By Scott Frangos
How and why would you create a business entirely online, with virtual workers that have never met each other in the “real world”? Because the advantages can be huge. Here’s how it works for us.
As a career marketing professional for a long stretch (manual typewriters were my first “blogging” tool), I can safely be called an early adopter of all things Internet. I had a black and white Macintosh computer in the 1980s. I taught desktop publishing at local colleges in the 90s, while working in a Marketing Communications “corporate land” job by day. Back then, I always knew that technology was the way of the future for the marketing and publishing industries, and my enthusiasm never waned. I used to dream of a day when we could be free to work online.
Although I have been hands-on in all things web-related since Google was just a twinkle in Larry Page’s eye, it was only really at the launch of my content marketing agency, Webdirexion LLC, that I really began to explore online work as a staffing option.
One reason for doing so was the ability to source experienced team members that brought high-level skills to the table. As freelancers and entrepreneurs, they were not looking for full-time regular employment. Each were open to flexible working hours that afforded the option to expand or contract depending on our company workload. Additionally, I knew the costs of hiring full-time staff, paying salaries and benefits, and providing office space would have been prohibitive, and not the right “agile” model for our business. And having worked for years from a home office, I knew that you could find team members with great experience and a “guerrilla” mindset like my own — online. So I decided to build my company as an entirely virtual business, using freelancers on oDesk.
When creating a virtual team, you have to consider that even though you are not sharing office space, you are sharing a lot of intellectual space. It is as important that the people you hire virtually are a good team fit as if they sat at a desk facing you. I have been lucky with the people I found on oDesk — often we are on exactly the same page when it comes to using new strategies, tools and tactics.
At Webdirexion we use a lot of communication tools like Google Hangouts and Skype. We have a few scheduled “face-to-face” meetings (via video link) each week, and at any time may have an impromptu brainstorming session or client meeting. As far as client meetings go, we have a good number that actually favor virtual meetings as opposed to those in an office, because it takes less time out of their day and it allows for team members from all corners of the globe to be present if required.
A number of business contacts in my own city (near Portland, Oregon) have asked me why I don’t seek local clients. One main reason is that there are still a lot of businesses that want you to drive to their office for meetings. This means you lose about 20-30 minutes of work time on each leg of that drive. But more importantly, you have a much bigger target prospect “ocean” online. We have done work for clients as far away as Australia and the UK, with a number of current clients on the East Coast of the U.S. — all of whom we have never met in person.
For those considering setting up a virtual team — just do it! But do it always with “the end in mind” — know your goals and objectives for your team and agency. Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way:
- You will need an efficient system to match hours worked by your team to hours estimated and budgeted for each job and project. We use the project management software Teamworkpm.net for this.
- Optimal team performance is seldom about finding the lowest dollar amount you can negotiate with a worker. Instead, surround yourself with five-star achievers and pay them well. You will actually come out financially ahead.
- Have fun. Enjoy your team and fellowship. It’s about work, for sure, but there’s more to life than that.
Scott Frangos, President of WebDirexion LLC, is a career MarCom professional focused on content marketing, social media, and WordPress web development. Scott also serves as Founder, Chief Optimizer and Strategist at WebDirexion.com. Previously, he worked in advertising, marketing and PR. He recently taught a class on Content Marketing with WordPress for the Langley Center for New Media, and in the past he has taught HTML, CSS, Photoshop, eCommerce and general business courses at colleges and technical schools in the Pacific Northwest. He also writes for Content Marketing Institute.