How the Creatives Do It

Diane with Simply Lodge, Aspens Autumn Trees

Diane with Simply Lodge, Aspens Autumn Trees

Creative teams (artists, graphic designers, writers, software developers, etc.) comprised of largely independent or small operations form, do, then dissolve around projects every day.  They've been doing it this way for years-- leveraging technology, fiercely building and protecting their relationships and reputations, and embracing a business model that allows them the maximum flexibility and the greatest range of possible projects.

HOW these creatives come together in the exact right combination of skills to execute a job is the subject of today's post. The methods, when applied to consulting, hold the key to unlock what's right with our world while minimizes the rest.

Overcoming our fear around working outside of the box is Step 1. A lot of us worry about getting screwed over by a lone operator. How would you possibly motivate a transactional team an ensure accountability without the big carrots and sticks that come with big company infrastructure?  While these concerns seem logical, they're largely the product of the unknown and  inexperience. In fact, after working with independent consultants and freelancers, you might find (as I have) that you actually get a more responsive team member who is keenly interested in doing great work. 

The difference?  People are more inclined to keep the commitments that they themselves make-- as opposed to those that a boss or company makes on their behalf (even if they might be afraid of hurting their bonus or losing their job).  Further, reputation is everything. One job that falls short on delivering against the client's expectations can take many more exceptional projects to overcome. Word travels a cyber speed and, for better or worse, is really hard to undo online.

So assuming you're ready to take the plunge, the steps are strikingly similar to regular (internal) team building.  Thoroughly review the project requirements and document the categories and skills with an estimate of the total number required and duration.  Note start and stop times because these will be critical to an independent's ability to commit to the job.  Reach out to your network first, then the broader community pools on LinkedIn and elance. Set expectations in advance of distributing the contract or teaming agreement about likely work share, client deadlines, work quality, responsiveness, etc. Once everyone is signed up, host a kick-off to introduce the team and review each person's role-- focusing on which combos of folks are likely going to need to work together.  In Rework, the 37signals guys recommend freeing yourself to consider resources from various geographic locations. Understanding that multiple time zones may complicate collaboration, they also advise that 2-4 hours a day overlap so that teammates can know each day when they're most likely to get a quick response or when to schedule a problem-solving session.  

While writing this, I was remembering Ocean's 11. I love the beginning of the movie when they've laid out the challenge and go in pursuit of the best for the various skills required.  So, if Brad Pitt drops in while you're pulling your team together, let me know!


While researching, you always come across some random but related stuff.  I'm not necessarily agreeing or advocating but thought I'd share... Here is a "how to" resource for getting started as an independent consultant and a reminder from CNN Money to continue to market yourself. This organization is concerned about protecting the future business environment for freelancers.