So you’ve got the basics set, having a general plan ready to go (you did read the first article in this series, right?). Now it’s time to nail down another important aspect of your little project: the community team. Again, we’re going to have some choices to make, and each one comes with it’s own set of baggage.
- Partner – give up equity in your project and pay the team member with an ownership stake. This helps to properly motivate team members in the beginning, but to keep them involved, your going to need to see some financial success fairly quickly (but that’s a good thing, right?).
- Hire – The dreaded FTE, which is something a new and unproven business model should avoid at all costs. You’ll know when its time to get serious and hire people, but pre-launch isn’t the time.
- Contract – As Charlie Sheen notably said about call girls, “I don’t pay them for the sex, I pay them so they will go home after the sex.” This is the reason I like contract work or freelancers for building sites initially. The project is scoped, the project is built and eventually, they go home. No long term commitments, no nasty divorces.
- Outsource/Third Party – Hire a company or freelancer for a specific task or area of expertise.
- Barter – Yup, you can trade your skills for those of other professionals. The good news is that no cash has to change hands. The bad news is that you’re going to be doing work for someone else, for free…
- Intern – There are folks out there who will want to become involved in your site, and they’ll be willing to help, and they’ll do it for free. Not all of them will work out, but you’ll find over time that looking inwards to a community for help is a great way to make things happen.
You should have a good idea from your business plan where the major areas of work are going to be. Let’s generally assume:
- Business Administration – Finance, HR, etc. No one in their right mind would put me in charge of finance, so I’d outsource myself a good accountant to handle that function. The rest I handle.
- Engineering/Design – I generally do my own engineering and like to keep things as simple as possible to meet the project goals. However I’m not the worlds best designer, so I generally buy a design from a specialist.
- Content Generation – At some point, you’re going to need content. Where is it coming from? Are you buying freelance stories? Using a content service like Associated Content? Are you relying on User Generated Content?
- Editorial – At some point someone will need to start thinking about this little project as a real production site. That means someone is going to need to start planning, editing, posting, and organizing your content in a way that’s going to grab users. I’m old school, so I’d expect to see and editorial plan, with enough content loaded to get things started, plus content ready to roll out for the next couple weeks.
- Community Managers – Every town needs a Sheriff, and community managers are that for you. Their job will be to jump start the discussion, help the users navigate the site and take them to task when they step out of line. These folks are critical to your success.
- Site Administration – Thinks webmaster here. This is the catch all for the tech side of your site, and probably for a lot more. This is the person who manages changes to the software, adding an ad code here or there, sorts out the nasty little bugs and works day in and day out with the servers.
- SEO/SEM – Sorry to say it, but you’re living in the dark ages if you don’t have an SEO/SEM plan ready right out of the gate. If you don’t know how to do it, consult with someone who does.
- Ad Sales/Ad Ops– You’re going to need to sell ads, and this is incredibly hard for a news site without any established traffic stats. You’re probably going to start relying on Google Adsense, however you’d be best off to have a plan to move beyond that quickly. Google is the lowest common denominator in ad sales.
For most of us, these are all us…or us and one or two other people. Its still best to think about the general areas of responsibility, because if you’re plan works, things are probably going to get very busy very quickly.
For the record, I’m a big fan of involving community members, and, frankly, hate having partners (burned too many times to count…). So if I can’t get it done for free, I’ll grudgingly hire a freelancer for that specific bit. Honestly, I want to know they’ll go home at the end of the day.
(Coming up next, we start getting into the real nuts and bolts…building the site…so be sure to check back!)