How to Join Forces with Other Solos

business people shaking handsThis post was written by Karen Swim.

As a solo pro, you enjoy the benefits of controlling your work life. You can work from a home office, a remote island (with WiFi of course!) or your own office space. Working independently gives you complete control. However, being a solo professional does not mean that you always have to go it alone.

Establishing subcontractor relationships with other solo professionals has a number of benefits, including:

  • Having someone to turn to when you need to take time off for vacations, maternity/paternity leave or in case of emergency
  • Deepening your trusted referral network, and additional value to clients as a result
  • Supporting penetration into a new market or geographic region
  • Sharing or referring overflow work
  • Extending your service offerings to gain new clients
  • Sharing marketing and business development
  • Lightening your workload by outsourcing tasks to another expert
  • Gaining support for peak seasons, without incurring the ongoing expense of employees

Teaming up with other solo professionals can give you even more flexibility in your solo practice. You can team up on an “as needed” basis, or develop extended arrangements.

Choosing Team Members

Former colleagues or clients who are now solo professionals can be a good starting point when choosing team members. You have an established relationship and are familiar with their expertise and work style. Forming close relationships through membership groups, such as Solo PR PRO, is another way to find qualified collaborators. Whether you have a prior relationship or not you will want to consider the following:

  • Skills. Define what you need before you choose a team member. Are you looking for someone with similar or complementary skill sets?
  • Work style. A potential team member may have the right stuff, but you also need to be able to work together. If you are a planner and your potential team member lives in the moment, there can be potential conflict.
  • Access. Do you need your team member to be available during specific times of day? For example, if your clients are on the West Coast and you need vacation support, you will need a solo that can be available during your clients’ hours.
  • Budget. Define your budget in advance so you know what you can realistically afford.
  • Client fit. If your team member will interface with your clients, it is imperative that you choose someone who has a similar style. For example, if you have a calm, low-key approach, a high intensity solo – no matter how talented – could clash with your clients.

When you have selected a team member, try working on a small project first before you make a commitment. You do not want to go from handshake to vacation coverage without testing the waters.

Laying the Foundation for Success

Whether you want to team up for a project or for a longer term strategic partnership, you want to clearly define the following:

  • Responsibilities.  Outline expectations in advance whether for a project or partnership. Who will function as the account lead? In a partnership, is one person tasked with specific functions such as marketing or billing?
  • Billing and Fees. How will the team member charge you and how will that be billed to clients? Do you need to present a unified client bill? If so, who will handle? Is there a cap on budget or hours? What are the payment terms?
  • Hours. Clearly establish work times and availability for both team and client communication.
  • Goals, Objectives and Timelines. It is critical to establish measurable goals and objectives. You also want to clearly define when things should be delivered. If you are working in a subcontractor arrangement, build a cushion into your timelines just in case all does not go as planned.

Have the right tools

When working with other solos, having systems and tools in place can make it easier to work together.

  • Email. If your team member will interface with clients, you may want to set up an email address on your domain.
  • File Sharing and Collaboration. Emailing files back and forth can get confusing. To make it easier to track files and versions, consider a cloud file server such as Google Drive, Box or Dropbox.
  • Project management. For longer term arrangements or when working on multiple projects, project management software can make it easier to stay on track. There are a number of tools available.
  • Social media collaboration. If your client work involves managing social media content, you may need a tool such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social, which offer a common dashboard and the ability to review and approve content.

Get it in Writing

Whether you are working with someone you have known for 20 years or 2 months, it is important to put your agreement in writing.  If you will be outsourcing routinely to another solo professional, use an Independent Contractor Agreement. This agreement has language that will specify independent contractor language and ensure that you are compliant with state and federal laws. If you are working together on a single project or for a specific time period, a simple Letter of Agreement may be all that you need. Download Solo PR Pro’s free Get It in Writing ebook for more information and sample agreements.

There are immeasurable advantages to working as a solo professional. Teaming up with other professionals can be icing on the solo cake!

Have you worked with other solo professionals? What advice would you offer?