Collaboration is a key component of the double half methodology as it allows a business to increase bandwidth in order to achieve a safe balance of paid and unpaid work. In section C of the Frequently Asked Questions, we will explore the logistics behind collaborating with volunteers, the implications of remote collaboration, the importance of outsourcing, and the motivations of those who are about to embark on a collaboration with you on either a paid or unpaid basis.
C1: How can I possibly get all of this work done by myself?
The model explicitly relies on an increased volume of output. Because of that, you might be wondering: How can I possibly get all of this work done by myself? The answer: you can’t! Well, you can, but you won’t sleep much. Instead of trying to be the sole practitioner in your practice, turn to others for collaboration. Get comfortable in assuming position of a manager/creative director, and do not feel the need to execute everything on your own for every project. This sounds simple, but it can be very hard, especially for creative types. That said, once you can discover the power of delegation in your practice, you will find that you are able to learn how to clearly communicate your own vision and innovative ideas on a much deeper level. This will make you a more clearly spoken problem solver, and therefore a more valuable asset to your clientele.
C2: What are the logistics of the model, when it comes to collaboration?
The double-half method for collaboration is quite simple yet very innovative in its intentional application of the freelance/contractor staffing model to the volunteer space. Instead of having a heavy bandwidth in-house, much of the talent and pool for collaboration actually exists out of house. These freelancers, generally known as part of your “network” have two different use-cases. For paid work, specific members of your network that are a good fit for the project at hand are brought on board on a paid, project basis. This payment is determined upon the contractor’s general rates and can be decided to be billed at an hourly rate or a project-rate. For unpaid work (the pro-bono projects), the same pool of individuals that exist in your network are brought in again, just as you would for a paid project, but they actually serve as volunteers and get no monetary compensation for the work. For more on the incentives for the volunteers in your network, please see C4. For more on management of remote collaborators, please refer to C5 and C6
C3: What are the implications of remote collaboration? Why is that so key in this process?
Remote collaboration has a lot of pros as well as a lot of cons. However, the nice thing about these cons is that all of them can be solved with the right precautions. The following are a series of things to prepare for when hiring remote people to work with you on a project.
1. Reliability is the key. Have you worked with this person before? If not, consider working with them on a very small project. Something that will require 2-3 hours of their time, max. After this initial engagement with the collaborator, ask yourself the following questions: Did you enjoy working with them? Did they respond to emails in a timely manner? Were they easy to talk to on Skype/Google hangout? Did they do a good job? If you answered “no” to one or more of these questions, don’t work with them on big projects. Consider sticking with them on small things every once in a while. If you answered “yes” to ALL of these questions, you have found yourself a strong
2. Clocks say different things in different places. This may sound silly or obvious, but it is something that often goes unnoticed, initially. If you are in Los Angeles, and you are working with a collaborator in China, there is a good chance that you will have to wait upwards of 12 hours to get a response to an email, or to see any reaction to your feedback. This is not a bad thing necessarily, but it is something to consider when planning the overall time-frame for your project. If you are working with a collaborator that is extremely far away, you may want to reserve them for projects with longer time-frames.
3. Have a back-up plan. Things can change pretty quickly in a freelancer’s life. When recruiting or beginning to work with a contractor or volunteer, have a personal conversation with them about their situation. Are they between jobs? Are they a permanent freelancer? Are they an employee somewhere? If the individual is between jobs, it is likely that they are actively applying for other full-time positions simultaneously while working with you.
While the previous three items can seem stressful and intimidating, they are simply a part of the reality of working with people on a remote basis. Don’t worry though, it isn’t all scary. The positive implications of remote collaboration are vast.
1. Remote collaboration diversifies your aesthetic. By working with a collaborative network, the aesthetic of your output has a better chance of carrying a more diverse range of stylistic and/or strategic approaches. That is a given as it is no longer just you executing the work. Something that many don’t realize, however, is that working with a remote collaborative network that is based all around the world can bring with it even more interesting aesthetic and strategic implications. When you are working with a staff that spans multiple countries, all of a sudden, your practice/company is able to carry the weight of multiple cultural references and inspiration. This can result in a greater body of work.
