Working with Other Freelancers: The Power of Outsourcing
One person can only do so much, and therefore a business consisting of one person can only grow so much. Yet, many of us in this industry love to work alone; we love to call all of the shots and give ourselves full creative freedom. So how can a freelance business have the best of both worlds?
The power comes from working with others, while still maintaining a one-man or one-woman operation. Working with other freelancers by outsourcing, or otherwise known as subcontracting can be a powerful source of business growth for any freelancer. In this post we're going to discuss some of the benefits of working with others in the field, how to find others to work with, and how to successfully manage a freelancing business that may be actually run by multiple individuals.
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The Benefits of Working With Others
All freelancers enjoy working on their own for one reason or another. For some, it's to set their own hours. For others, it's to work on the kind of things they want to work on. Then, for the introverts, a solo environment may just be more appealing. Whatever your reason, as freelancers we all take on the same challenges. Working with others in the field can combat these challenges - both the emotional and business related problems.
Combat Loneliness & Isolation
It doesn't matter how much you say you enjoy working on your own, even the most extreme loners need socialization. Isolation can come quickly when working on one's own, and some freelancers even run back to a part-time job purely for the interaction with others. Working with others is a great way to socialize with people in your field. Simple interactions between individuals, even if just over email, can be the fine line between the sane and the isolated insane.
The best types of interactions involve more than email, though. While it's great to create a wide network via email and other simple forms of online interaction, it can be beneficial to one's mental (and physical) health to get out of the home office and meet with others face-to-face. Network with other local freelancers as well.
We learn 80-90% of what we do based on experience and interaction. Only that remaining 10-20 percent comes from studying resources. By working with others in similar fields, we can expand our own skill set. One can gain exposure to things we've never heard of, or have heard very little about. We can learn more about how to work with someone specializing in a field we know nothing about. Interactions with others in similar, yet still varying specialties is a great passive way to learn more about your own profession.
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You may begin working with someone through a random event; perhaps they contacted you first, or perhaps you found them somehow. Maybe you two met at a conference. It doesn't matter how you ended up working with them - when you're done with the group project, then what? Does it all end there, for you to find others to work with?
The great thing is, probably not! Through working with others you may meet people in their circle. Or, just like how clients work, they may refer your partnership to others. Best of all, they may refer you to more direct clients when their load gets too heavy!
Outsource the Things You Don't Like to Do
Maybe you don't like to do everything with a project. Are you a web designer who doesn't like to code? Or are you a developer who doesn't like to design? Some types of projects require a lot of different phases, if you prefer not to do one or the other, feel free to subcontract that part. This can keep your stress low, and it can help to get projects done faster and more efficiently.
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Grow Your Freelancing Business
There are plenty of personal benefits described above, but if that's not enough to get you interacting, then hopefully the desire to grow your business and create more income will. Nobody can do it all, so that's why many freelancers feel limited when it comes to taking on some clients. Have you ever had a client approach you with a project you weren't sure if you could do? What about a client who approached you with a project you know you didn't have the ability to do?
It can definitely be frustrating. This is especially true when you either desperately need to build your portfolio or need some income now. Why won't clients that need projects in your specialty just contact you instead? Well don't get mad at the client. If you were not in this industry, you likely wouldn't know either why calling out to all 'web designers' wouldn't get you the logo design you need. Many clients have no idea what you can and can't do, even if you seemingly spell it out for them on the front page of your portfolio.
In order to grow your business, stop rejecting these clients! If you need more clients, take them on!
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If they request services you don't know how or are not willing to do, even if they are related to your field, outsource those portions to other freelancers. By doing so, you accomplish a few things:
- The job gets done and the client is happy.
- You've now just expanded your network, and have one more freelancer to work with in the future. (They may bring work to you next time!)
- In the future, that same client needs a service you can do. Who do they go to? You, of course, because you're the person that helped them out successfully last time.
Whether you outsource part of the job, or need to outsource all of it, the point is that networking is taking place and jobs are getting done. Don't put it into your own portfolio if you didn't do it, but rather cite the correct designer or developer who did do the work. Much of the time, though, you'll find that you can do large pieces of a project that you thought you couldn't get done in the first place.
Expand Your Services
There are definitely some services that go well together. For example, many clients want a web design service that comes with some SEO marketing. Others need a logo for their new website, and then some others need a custom-coded backend. Sell packages to win over more clients, and outsource the areas you don't specialize in. You'll get more projects done overall, and obtain more work doing what you love.
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Get More Done
By steadily outsourcing big parts of projects, you can take on more clients. If you find yourself overworked and with too many leads, put more focus on turning those leads into clients, and driving through more projects quicker by subcontracting the work. You still get much of the income, if not more, plus the experience.
How to Connect with Others
The best thing about finding others to work with is that it's relatively easy. Below are some tips for beginning to make connections.
- If you already have a job you need to subcontract, post a job listing and let them come to you. Or, select from portfolios just as a client would do and get in touch. After the project is completed, keep in touch with the other freelancer for future work.
- Cold-email. This can be annoying to agencies and clients, but not so much for freelancers. The freelancing lifestyle just has more time available for these types of emails, and they are far more welcomed. If you admire another freelancer's work, feel free to shoot them an email introducing yourself, and asking if it'd be alright to subcontract some of your work to them in the future. Also let them know what you do and offer them the same from your services.
- Write for blogs, get involved in the community, and compliment on other's works. Just simple interaction like this can get your name out there and that exposure can influence others to get in touch with you. This is especially true if you build your name as someone who's an expert in the field.
Working with others has so many benefits that it's difficult to spell them all out here. Many freelancers work in too much isolation, which is just a recipe for disaster. The loneliness cannot only make you less productive because of the psychological downsides, but it can also limit your business dramatically. Do yourself and other freelancers a favor by getting involved!
How often do you work with other freelancers? Is it through subcontracting work or by other means? Please share your habits and experiences of working with others - we love to hear varying lessons learned.