with Digaboom. These options still let you be your own boss and live and work from wherever you want. And there are a lot of good reasons why teaming up using one or more of these options may make sense for you.

1. You can win better and bigger projects

I list this as number 1 because it is. Sure, maybe you’re an elite designer or the Mr. Wolf of bad code, but for most of us, consistently winning big projects and customers is no walk in the park – particularly on your own. And this can sting even more if you were used to working with bigger customers at your old job.

But when you present yourself as a team, the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. You’re still freelancers – there’s just more of you. And now, you come across as more substantial with more breadth of talent and experience, and more able to compete against brick and mortar agencies. Additionally, if you’re organized under a single umbrella, you’re also easier to deal with for companies that may not want the hassle of managing a bunch of far-flung 1099 workers.

2. You can offload some work

As a solo freelancer, you’re on the hook for some major responsibility. Not only do you have to do the customer work, but you have to find it as well. You’ll likely have to provide your own project management, maybe keep track of time and report back to the customer, and own your own devices and keep them humming and updated with the software you need (installing a printer driver can be a maddening endeavor). Maybe you’re good at offloading menial tasks (check out Virtual Freedom from Chris Ducker) but more than likely, you’re doing more of the stuff that someone else used to do before you began freelancing.

As a team though, you can offload some stuff to others. Maybe someone on your team is a great content marketer or really good with FreshBooks. And maybe you’re great at and don’t mind coordinating proposals, something others on your team despise and will procrastinate on. As a small group or team, you have the ability to distribute responsibility, act and respond rapidly to competition and quickly solve problems. That’s not such a bad thing!

3. You may be more creative

I know what you’re thinking – working in a team requires compromise and compromise stifles creativity. Research actually shows the opposite. In fact, collaborating with people from different backgrounds and environments can prevent group-think, and decision making that is jointly developed can receive better contribution around implementation time. And team conflict can actually be beneficial. If correctly managed, some team conflict can generate more creative solutions than is seen in conflict-free groups (like one-person teams). Admittedly, the conflict must be about the work itself and not just friction within the team (which would of course be detrimental). One Harvard Business School study actually found that symphony orchestras with some degree of discord played better as an ensemble than those whose members worked together quite cohesively.

4. You can be more productive

meeting-tshirtOne of the reasons that may have attracted you to freelancing is the idea that you’d never have to attend another stupid, waste of time team, department, or company meeting ever again. You just knew that you’d be so much more productive on your own.

Well, the meeting part is probably true. But as far as being more productive on your own, research actually shows that the longer team members stay together as an intact group, the better and more productive they are. This is especially true of freelance teams who are directly dialed into customer needs and the work being delivered. And as a freelance team, you can do what you need to do to be more effective and efficient as a group (remember, you’re all your own bosses). Having that individual responsibility and performing well can actually lead to more personal happiness which can lead to better results.

5. Easier to expand your geographic reach

Let’s face it, as an independent freelancer, your ability to find and secure customers not local to you is a challenge. Sure, you can try your hand at some of the freelance websites out there but for the most part, your customers are going to come from your network and your network of potential new clients is likely to be within a 50 mile radius of where you hang your hat at night. On the other hand, collaborating as a virtual team literally frees you from geographic boundaries. The possibility to collaborate with talent from all over the country – even world – means you have more access to customers that can be anywhere.

You also have more options to get face to face. Even as a virtual team of freelancers, some clients may want to have some in person meetings, even if it’s with just one member of the team. If your team has some geographic diversity with proximity to major metro areas, it puts you in a better position to win those types of customers. Thinking even more globally, having team members in high growth international markets like Brazil or parts of the Middle East can give you access to customers you could never get on your own. Again, these team members can attend physical meetings with potential clients and represent you as part of a global team – even if you’re working out of your kitchen in the suburbs of Kansas City.

6. You can live wherever you want

seattle-coastBefore you ever started your career, maybe you made the decision to move to New York or Dallas or Los Angeles because that’s where the jobs were. And now, going off on your own suddenly gives you more freedom to live where you want to live. But as a one-person team, you really can only go so far from “where the jobs are” because that’s where you customers are likely to be too. And this depresses you because ever since you took that trip to the Canadian Rockies, you’ve always dreamed of living there.

However, if you’re part of a virtual team, you may be able to rely on other members of the team having more proximity to physical customers. Just maybe you’ll now have more of that freedom to live wherever you want – at least more than you did on your own. And let’s face it, with collaboration software and online communication tools, you really can pull this off today.

7. You can be up front with the customer

The truth can set you free! One problem with being a one-person show is that you may find yourself in situations where being that one-person team is not exactly in your favor. One little “white lie” route that some freelancers could take (not you of course) is to promote themselves as a larger team with lots of resources, when really it’s just one person doing all of the work. Conversely, some freelancers can be tempted to truthfully promote themselves as a one-person show, when they’re really sub-contracting to others behind the scenes (again, not you of course).

Why not just be a team then? In either of these situations, being up front and honest with the customer is the right course of action, doesn’t put anyone in a sticky situation and can only help in securing new business.

8. You’re now a full service offering

No doubt you’re great at what you do. In fact, you’re probably great at a few things, good at a few others, and maybe, you can pass for acceptable at still a few more things. But as a one-person show, one thing you’re definitely not is a full service offering (only Bo Jackson could pull that off and even he didn’t know Diddley). But as a team, you’re now part of a cross-section of a larger offering – you can win those bigger projects and truthfully tell your clients and prospects the extent of your capabilities. You’re also better, as having different members in a team, all contributing with different expertise and perspectives, can lead to more accurate and effective decision making.

9. Easier to smooth over the dry patches

Even though it’s easier than ever today to go on your own, it’s still unnerving to sever a steady, predictable paycheck. And as an independent freelancer running a one-person show, the pressure to produce a steady, predictable cash-flow can be too much for some. Anyone who has freelanced for any period of time has seen the ebb and flow business cycle – sometimes you have more work than you can handle, sometimes it feels like you couldn’t find a project if your life depended on it. Having a team can help smooth out those spells of feast or famine. Why? Because it’s not all on you. As a freelance team, you’re all essentially a partner with a vested interest in the outcome of the business. This dynamic can provide stability that’s hard to get on your own.

10. It’s not as lonely

Depending on your mental composition, you may or may not thrive as a one-person freelance team. Maybe you miss the camaraderie of working with others more than you realized. Or maybe you just need a little more regular interaction with folks who aren’t customers or clients but get the work that you do. Having team members that you can Skype with on work issues or to just talk with about who was shockingly knocked off on Game of Thrones the night before can improve your work satisfaction and overall quality of life and make you feel like you’re part of something bigger.


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Image: Liv is Alive @ DeviantArt