How to Build a Creative Team

How to Build a Creative Team
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Building a team of creative professionals can be challenging for modern organizations. In an era of near-constant digital presence, the pressure to stay on top of a world moving at the speed of social media is very real.

As companies continue to explore the broad array of content channels available, the ever-evolving list of creative skills needed to do so can be overwhelming. Finding creative professionals to keep your business relevant can feel outright daunting.

The good news? This digital landscape also means you can build your team with creative talent from around the world. With remote workers reporting higher levels of productivity when working from home,  consider investing in a hybrid team of in-house workers and remote independent talent if you haven’t yet done so.

Use the seven key steps below to guide you through the process of successfully building your creative team.

1. Define the scope of your creative work

Before you begin searching for new talent, be clear about what you want to accomplish and how you want to get there. Successful teams have firm goals that keep them on task. Ask yourself the following questions, which the next steps will help you address more closely:

  • What is my goal for this team?
  • What is the time frame for building it?
  • What is the budget?
  • Who do I have available to start building a team today? What are their skills?
  • What additional skills do I need to find for this team?
  • How many people do I need to hide, and in what capacity?

This initial step defines what you want to do and what you need to get there. Some of the answers will guide the creation of your creative brief, which describes the project’s objectives and scope. When they are well-thought-out, creative briefs can help align team expectations with business needs for specific projects.

2. Consider your resources

Once you’re clear on what you want to accomplish, you can begin to assess your resources. Although both in-house and remotely staffed professionals can be assets, you may have to choose employees based on financial and company constraints.

The best way to determine how many team members your creative team needs is by creating an organizational chart. An organizational chart should define every job function required for your creative team to run smoothly. As your company grows, you may need to restructure your organizational chart to improve efficiency, work quality, and productivity.

Before start the staffing process, consider:

  • What project or work needs to be done?
  • How many team members do you need to work with?
  • What experience and skills are required?
  • What skills gaps do new team members need to fill?

To answer these questions, think strategically. If your company is anticipating or already experiencing an increase in workload, it’s a good idea to find additional talent. For project-specific or short-term projects, it might be wise to work with freelancers who can meet the needs of your growing team. In most cases, independent professionals are highly specialized and able to adapt to new environments seamlessly.

You will also need to consider what you have to offer. It’s important to keep your budget in mind when planning to add to your team. Aside from helping you plan how many workers your team can afford, it also helps you be realistic about the talent you’re attracting.

Building a successful creative team hinges on your understanding of how the team needs to function and also the function of the team in the broader scope of your business’s operations.

Key personnel of a creative team

The central goal of a creative team is to design and accomplish projects. Sometimes, these projects are meant to encourage potential customers to buy a product or service, while other times, the team is more focused on designing and maintaining a consistent brand image.

Depending on the type of creative team, project management styles and structure can vary. For example, some organizations will place their creative team within the marketing team. Creative roles may include:

  • UX designers: User experience (UX) designers help create physical and digital products that are highly intuitive.
  • UI designers: User interface (UI) designers take a human-first approach to designing the aesthetics of a digital product.
  • Software developers: Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some software developers make apps, while others focus on larger networks or programs.
  • Graphic designers: A graphic designer is an expert in visual communication. Graphic designers conceptualize concepts into a visual piece.
  • Copywriters: A copywriter creates content for advertising and selling goods and services. Copywriters have a highly creative career as they develop copy to drive ad campaigns, make slogans, and write social media content.

The exact hierarchy of creative teams will vary. However, they all require nurturing environments. Creative roles are highly collaborative, which makes finding the right individuals essential.

Knowing what you need lets you assess prospective talent faster and form a flexible team built for the long haul. With Upwork, you have a world of independent talent at your fingertips.

3. Assess the skills of your creative team

While developing your creative team’s structure and purpose, assess the skills and attributes of your current talent. The biggest benefit of this step is the skills gaps you’ll find.

For example, let’s suppose your team has been asked to take on a web design project. Although your in-house graphic designer might be fantastic at conceptualizing visual ideas, developing infographics, using design software, and creating logos, they might be unfamiliar with web design.

To do a skills gap analysis, you’ll need to compare current and future staffing assessments. Start by understanding your current staffing environment, paying attention to the number of workers on your team, skills and competencies, high performers, low performers, and staff age and tenure. You should then forecast your future staffing needs. To do so, consider your business goals, potential acquisitions or mergers, labor costs, changes in the economy, and more.

After you’ve acquired this information, compare the two reports. You may realize skills gaps with your current team, helping you better understand what resources you need to overcome any shortcomings. It’s important that your skills gap analysis addresses:

  • Business goals: Define your business goals by starting with the company’s overall goals and then addressing goals for your team. To start identifying your organization’s goals, think in terms of short- and long-term goals.
  • Current talent: Look at your team and reflect on qualitative and quantitative methods, such as performance reviews, skills analysis software, interviews, discussion, and questionnaires.
  • Current skills: Create a detailed list of all the skills your creative team currently has. You should list the current number of team members, the duties they have, their skills, and the proficiency of those skills.
  • Missing skills: After creating a list of current skills, identify where there are gaps. Even if your team doesn’t need the missing skills for their current projects, identifying these skills and placing them in a searchable database can help you identify future needs.