2. Remote collaboration will bring your overhead down. The company that the double-half method was pioneered within has the operational capacity of almost 300 people, but it only has the overhead of about five people. This is a prime example of the power that collaboration, and a freelancer model at large, can have on a business. By bringing people on a project basis, you are only paying out salaries when you know you have the money in hand.
C4: What is the motivation for volunteers to take part?
The model relies heavily on openness to collaboration. One approach to this collaborative effort that has proven to be successful is a hybrid freelance/volunteer model. On paid projects, all parties involved in the given task(s) receive monetary compensation. On pro-bono projects, all parties involved in the given task(s) work as volunteers and receive no monetary compensation. It has been discovered that the best way to acquire volunteers is to allow them to find your company organically. Generally this strategy results in strong collaboration that is built upon authentic intention. That said, a frequently asked question in regards to the logistics of this model inquires about the motivation and incentive for the individual volunteers that take part in the projects. The motivation ranges depending on age group. Let’s break that down into four age groups: High School, College, Early/Mid-Career Professionals, Seasoned/Retired Professionals.
1. High School: For high school students that are working with you on a volunteer basis, they are motivated to take part due to an opportunity to receive mentorship and hands-on experience in a professional setting. Many students at this age are eager to learn as much as they can so that they can make an informed decision around what college major to select. This can be a valuable experience for them to learn, and for you to become a better teacher.
2. College: Many college students are looking to develop their resume and professional experience to better prepare them for “the real world” when they graduate. Unpaid internships are a common sighting, but many of those opportunities do not provide a legitimate reason for not providing proper compensation. A volunteer opportunity, on the other hand, that allows students to not only learn, but also give back to society at large, is a position that no student would want to pass up on.
3. Early/Mid-Career Professionals: People that are early in their career, or a bit further along, often hit a burnout phase in which they question the meaning of their work. For professionals at this stage, there is a lot of interest in finding a new outlet in which they can focus their creative energy on the weekends or in the evenings. Many people in this demographic are also exhausted by the idea that much of their 9-5 is spent in the interest of helping sell stuff as opposed to giving back to society.
4. Seasoned/Retired Professionals: For volunteers that are toward the end of their career, many are interested in philanthropy and giving back as a way to leave a positive legacy on their career. For many, especially those that have done well for themselves, money is not a priority, and instead finding happiness in a practice that has low pressure is a priority.
C5: In general, what are some tips for working with people remotely?
Working with people remotely requires a high level of comfort on email interaction as well as Skype, Google hangout, and other platforms for online collaboration. It is important to remember that phone conversations and in-person meetings may not always be possible. Getting used to conversing over the internet is your best bet.
C6: How do you manage volunteers and ensure that they meet the necessary deadlines even though they are not getting paid?
When you are managing your external network for the purposes of a volunteer project in which all parties are not receiving monetary compensation, you have to value the volunteer’s time over your own time. It is crucial to work within the schedule of the volunteer and make their life as easy as possible throughout the process. Putting yourself and your own schedule second to the volunteer’s will result in a more fruitful experience for your collaborator resulting in a high possibility of instilling a desire for them to help you out again on future projects while simultaneously inspiring them to do the best work they can. In the very early stages of a pro-bono project, be sure to include your volunteer on all communications with the client. Allow the volunteer to work with you to set deadlines that work for them. It has been found that when the volunteer is involved in the process of setting deadlines, they have a much higher likelihood of actually meeting those deadlines.
C7: Can my small business just crowdsource the work or act as an intermediary?
Sure you can, but chances are you will not do it correctly. Working in a crowdsourced method, or as a “middle man”/intermediary will increase your bandwidth for work by multiples, but it will not allow you to create a strong consistency in the process or outputs of your team. It will also limit your control in an engagement, which can have severe financial repercussions. Instead, we recommend that you, or someone who is part of your core team, always serve as a hands-on director or manager of each project. This will help you avoid the pitfalls that can result from a more hands-off role.