Developing a Virtual Team

One thing I have been able to do well over the last few years is develop a virtual team from the ground up. I started my business a few years ago with just my wife and I, and slowly we have grown.

I started out learning “a little bit about a lot of things”. My skill set includes html, php, flash, photoshop, seo, dreamweaver, javascript, and much more. However, I can’t say I am an expert in any of these areas. I was able get jobs with smaller customers, and also did some volunteer work. Then I started to attract some larger clients where I just couldn’t do it all myself.

I started out hiring a few freelancers. Early on I have to say I was not very good at this. I encountered a couple of dishonest people, as many more that were not mature enough to organize their work. I literally worked with dozens of people. There were some that were super talented but too busy for me. Others may have found other work, because I wasn’t a very good project manager in the beginning.

Over time I got better at working with people. I learned how to resell their work. I could come up with an idea for just about anyone once I learned their skills. When a customer came along that needed something, I knew where to find help. Most of this I did informally at first, matching a customer with a person who could do the job. I can’t say it was perfect, but it worked. For example, sometimes I would have a programmer doing design work in addition to the programming for a customer, and that wouldn’t go so well.

I learned to organize tasks better into their component parts. I would use a programmer for part of the task, and a designer for another part. I got bigger jobs, and even started to sell my own software (phpLD). That really took off, and I attracted more talented people.

The workload grew so large that last year we had to build our own software just to manage the work, and stay organized with customers who send us dozens of ours of work, both large and small. Our talented staff also gave me feedback about how to work with customers, and customers gave me feedback about the staff, and now this is really coming together too.

I think the secret to my success so far has been my ability to work with people and turn their work into money. And not only that, to develop people into more than they are now, just as I did that for myself, learning to manage larger and more diverse projects. I’ve helped people to make more money, and even develop a career, and as a result, they have wanted to continue to work with me. I have a couple of people now that have been with our company for more than 5 years (one is 8 years I believe), and a few more than have been around for 3 years or more.

Recently, we added a new person to our team, and it is really getting exciting, and what is wonderful is everyone does it virtually across multiple time zones from the Pacific to Europe (and a couple of part timers in Asia).

So first, I hope you enjoyed my sharing what I did, but also I would love to hear about how you developed your team, or your plans or aspirations for the future!

That skill is MUCH more valuable then programming or designing could ever be. Congrats on your success!

Yea it’s a really inspiring story, I’m still in the “early” stages of my business, I started making the whole web industry my career in Feb 09 which is a while back now but I’m still getting on the ground running with projects that’ll give me the extra foundation I feel I require to expand (or team up with someone else). Things are going pretty well here but it’s certainly a nice thing to see that people I know are managing to turn their hard work into success, so congrats :slight_smile:

Wow, great story thank you for sharing dvduval. It sounds like you had a lot of trial and error over the 8? or so years of developing your business. Your doing freelance work and developing your own software, exactly what I want to be doing! :smiley:

How do you find the time to do client work and your own software? or is it simply a matter of managing other peoples time to complete the client work now while you work on your own products?

If you don’t mind me asking and if you don’t mind sharing, How has working with your wife affected your relationship? Would you recommend it? Some people say never do it but most people don’t get the ABC’s of communicating with their partner to begin with any way, so their opinion is void. What’s been your personal experience?

I still try to spend time in each area so that I don’t get too far removed from what is going on, but it is true I spend more time communicating than producing work. Because we have a pretty big team now, it is easier to assign a client job to one person while continuing work on our product with a couple of others.

My wife and I can spend all day together and not have any major issues. I don’t know if the same can be said for everybody. That said, I do make a point of getting out for a bike ride or a drive or just something on my own nearly every day. We live in California (recently moved) so I often just want to get out and enjoy the weather.

I would say the secret is each person needs to have their responsibilities, and they are the boss when it comes to those tasks. Sometimes we help each other, but normally she lets me do what I do best, and I do the same for her.

Good questions. It led me to think about things too.