4. Evaluate team dynamics

Next, evaluate how existing team members function as a unit. In addition to specific technical skills, what does each person bring to the group? Soft skills are especially important in a creative, collaborative, and potentially remote setting. Soft skills to look for include:

  • “Big picture” people who help keep a team focused
  • Task-oriented individuals who excel at smaller, practical details
  • Individuals who tend to work well with others
  • Deadline-oriented individuals who excel at leading specific projects
  • Communication
  • Mediation
  • Problem-solving

Because a successful team also needs to “fit” together, knowing that someone is equipped with the right hard skills is only half the picture. Team members need to mesh together, and the team should also fit within your organization’s culture.

5. Decide how to hire

Many businesses automatically hire full-time workers. After all, the business world has been geared toward in-house and full-time employees for what feels like forever, so this can still feel like a natural arrangement. Unfortunately, this arrangement can mean passing off creative tasks onto workers who just aren’t the right fit.

It’s often better to hand off these creative tasks to those who know what they’re doing. Not only will this help your in-house team focus on their core duties, but it can also help save time on figuring out something that someone else already knows how to do.

Deciding who you should hire depends on a number of factors, including your resources, the scope of work, and the skills needed to complete projects. When deciding how to hire, consider these questions:

  • Are the skills needed available with current employees? If the answer to this question is no, consider working with a freelancer. This way, you can work with someone specialized in whatever skill you’ve identified as missing.
  • Are special tools and equipment required? If the answer is no, hire an independent contractor. In the case that you need to provide specialized tools, it might be best to hire an in-house employee.
  • Do you need to control how the work gets completed? If the answer to this question is yes, it might be best to consider hiring an in-house employee.
  • Will your in-house workers be able to complete the work without neglecting other projects? If the answer to this question is no, you should consider working with a freelancer.
  • Can the worker delegate the work to someone else? If the answer is yes, it might be best to work with an employee.

The benefits of remote, independent talent within creative teams

In today’s digital world, your business can be better served by engaging remote independent talent. More than 68% of companies are reporting that remote work is getting easier as time moves on. Even if your organization is still staffed with “traditional” employees, don’t rule out the value of freelancers. Organizations that don’t adopt a flexible workforce as part of their hiring strategy risk falling behind.

Moreover, companies are recognizing the benefits of hiring independent professionals.

  • Quality work: Independent talent often specialize, meaning they’re typically experts at what they do. When you bring on an independent professional to assist your team, you can also expect them to put their best foot forward in the hopes of repeat business.
  • Quick delivery: Many independent professionals have faster turnaround times because they usually focus on one project at a time. This results in increased efficiency and quick project delivery.
  • Risk reduction: When a company hires a full-time employee, they invest time, energy and money into onboarding that employee. That employee may then leave the business shortly. Freelancers have contracts with specific deliverables, meaning organizations don’t need to commit as much time, energy and money to get the same work done.
  • Perspective: Independent professionals can offer new perspectives to a project due to their unique work experience.

Not only can hiring independent talent be cost-saving while ensuring fast, quality work, but it also provides companies with access to highly specialized talent. For example, does your creative team need a video optimized for mobile devices? Maybe your creative team doesn’t have a video editor who can do this. In this case, working with an experienced freelancer can help avoid in-house employees from devoting their time to a specialized project while also avoiding creating a permanent position for a single project.

6. Assess technical and communication skills of prospective hires

Before you hire independent professionals for a project, though, make sure they’re the right fit. Reviewing their portfolio is a good start, but your vetting process shouldn’t stop there. After you post a job, review project proposals. Then shortlist the candidates who fit the job’s requirements.

Next, set up an interview. Your interview process may involve one or more phone calls, video conferences or arranging to meet prospective talent in person. You can also utilize skill tests and other assessment measures, such as having them demonstrate their ability with Adobe Dreamweaver, blogging or pitching to prospective clients to ensure this worker is a good fit in terms of technical skill and communication skills.

Upwork’s AI-powered filtering system can help expedite this process by enabling you to select specific criteria before you start your search. All you need to do is select criteria for the position and watch a list of quality talent populate on your screen. From there, you can contact talent directly and invite them to submit a proposal for the project.

7. Stay flexible and scalable

Creative work requires a flexible approach. Whether your team creates engaging videos, innovative software, or content that resonates, adopting a flexible approach can benefit your team. For team leaders, this might mean setting flexible deadlines or making flexible staffing decisions.

Many remote creative teams are thriving. Some of this can be attributed to having a flexible work environment. For example, you might allow remote workers to complete their work when it works best for them. You might require team members to be online during certain time frames and during meetings, but allow them to complete their work when they work best. Creatives on your team might be more productive outside the traditional 9-to-5 schedule.

A flexible workplace has additional benefits, including:

  • Ability to pivot and respond to shifts in the market
  • Savings in time and money
  • Better project management when communication is at the forefront
  • Ability to acquire specialized-talent on an as-needed basis

Freelancer talent is a powerful way for your business to maintain long-term flexibility. Engaging remote independent talent lets you scale your business quickly, without the risk or long-term commitment of taking on more traditional full-time workers.

Nurture a creative environment

Creative people flourish in collaborative and personable teams. When leadership understands what inspires their team, how they think and where they need help, they can provide the environment to reach company goals.

When your team members are overwhelmed, work can quickly become draining, especially from a creativity standpoint. Avoid burnout and help foster an innovative workspace by knowing when it’s time to call in independent help.

Staffing your creative team requires that you understand your team’s current resources and skills. Once you’ve identified what your team is missing, you can begin the search for additional team members. Upwork can help you find the right talent faster, enabling you to find ideal candidates for your creative projects.

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How to Build a Creative Team
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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