Getting started with a virtual team
As a solopreneur, you tend to be on your own.
That doesn't mean you have to do it all. Rather than growing your company through hiring employees, you can take advantage of a variety of virtual services designed for solo traders like you. You just have to know how to get started.
Solo traders continue to be in the rise in the UK. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, about 60% of all small-to-medium size businesses are sole proprietorships, which equates to a total number of 3.4 million solo traders in the UK economy.
Yet many of these solo traders face daily problems. Even when they succeed, they tend to struggle scaling up their services.
That's where virtual services come into play.
The right virtual team can help solopreneurs scale their businesses without the expense of full-time employees. If you're considering going this route, implementing the following tips can help ensure your success.
10 tips on assembling your team
1) Know Your Core Competencies
First, it pays to know exactly where your own competencies lie.
Chances are you are building your business off a specific personal skill or strength that allows you to differentiate yourself from your competition. This is the time to define exactly what that is.
The reason for this first tip is simple: what you can do well, you might not want to outsource.
If, for instance, marketing is your thing, you don't need to work with a marketing professional. Defining your core competencies first thus helps you both structure and focus your search for a virtual team.
2) Determine Your Core Needs
The second step is almost as important as the first.
Once you know your core competencies, it's time to define exactly what services you need to help your business succeed and grow. Some of these tend to be obvious:
- a lawyer to incorporate your business.
Others are more dependent on the situation.
For instance, you might need a copywriter as you're building your website or marketing plan. A virtual assistant can be invaluable for a front-facing digital business. Understanding your needs again helps you focus in on the type of team you want and need to work with.
3) Structure Your Business Goals
What do you want to achieve?
It's a seemingly simple question with a potentially complex answer. You need to set goals to strive towards. These business goals, in turn, should drive every part of your daily and long-term efforts, and that includes hiring a potential virtual team.
To get to that point, you have to structure your business goals the right way. That means making sure they are measurable, and come with a specific timeline attached.
That way, you can identify where you need the most help at a given time to move forward. Consider this to be closely related to the above tip; your business goals should directly connect to the needs you are defining.
4) Set a Budget
At this point, you should have a good idea of exactly what kind of services you need to help and grow your business.
Now, it's time to get specific. Above all, that means setting a budget that helps you find the right services for your needs.
If you are already budgeting for your business comprehensively, this might be a simple question of determining how much money you have available on a given month.
If not, it may be more complex. Crucially, this budget should not be considered an expense but an investment into the company to help you secure funding on a long-term basis.
That last part is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Be sure that the budget you set for hiring a virtual team is guaranteed to be available every month. Few things are worse than having to cancel an accountant simply because you can't pay them to keep your books in order in a given pay period.
5) Start to Shop Around
Now that you have an idea of the specific money you're looking to spend, it's time to start shopping for services.
In the areas you need, and the budget range you have available, begin to look for service providers that offer exactly what your business needs to grow.
You will likely run into a variety of services, from independent contractors to larger firms. Each come with advantages and disadvantages; contractors are sometimes less expensive, but offer less comprehensive services.
Be sure to read both the fine print and learn about the actual availability you will receive in a given week or month.
6) Consider Bundling Services
Yes, you can look for individual freelancers who can complete some of the services you're looking for.
Internet searches are full of freelance copywriters, accountants, and more looking to make a name for themselves. In some cases, this type of partnership makes perfect sense as you look to slowly grow your capabilities.
However, it might pay to consider bundling services instead.
Companies offering virtual office services can help you find and leverage a number of these services at the same time. That typically comes with easier management as you juggle fewer contracts and relationships, a more natural transition from a business in which you have to take care of everything yourself.
In most cases, you won't have to choose one over the other. You might be able to find a company that takes care of some of the services you need, allowing you to fill out your virtual team with freelancers in the missing spots.
Still, looking for companies that offer more than one of the areas of expertise you're looking for can pay off in the long run.
7) Look for Long-Term Relationships
As you expand your search for partners, it's tempting to get caught up in price wars.
For instance, 'content mills' are now popular among freelancers and businesses alike, matching copywriters to jobs without consideration of the larger context. It's spec work, designed to be done fast and price-efficiently.
That's not necessarily your best option.
In fact, in many cases, it pays to go beyond this opportunity. The best virtual teams are those with whom you can build a long-term business relationship. Over time, they will begin to better understand your business, enabling them to improve their work and maximise the opportunities you have to grow with them.
8) Set Up Key Performance Indicators
Based on the above factors, you can find members of your virtual team who are ready to help your business grow.
Now, it's time to begin considering the factors that ensure the success of this endeavour. Among other things, that means setting up key performance indicators that allow you and the contractors with whom you work to ensure they are working in the right direction.
These goals are not necessarily made to share with your virtual team, although sharing a general version of them may be beneficial to set expectations and get on the same page.
The most important goal, though, is to make sure that your virtual team performs to expectations. These goals may be connected to number of contact, number of errors, or any other metric relevant to the performance necessary for success.
9) Keep Your Virtual Team in the Loop
When hiring virtual help for your growing business, communication is absolutely vital.
You don't have the benefit of simply stopping by their office or picking up the phone on a moment's notice, as you would with full-time employees. The better you communicate, the better your team will be able to accomplish the tasks you set before them.
That might be as simple as keeping them in the loop on current things ongoing within the business. Don't share company secrets; remember, they don't work for you full-time.
It is safe, however, to share new initiatives as they happen, with larger context that goes beyond the initial work of the contractor. That way, you can make sure that their work is as closely related to your specific business and situation as possible.
10) Regularly Perform Quality Checks
Finally, don't be afraid to perform quality checks to make sure that the team you work with actually helps your business.
Crucially, this does not mean going over every bit of work with a fine-tooth comb; if you hire the right professionals, they are experts in their field and typically can be trusted. Still, it doesn't hurt to perform a few perfunctory checks on the work occasionally.
The nature of these checks may differ based on the type of work your virtual team is performing for you.
For a freelance writer, this might include the occasional proofing of content. An accountant may benefit from a few calculations of financial statements. Expect that the work is done right—but check just in case, so you know where you stand and you can make sure that quality doesn't drop.
Are you ready to hire your virtual team?
Working with a virtual team comes with countless benefits—if you get the process right.
You need to make sure that you hire quality professionals and give them the resources and oversight they need to succeed. That way, you can continue thriving in your own business, maximising your opportunities as a solopreneur and making an impact in your industry.