The 17th Century poet John Donne famously wrote “No man is an island” and I have to agree.  Running my own business from home is fantastic – I work the hours I want, do the jobs I want, wear what I want, speak to who I want to – but in order to build my business I needed to embrace the skills and experience of other business professionals too.

As a self-employed freelancer with family commitments and hobbies, there are only a certain number of hours per day that you can dedicate to working without becoming a mad recluse.  There are also only so many skills that you can fit into your brain without falling into the worrying category of ‘jack of all trades, master of none’.  Realistically, if you want to increase the number of hours of work that you have available to assist clients, or want to broadly diversify the range of services that you offer, you need to find one or more experienced and talented professionals to help out.  I have worked with a number of freelancers over the past few years, but my core team has only really expanded within the past year and I couldn’t be happier with my current line-up of highly skilled and extensively experienced associates.

If you are considering growing your business and working closely with one or more new employees or freelancers, here are my top tips to help you build the perfect team:

1.)   Actively seek out people with a unique zone of genius that complements your own.  Unless you want to deliver exactly the same service to a much larger number of people, building a team with an exceptional and diverse skillset is a great way to develop a sustainable business.  If, for example, the call for your existing services suddenly drops off, the knowledge and experience of your fellow team members can help you to identify new opportunities for your business.

2.)   Make sure your team understand your values and ideals.  If you consider an eye for detail very important, you need to work with team members who are equally conscientious.  Anyone working outside of your business values runs the risk of upsetting loyal customers who have come to you specifically because they like the work that you do, so it’s important to have a chat about this before you start working together to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

3.)   Double check that they have a sense of humour. Admittedly, this isn’t a pre-requisite for every business owner, but it is important to me! Freelance work has its own unique challenges and may require the odd moment of humour to diffuse what could otherwise be a challenging situation.  Thankfully, my team can help keep each other positive and motivated with a back-catalogue of amusing memes and gifs to brighten even the darkest work moment.

4.)   Ask yourself, ‘Do I respect this person?’ – Unfortunately, it’s impossible to like everyone.  There are some people out there who might be extremely talented but who you just cannot bring yourself to like.  In a business relationship, it’s not necessary to be best friends with your team (though it does help if they are thoroughly lovely, like mine!), but you will find it incredibly hard to work successfully with people who you do not respect, whatever the reason for that.

5.) Make sure that you are actually ready to grow your business – taking on team members on a whim before your business is ready for growth is a definite no-no! Before you consider expansion, it’s really important to have a business plan in place that maps out the aims that you have for your business over the coming year(s).  This could be about the services that you want to provide, the customers that you want to target, etc.  If you want to maintain your existing clients but reduce the number of hours you work, or expand your services to a much larger range of customers, think about what you need in place in order to achieve this; successful growth is much more than just taking on new team members – your marketing, your networking, your sales processes and service delivery, they will all need to change! Taking on team members before you’ve addressed the actual logistics of business growth will just cause you additional stress, trust me.

Of course, there are a number of other factors that need to be considered when you are growing a team, but don’t be put off by what’s involved – when you find a great team of like-minded and talented individuals, teamwork really can help to make the dream work!

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