Think picking your fifth grade dodge ball team members was tricky? Just wait until you’re building your agency’s first major project team. There’s a lot more on the line than gym class bragging rights! Google “what is project management” and the top results all discuss the importance of team member selection as a “make or break” aspect to project management. No pressure, right?
Newer agencies have the added challenge of building teams from scratch with little or no existing company precedent. You may not yet have a go-to web designer or copywriter or a solid list of back-ups should your preferred freelancer be unavailable. And even if you do, you may not know whether these folks will work well together or end up fighting like cats and dogs and torpedo the project before it even gets off the ground.
Feeling overwhelmed by your first team member selection? Drill down on what matters most by asking these three questions:
#1: What skills, background or experiences am I missing?
When building your team, think about the skills, experience and background that you personally lack but that your team needs in order to effectively achieve its deliverables. Aim to fill these holes by recruiting diverse team members. Team diversity goes beyond race, gender and cultural differences; diverse teams also have different (but complementary) professional experiences and skills. Bringing a wide range of perspectives to the project will help the entire team think more creatively about the task at hand.
#2: What does my team need to achieve?
Start by listing the final project goal, and work backwards to identify each deliverable necessary to achieve this end goal. Underneath each deliverable, list the skills required to complete it. Be as specific as possible. These skills could be technical (e.g., developing a smartphone app, coding a website) or creative (e.g., copywriting, graphic design). Keep in mind that if you need individuals with technical talents, you do not necessarily need the most talented individuals – you just need the ones with the right skills for the job. For example, if you need only basic coding for a website, select an individual with a few years of experience rather than a decade of advanced web design. In this scenario, team members with advanced technical skills may feel like they are stagnating, which can lead to underperformance and a lack of buy-in. Conversely, those with less experience will appreciate the challenge to grow professionally.
#3: How will the team work together?
Many agencies rely on freelancers to fill gaps in their in-house talent pool. When selecting your team members, consider how the team will be working together, especially if one or more members will be telecommuting or providing part-time support. What are your expectations for team member availability? Do these expectations match theirs? A stay-at-home parent, for example, may have sporadic availability during the day but be willing to work late into the night on project edits. Be sure all potential members are on the same page about daily time commitments, deliverables, and in-person meetings versus video conferencing. A clear understanding in advance will help eliminate potential logistical misunderstandings for better communication and collaboration.
Writer Bio: Erin M is a freelance writer available for projects at WriterAccess.