Building a Virtual Project Team

project team
Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash
It can be a challenge to build virtual project teams using freelancers. Be sure you have the skills needed for your project using The Skills Worksheet to get the right teams members on your projects.

Growing up in school you have to be good, at least passably good, at a wide range of subjects from math, history, PE, creative writing, and art classes.

Most of us didn’t excel in all of these. Most of us certainly weren’t interested in all of these. But we had to get through them all, regardless of our talents.

It was ingrained in us that we had to be good at everything.

But the reality is we are not good at everything, we all have things that we’re interested in and we’re good at.

Putting Together a Team

As a marketing solo practitioner I frequently need to put together a virtual project team to implement a project for a client.

Building and maintaining network of freelancers is an ongoing process for several reasons:

  • They get a “normal” job and are no longer available for work.
  • They’re often fully booked in the project time frame.
  • They’re adaptable, they may change the types of services they provide over time.

So I’m always building my network.

Whenever I meet a freelancer that seems good to work with I need to understand their unique skills and how to best plug them into projects. When I ask they tend to say they’re good at a lot of things. I’m not sure if that’s what they think I want to hear, or maybe they figure that will get them a bigger slice of a project budget.

I’ve met people that have told me they are experts at:

  • Marketing Strategy
  • Content Writing
  • Graphic Design
  • Web Development

Yeah, right.

The Skills Worksheet

Putting together virtual teams led me to develop what I call the Skills Worksheet that I use when putting together a team. It’s pretty simple. I send the following instructions and table:

Instructions:

You have 100 points to work with. Spread the points through each category according to your strengths. There’s no right or wrong answer as other team members will complement your skills. Some zeroes are fine and expected.

SkillDescriptionPoints
Marketing StrategyDevelop an Awareness to Purchase process. Persona development and define the customer journey. Brand development
Graphic DesignDesign layout, visualize, color & font selection, and implement using standard tools
WritingCreate content that is consistent with the company voice and leverages SEO keywords
HTML/CSSResponsive design and Pixel perfect implementation
Front end codingJavascript/AJAX
Back end codingPHP/MySQL
WordPress expertiseDevelop page templates and themes
User experience designImplement usability, accessibility, and pleasurable website. Develop information architecture.
Total100

It is pretty simple. Not only does it help ensure all the skills are needed when putting together a project plan the exercise actually helps many freelancers assess their true skills.

People are not put off by the process. Here’s a couple of typical comments:

“Good approach. Done.”

“I’ve never seen this strengths test before and it’s genius, I’ll likely steal it and use it with the people I work with in the future!”

Examples Using the Project Team Skill Sets

Every project is different. Some things they vary on include:

  • Budget
  • Strategy and Goals
  • Existing Branding
  • The Company’s Awareness > Revenue Process

Here’s an example set of skill sets that were put together when building a team for a web design project. 

Self Assessment
SkillGeneralistFull Stack DeveloperDesigner + Marketer
Marketing Strategy15035
Graphic Design151025
Writing10015
SEO1005
HTML/CSS203010
Front  end coding10150
Back end coding5205
WordPress expertise10200
User experience design555
Total100100100

Project needs vary depending on client goals and the particularly situation they are in. Here’s a sampling of projects I’ve been involved in and how I’d utilize the skills in the table above:

  1. Early stage company that  needs logo logo design and their first website.
    This company needed branding, website design, content creation, email set up, and implementation. Depending on budget I’d use the Generalist, the Developer and the Design/Marketer. If budget constraints were an issue I’d recommend a good WordPress theme, use the Design/Marketer, and the Generalist.
  2. Another client had their branding down but their website was barely more than a placeholder site.
    This company needed website redesign and content creation. The Design/Marketer and the Generalist. I’d also bring a content writer into the project.
  3. Turn a good website into a mobile friendly responsive design. 
    This type of project requires some HTML/CSS and basic WordPress skills. The skills required depend on the current site’s technology and goals. If it were a WordPress site using a custom theme, there’d be a decision whether to update the custom theme or maybe select an existing theme to use. Updating the custom theme would best be done by the Full Stack Developer, while the Generalist would be fine implementing a purchased theme.
  4. Website with new design with tanking search results.
    A client came to me last year a couple of months after their new website design went live. A designer put together a good website for them but paid no attention to basic SEO needs like redirecting non-existent URLs from the old site to the new site. This was particularly bad because the company replaced two webs sites into a single one. Some of the web pages contained content from separate HTML files. The HTML files with no navigation and headings were showing up in search results instead of the parent pages.

    This project required significant SEO and some front end coding work. Normally this project requires a small project by the Full Stack Developer and bringing in an SEO specialist. 

An underlying philosophy I adhere to is to keep things as simple as possible. But sometimes things just have to get more complex. Larger projects tend to be more complex and require more expertise as well as more resources. The Skills Worksheet can be modified depending on project needs. The more specialized roles in a larger project might look like this:

  • Marketing strategy
  • Content writer
  • Conversion writer
  • Graphic designer
  • UX designer
  • Front end developer
  • Back end developer
  • Project manager
  • Account manager

Other Uses

I’ve used the skill set for client marketing projects but the Skills Worksheet can be modified for all types of situations.

A marketing department can use it to determine what skill sets they need to add to their team to meet their goals, either by outsourcing hiring internally.

A product development team might use it to determine what design, user experience, and particular engineering skills are needed to meet project goals.