3 Tips for Successful Virtual Teams

Creative Freelancer Business ConferenceToday’s blog post comes to us from Elke Giba, Chief Creative Officer of Giba Group, who will be on the panel “The How-Tos of Virtual Teams” at the Creative Freelancer Business Conference (and HOW Design Live) May 12-16, 2014 in Boston. Come learn more about how to run a successful virtual team.

I left the corporate world more than two years ago to escape the countless inefficient meetings and to exact a little more creative control over solving problems for clients.

Although I work alone in my office, I don’t usually work on my own. Instead, I have an entire team of creative professionals that help me get all the work done. The biggest benefit to this arrangement is that I can offer a stronger suite of services to clients because of the diversity of talented creatives in my group.Headshot_Elke-Giba_#108FC2F

It’s a pretty plum set up, but there can be issues (not the least of which is learning how to work with others again, in a virtual environment no less). Here are some things to keep in mind to navigate virtual teams and make it successful for every member.

1. Carefully vet potential partners.

The stakes are higher when you choose to share the work with other independent creatives. You’re delegating some project responsibility to someone else, but you may ultimately answer to the client when something goes wrong. I treat opportunities to collaborate as mini job interviews and ask lots of questions in that initial conversation. The same working habits apply for successful freelancers as we practiced in a corporate environment (without all the corporate crap). All virtual team members should be willing and able to meet the responsibilities we take on individually. Ask lots of questions and get an idea of who you will be working with on the project. It’s also a good idea to have a contract arrangement. I’ll usually act as the client for the independent creatives who work with me. 

2. Practice regular communication.

Outta sight, outta mind. Be purposeful and intentional in communicating with your team. Life has a tendency to get in the way and disrupt the momentum, so be proactive and reach out to your team regularly. If it’s been a while since the last update on a project status or question, pick up the phone and give them a call. Case in point, while drafting this article, one of my trusted partners realized it had been a few days since he asked a question and he still didn’t have an answer from me. His quick call spurred activity on my end and we were able to get the project back on track. 

3. Agree upon timelines.

One perk of creative freelancing is the flexibility to adjust your work schedule to fit your life and spirit. Be sure you share those “out of office” events with your virtual team members early to accommodate the workload that comes along.  It is perfectly fine with me if you want to take a week off to gallivant through the countryside, but be sure to let me know several weeks in advance so I can be supportive and respectful of your work/life balance.

The key to virtual teams is mutual respect and clear expectations. I’m just one person, but I don’t have to be all things or do all the things that make my clients happy. There are scores of talented freelancers out there who are willing and able to make my life easier. And more profitable for both of us.

About Giba Group

Giba Group collaborates on creative and marketing projects for clients who help communities learn and heal. Our virtual team of creative professionals develops integrated marketing campaigns in online environments. Giba Group is a certified woman-owned enterprise. Connect with us online at gibagroup.com.

For more on living the freelance life: Want to get the scoop on how to get started? Want to find out how to best balance work and personal time? How to brand yourself, and launch a successful passion project? Check out the latest Strategies for Creative Freelancers virtual event April 16!