Collaborating can be one of the most exciting, rewarding, and fun activities you engage in during your professional life.
Many people choose freelancing because it gives them a certain amount of autonomy.
[C]ollaborating with other people who have chosen an independent career path is not always easy to navigate.
Indeed, this independence has helped influence growth in the contractor talent pool — one recent report found that around 35% of the U.S. workforce are now freelancers.
However, every now and then a project may either require collaborating with others.
That said, collaborating with other people who have chosen an independent career path is not always easy to navigate.
Though the team might comprise some of the most talented contributors across the planet, this could also mean that everyone is operating from different time zones and schedules.
Not to mention that each member might be working on a couple of different projects at the same time, and priorities may not mesh.
There are certainly some significant challenges, but the good news is that there are also solutions.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the strategies that can help make collaborating with other freelancers more successful and enjoyable.
1. Collaborative Tools
Working successfully with a group of freelancers requires a framework of tools that can support your efforts. This must include tools that are consistently used by all members of the team and, therefore, compatible with multiple types of devices.
These tools include:
Whether your team members are dispersed around the globe or you can meet occasionally in coworking spaces, an agile communication tool will be key to your freelancing success.
It’s best not to rely on a different app for each type of communication, as this can be unwieldy.
Rather, have the team agree on a shared platform that can be used for multiple approaches in one application.
Tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams allow for video conferencing, voice calls, and messaging through channels that can be privately accessed by only your team.
As such, it tends to be more convenient for team members to engage in regular communications and can even be conducive to supporting team morale through casual conversation in the chat channels.
One of the most difficult aspects of working in a team of freelancers is keeping planning sessions both dynamic and organized.
You may not all be in the same room at the same time, sharing a whiteboard, and enjoying that easy back-and-forth that in-person brainstorming sessions can often encourage.
Certain best practices apply to both physical and remote brainstorming — assigning a facilitator to keep the sessions on track and encouraging ideation from all members among them.
However, with a freelance team, it can be wise to adopt tools like virtual whiteboards that allow for color-coded additions from team members no matter where they are collaborating from.
Such applications also support contributions when colleagues from other time zones need to engage asynchronously with the group while keeping the plans that are produced well-organized and shareable.
2. Flexible Practices
Though there should certainly be some solid organizational principles in any collaboration, it’s important not to take a dictatorial approach.
You need to encourage flexible practices that are built on reliable organizational frameworks.
This can include:
Collaborating remotely with a global team of freelancers can mean that you might all be operating on different working schedules.
This can make it difficult when the inevitability of meetings and joint tasks comes along. You need to first agree on a consistent framework for your project schedule — what the key dates that tasks must be completed by and updates provided.
From there you can work together to adopt a flexible schedule for the collaborative tasks.
Don’t just plan meetings for times that are convenient for the apparent majority of collaborators; ensure that there is equal opportunity for meetings to occur at convenient times for those in more distant locations or with personal duties.
This approach helps to ensure that each member gains an appreciation of one another’s needs, and certain members don’t feel alienated due to their family commitments or geographical position.
It’s important for any collaboration that the roles within the group are well defined. Even if you each have an equal stake in the success of the venture, a project without structure can quickly get out of hand.
Therefore, you need to build a framework that makes it clear how roles are divided within the group, and how that affects decision making.
However, collaborations also work best if everybody has opportunities to influence the direction. On top of your role framework, you should also be flexible about the leadership of tasks and meetings. Invite less experienced members to be the facilitator of weekly catch-ups.
Allow for scenarios where those with the most relevant skills lead periods of the project, rather than rely on the overall project head.
3. Focus on Maintenance
Collaborating can be a rewarding experience, but it also involves a lot of moving parts.
Each member of your team may well be undertaking a variety of different tasks and working on other projects. Therefore, to keep the process on track and productive, you need to make efforts to ensure focus is maintained at all times.
Your approach could include:
One of the most common ways for a remote collaboration to lose focus is when members become less engaged with the project, tasks, or even their fellow team members.
You’re not necessarily responsible for keeping both yourself and your fellow freelancers engaged, but making the effort to do so is beneficial to your project.
Give everyone reasons to value being part of the crew. Celebrate their birthdays and special events, give one another real-time positive feedback on contributions.
Even just taking time to check in with one another and chat casually can be a boost to ongoing engagement.
Set Micro Goals
It can be difficult, particularly if you’re collaborating over a long period of time, to maintain focus on the big picture of the project.
When everyone’s applying their talents to something that may not immediately bear fruit, there is ample opportunity to become distracted by shinier, potentially more satisfying freelance opportunities.
As a result, it can be wise to split the overall project into a series of smaller milestones.
Give yourself and your colleagues goals that can be achieved within a month, or even a couple of weeks, that all build toward the overall success of the project.
Importantly, make sure you celebrate the completion of these goals — it boosts the morale of everyone involved, and keeps you committed to achieving the next milestone.
Collaborating with other freelancers isn’t always easy, but it can mean the project is staffed by some international talent.
You can find the process more effective and rewarding if you take the time to utilize the most appropriate collaborative tools and exercise some flexibility in your approach.
It’s also important to encourage behavior that retains focus in a way that keeps your project on the road to success.