Being a team player — when you are not part of the team

Teamwork — All hands (and feet?!) on deck!

With Buffer’s distributed team, freelancing becoming a more mainstream career path and working from home being a reality for many employees, now has never been a better time to be part of a business in a flexible way.

As a freelancer I find this really refreshing. I’m privileged to be able to be part of each team and business that I work with and they all bring something new to how I work and my perspective on what I do.

But being part of a team for a short period of time, often based outside of the main site or office, can also be tough. How can you be part of the team, get buy-in from those you are working with and maximise the impact that your work has in such a short time? Here are a few tips based on my own experiences:

Meeting your new team

I’ve always been a fan of meeting people in person. When I worked in an office I rarely used the internal mail, preferring instead to have a little walkabout with my messages and memos, appearing at people’s desk for a quick chat and to deliver my mail in person.

When you are based outside of the office that can be harder. At the moment I work mainly for clients who are within travelling distance of me so can be there for an initial meeting to get things started. I also make a point of asking to be introduced briefly to anyone else in the office that I know I’ll be working with that might not have been in the meeting. Putting a name to a face is just as useful for them as it is for you.

Otherwise, I’ve become a fan of the e-meet, a short introductory email, often sent by the person I’m working for to let everyone internally know who I am and what I will be doing.

Apps to keep you plugged in

Whenever I start a project I make sure that I ask about what the team I am working with use to stay organised and move their projects forward. Whether it’s Skype, Asana, Trello, GoToMeeting or Slack; there are now so many ways to keep teams in touch that are easy to access from outside of the office.

While it might seem that having a different app or system for each client could be confusing or lead to duplicating work, I’ve actually found the opposite. Using Asana with one client, Google with another gives me a way of keeping each project in one place to access when I need it. I use Trello myself to plan my business as a whole so I might create a quick card on my board with a clients name and a reminder to check in on a particular app or account to make sure I’m up-to-date.

It’s also been a great way to gain experience and insight into how these tools work so that I can use them myself across my business or talk about them when other clients are asking me to recommend tools for them to improve their systems for content or social.

Company Email Address

As an addition to the above a company email address can also be really helpful, even if you are only working on a short project. If you need to contact other internal stakeholders in a larger company it gives you an introduction as being part of the business they work for. Similarly when contacting external people on their behalf it is easier for them to see who you are working for which can get things off to a slightly easier start.

Again it can seem like a mess to have so many email addresses floating around but most email software can add multiple inboxes and allow you to send and receive mail from them so all your emails are easily checked in one place.

Update — don’t be updated

There are no performance reviews if you are freelancing. You dive right in and get on with it and your results can be what gets you repeat work or recommendations. This makes it crucial that you are able to communicate what you are doing and what impact that work is having for your client.

Working with social media a lot of my projects come to a stage where what I am doing with a company is highly visible through their social media networks and accounts. At this point I like to take the time to do a regular update for everyone involved or interested in what is going on to let them know how things are going and how they can be part of what is happening.

With one company we put out a lot of content in a very short space of time and so my daily ‘Join the Social Party’ emails became a way to tell everyone involved what content had gone where and how they could get involved by sharing it to their own followers. With each day someone else would get in touch and ask to be put on the list to receive it so it was a great way to show what I was up to and how it was going.

Think about how often and how it would be worth letting everyone know where you are with your work. I work for another client who likes an email at the end of every day with updates, he can see what I’ve been doing and if he has any comments then he can just hit reply and let me know. Email might not be suitable you might want to set up a regular face to face or online meeting with key stakeholders to discuss a project with a more delicate subject matter.

I hope that you find these useful. It can be hard to get started at a new place but when your job is to be the one constantly starting over at a new place it helps to have some tricks up your sleeve. Do share any other tips you have with me and I’ll do a follow up article with more of them soon.

If you liked this article then please click to recommend or share it. I create content and work on social strategy. You can follow me on Medium or Twitter.

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