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Go Team! Building Motivation Into Your Project Management
By Jennifer Kentmere

Whether you’ve been brought into an organization to manage a project or you’ve put together your own team for a client, a freelancer faces some unique problems with team motivation.

Your team might be scattered, working remotely, living in different time zones, even on different continents. Maybe they’ve never worked together before, and maybe this is the first time you’ve worked with them.

Almost certainly, you’ll have no direct authority. You aren’t their line manager and aren’t responsible for appraisals.

So what can you do to keep your team motivated and your project on track?

Understanding your team

What are each of your team members’ goals? What makes them tick? If you understand what they want out of this project (money, exposure, portfolio building, networking opportunities, a vested interest in the project’s success etc) you can take a more individual approach to motivating each team member, rather than using a one-size-fits all approach. A volunteer working for a charity project will be encouraged by different incentives than a freelancer.

Bridge the distance

What problems do your team members face? Whether it’s working in a different time zone or juggling a family and a full-time job, if you meet their problems half-way and offer solutions early on, they’ll appreciate it. Whether it’s scheduling conference calls at a time convenient to everyone or asking how they’d like to receive project updates (by phone or by email?), a happy team is a motivated team

A problem shared…

When you run into a problem, you don’t have to struggle through it on your own. Being part of a team is a two-way process and if you involve them in coming up with solutions to project hiccups, they’ll understand the whole process better and be more likely to feel included.

Offering carrots

While most people work for the money, you can offer extra incentives for a job well done for free. Consider giving:

  • testimonials for their website
  • passing on their name to another client
  • giving positive feedback
  • promoting their work in your own publications

as ways of motivating them to go the extra distance.

…and sticks

You might not have any direct authority over your team but you can still use other methods to bring them into line if you feel they are not pulling their weight. Remember a freelancer’s reputation is hugely important and most people will want to avoid bad feedback and negative opinion.

And finally, avoid micromanagement

This team are involved because they can do their jobs. Trust them to get on with their roles and don’t bother them every five minutes. Use a pre-agreed feedback system such as weekly status updates by email to let them share their progress. Treat them with respect and they’ll most likely so the same to you!

Jennifer Kentmere is a freelance writer and entrepreneur. She trained in public sector project management in the UK and left in 2008 to go it alone as a freelance project manager working with small-to-medium sized businesses. She now lives in the US and is passionate about using her experience to help other freelancers.

You can read more from Jennifer on her blog, which is aimed at freelancers who haven’t had project management training but who would like advice on organizing their work.

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