Freelance Frenemies – Why You Should Be Working With The Competition
For the first year of my freelancing career I would follow other freelance designers on social media and Behance, mainly just to get inspiration. I usually looked at them as just another competitor, and never thought that building connections with them could be beneficial to my business. Much less make me money. After a while, I figured out that this was the wrong approach.
Have you ever heard of the saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”? Well, that is sort of the case when it comes to running a design business. Instead of thinking of fellow freelancers as competitors, why not partner up with them?
Why You Should Work with Other Designers
Let me give you a few good reasons why you should consider partnering with other freelancers and designers.
Inspiration & Experience
The first and most obvious reason to team up with other designers is for inspiration. When you work with other freelancers you can learn from them in areas that you may not have as much experience in. They can learn from you in the same way.
Whether it is a design trend you are not familiar with, or a helpful tip for handling a troublesome client, other freelance designers can complement your skills. Especially when it comes time to complete a design gig.
Multiple Ideas & Designs
Sometimes we can get creative blocks when working on a fresh, custom design. I know I get them more often than not. When you work with other designers as a team you have the opportunity to each create a design. Then you can compare multiple designs and concepts.
This will help you come up with the best end result for your client, and an amazing design.
Finish Jobs Faster
Now that you are working on your projects with multiple freelancers, you will be able to finish each project faster. The quicker you dish them out, the sooner you can move on to more work! Could you imagine being able to pump out 10-20 new websites a month?
The faster your service is for your client (without affecting quality), the more they will want to give you work or referrals.
Remember how I talked about not thinking of them as your competitor? Well, they still are. But there is plenty of work to go around. As freelance designers, we only have so many hours in a day to complete work. Therefore, we can't always take on every project that comes our way. When you have connections with other freelancers and communicate with them often, they will think of you first when they have to turn down a client.
Instead of just saying NO to a prospect, they can give a referral and keep that person happy. At the same time, you have just acquired a new client of your own! Just be sure to give your fellow designer a nice referral fee for their troubles.
Working as a subcontractor can be beneficial to those that don't like constantly having to find new clients, and then managing those clients. Working with other freelancers as a subcontractor can provide you a steady stream of projects, and allow you to focus on the actual design.
Another great benefit of working as a subcontractor is that you have the opportunity to work on projects you may have not been able to get on your own. Maybe you are used to taking on smaller, boring projects. Where as, as a subcontractor, your employer may be getting bigger, more enjoyable jobs. Find freelancers in a niche you want to work in and connect with them!
One downside to working as a subcontractor can be that you will have to provide a lower rate than you could charge a client directly. Remember that your employer has to make a profit as well off of every hour you work. If you have been charging low rates anyway, you may end up getting a raise when working for another freelancer who already charges a higher rate. Keep in mind the benefits of being a subcontractor when considering a lower rate, though.
If you enjoy managing clients and projects, consider subcontracting other freelancers yourself. This is a great way to grow your design business to new levels.
For every connection you make, you are opening the doors to their network, as well. Sometimes it can be all about who you know...the more freelancers you know, the more opportunities will come your way. Continue to gain connections, and you will make more through each and every one.
Other Freelancers = More Services To Offer
Sometimes services in the design world can mesh with tasks like coding, product development, and marketing. It’s great to have other freelancers in your network who you can provide to your client when they are in need of services outside of your knowledge. The more resourceful you are for your client, the longer they will stick around. Don’t lose them just because you don’t offer internet marketing. Connect them with someone who does, and who can work side by side with your designs.
Tools To Help Collaborate With Other Designers & Freelancers
As you get started building connections with other freelancers, you will eventually have a team of people you work with. Using some of the handy (and affordable) tools that are on the web, you can easily automate your workflow while working on a project with another or multiple designers.
Redbooth (formerly TeamBox) is a great tool for task management, file sharing and communication for teams. Redbooth has a simple UI that is easy to use and love. With features like Team Video Chat, project discussions and tasks, and task reporting, Redbooth can make managing a team of freelancers an effortless experience.
Blimp is another good one for managing multiple projects and tasks as a team. The web-app allows you to easily see how far along a project is by percentage, and allows your team members to mark what they are currently working on. Or they can submit a task to the manager for review.
CageApp is made specifically for design collaboration. They give you the tools to easily work amongst multiple designers. Once a design is submitted, you can quickly review and make comments or notes. These notes are visually shown right on the design. This can save you hours of chat time on Skype when trying to communicate the required revisions on a design.
Kollaborate gives you an awesome interface for quickly brainstorming as a team. Open up their Whiteboard and quickly start a meeting using video chat, screensharing and document sharing. Just drag and drop files to the whiteboard and other members of the meeting will see it in real time.
ConceptBoard is a tool that works just as well when collaborating with your suppliers as it does with your customers. Using their visual whiteboard, you can add context to edits and tasks, view updates, and communicate more clearly with your team. Cross-device collaboration is available.
CampFire was made to be a simpler communication tool for groups, without having to worry about instant messaging services. Not requiring a download or installation, you can create chatrooms in seconds that are secure and password protected. Then invite the group to collaborate using their visual tools, file sharing features, and inline previews.
GroupZap is a mind-mapping tool that creates a link between the ideas of all of your team members in a more visual way. Create a digital bulletin board that allows you to start with central ideas, then add to, edit and reorder them as multiple people brainstorm. Documents, images and screencaps can be added to provide more context.
Motiv is a proposal, contract, and billing management tool for creative freelancers. Motiv’s new Timesheet and Time Tracking tools can come in handy when subcontracting work out to other freelancers. They can easily track their time and submit to your Motiv account so you can generate an invoice and bill your client.
Hunie is a social community of designers, and a place where you can quickly upload a design to get constructive criticism from others in your field. It is an invite-only community, so you can ensure that once you do get in, you will only be receiving critiques from experienced peers.
Google is one of the most trusted names in internet technology. Their many apps and services give you the perfect platform for building your designs, collaborating with clients and peers, and keeping track of projects. From Google Calendars for establishing a shareable schedule, to Gmail with its many productivity boosting labs, to Drive for quick document group edits, there is an endless supply of helpful apps.
There is no shortage of reasons why connecting and working with other freelance designers is a benefit to your business. Nor is there a lack of tools out there to help you do it more efficiently. In the age of cloud computing and international client reach, forming mutually positive relationships is a necessity.
If you have any ideas for freelance collaboration, or some apps you would like to share, leave them in the comments below.