What does it take to build a freelance business?
This is a question every single freelancer has asked. And it’s not just a question about “how can I make it work?” It’s also a question about, “what’s the best approach to make this work?” Both are great questions.
How does collaborating with fellow freelancers help your business
My network is small, but it’s small and mighty. That wouldn’t happen had I stayed in my tiny bubble. Whether you’re a fan of having a huge following on social media — or you prefer a small yet fairly active community — collaborating with fellow freelancers is a good way to achieve just that. Working with fellow creatives on one small project could lead to great things. It can also lead to improving your team player skills, even without you noticing.
I suck at being a team player. But you can’t suck at it when you constantly work with different editors and content managers. One thing that helps is when you bring in fellow creatives who are not necessarily “higher” than you. Someone you can bounce around ideas with and experiment different projects with. You never know, maybe they’d refer you to one of their clients!
One thing is for sure though—your collaborators will open you to new perspectives. Being a freelancer, it’s easy to do a task in the same way over and over again because it’s what has worked for us. I used to spend so much time wallowing in front of a blank page because, while I love writing, it’s not always easy. A friend asked if I’ve considered writing only the introduction and leaving it for a day or two so that when I come back, the page won’t be blank and overwhelming. Nowadays, that’s exactly how I work on every article.
Collaboration is not just about working together on a client’s project. It’s also about seeing the bigger picture, developing new approaches, and seeing things from a different perspective. All these are vital in the growth of every freelance business.
Difference between a studio and a collaboration
I also consider collaboration as one step lower than functioning as a full studio. A studio is something more formal, in the sense that you work with the same group of people project after project. These folks are part of the picture when you present your business to clients and on social media. You’d most likely say you’re part of XYZ studio and together, you provide this and that services. Internally, you and the other freelancers in this studio have a structure and a system.
Collaboration is more freeing and casual. It starts with a one-time thing where you and another person, or two, work on one project. Maybe you’re a web developer and you’re working with a writer and designer to build a website for your client. This doesn’t call for any solid system aside from transparency in pay and work assignments. All three of you know what you individually bring to the table and once this project is done, you can take your skills and share them with other freelancers in another project. Casual, freeing, less red tape, if you will.
How to get started when your network is small
Does this mean collaboration is only for those with wide networks? Definitely not! Even if you only know a few people, even if you’re just starting as a freelancer, you can most definitely begin collaborating. In fact, this is one way to start as a freelancer and gain experience. You may consider collaborating with more established freelancers for free in exchange for guidance.
Wethos is a good place to reach out to more established freelancers. