Working on teams as a graphic design assistant means a lot of communication with my clients. It’s not a simple process where I do my thing and hand over a final result and we part ways – these are ongoing, lasting relationships where I learn more and more about their business and industry and become a full-fledged asset in their business. Which requires effective communication.
Bringing on a team member is a scary thought if you’ve always been a solopreneur. How will someone understand what you want? What you need? How you like things done? Through communication!
Here are some steps that have worked for me when I start with a new client who may or may not have a team already (and some steps for you to consider when you start outsourcing more work in your business). For the sake of this post let’s refer to ‘team member’ as the hire-ee and ‘boss’ as the hire-er!
ESTABLISH WHAT ALREADY EXISTS + THE GOALS
The first step is assessing what already exists, if anything. Are tools like Asana or Trello being used at all in the business? Is everything written by hand in a planner, or just floating around in someone’s head? We need to know where we are starting from first.
If there is already an existing workflow/team, then how do you fit into it? As someone joining a team, I recommend being flexible and adaptable to learning existing systems (i.e. if you love Trello, but they use Asana, time to get used to Asana).
That being said, if you’re the boss and hiring a team member, but have no systems in place, it might be a good idea to see what this team member has experience in – they might have worked on more teams and have good insight into what works and what doesn’t. I usually recommend a combination of Slack and Asana to people without existing systems/team communication.
Next I think it’s wise that both the team member and the boss make it clear what kind of relationship this is – how accessible you are, and when, and what way is best to communicate.
In my experience the hope for both parties is that it is a casual, friendly relationship where questions and feedback are encouraged. I’ve had the luck on working on teams where the boss is open to hearing ideas and suggestions, but they made sure to make that clear from the get go and gave me the green light on feeling comfortable enough to talk to them. Some relationships might be more straightforward and professional – where you do the work that is outlined and only ask questions in the case of clarity issues.
For both parties, I would have this talk early on, before even joining forces. I know I want a relationship where I can feel comfortable and like a valued team member, so I talk about that quality right away in our initial call. I make sure that they are looking for someone who has ideas and ambition - not just a button clicker (if you’d rather just do the work and keep it straight forward – make that clear too!). As a boss I encourage you to detail how you want your team member to interact with you – is email okay? Is texting or calling encouraged? You might have different expectations for different team members (i.e. your main virtual assistant might text you, but your social media manager might just check in once a week on Slack) – and that’s fine! Just establish something so you don’t get frustrated with what ends up happening.
CHOOSE A MAIN FORM OF COMMUNICATION (OR 2)
In those initial discussions and plans hopefully you land on the best ways of communicating with each other. As I mentioned before, I usually recommend Asana and Slack but there are so many other options out there too.
In this decision I’d choose one main way to assign projects (Asana, Trello, Google Calendar, etc.) and one main way of easy communication (Slack, Email, iMessage). You can also determine when/how you will have meetings (once a month, etc.)
As a boss you’ll be responsible for getting your team member acclimated and on to all your different systems. As a team member you’ll need to get used to checking those programs and working in a way that fits the team and clarifying anything confusing on your end.
Some other things to consider is who assigns the projects. If it’s just one boss hiring on team member then the relationship is clear. But what if you have a main virtual assistant, or a social media manager, and they can assign the graphic designer projects? Establishing a bit of a hierarchy (even though that can sound mean) is essential. On one team I am a member of I can get projects from 3 different people – so I’ve had to learn and adjust to knowing who’s projects take rank and so on.
As a boss, making it as clear as possible right from the get-go will ease this transition. Introduce team members to each other, make communication between them easy (why Slack is awesome), and encourage collaboration. Let each member know who is responsible for what, so they can automate themselves and free up your time.
BE FLEXIBLE IN THE “ADJUSTMENT” PERIOD
Keeping in mind that for both parties a successful, easy, and productive relationship is the goal will help with flexibility in the beginning. Having a mutual respect for each other’s time and other commitments helps too!
Acknowledge that the first month or so will be a trial and error period, especially if there are no systems in place initially. A common way I start with clients, if we are starting from scratch, is just to email back and forth until communication feels a little easier and more comfortable. Eventually my goal is to get them on Slack (if they don’t have an alternative) and create channels around the main projects we do together (i.e. channels for: courses, social media, content upgrades, random projects, etc.)
If you’re a boss who’s expecting to start outsourcing more work and bringing on a team, there is no time like the present to start creating systems/workflows that will make the transitions easier. A great first step is actually documenting the steps you take when you do something like create a blog post or newsletter (or other redundant tasks) that you’ll end up outsourcing. Even if you’re just writing it down with pen and paper, it’s still good to start to know everything that you do automatically so that you can eventually have someone else learn the steps and do it just like you would.
I’m Kaitlyn, your design assistant! I work with successful creative entrepreneurs to create cohesive, clean, and compelling visuals for their businesses. You can keep being the #girlboss you are (but with more time to focus on growing your empire)! Let's set up a time to chat!