Colloidal synthesis routes have been recently used to fabricate heterogeneous catalysts with more controllable and homogeneous properties. Herein a method was developed to modify the surface composition of colloidal nanocrystal catalysts and to purposely introduce specific atoms via ligands and change the catalyst reactivity. Organic ligands adsorbed on the surface of iron oxide catalysts were exchanged with inorganic species such as Na2S, not only to provide an active surface but also to introduce controlled amounts of Na and S acting as promoters for the catalytic process. The catalyst composition was optimized for the Fischer-Tropsch direct conversion of synthesis gas into lower olefins. At industrially relevant conditions, these nanocrystal-based catalysts with controlled composition were more active, selective, and stable than catalysts with similar composition but synthesized using conventional methods, possibly due to their homogeneity of properties and synergic interaction of iron and promoters. (Chemical Equation Presented).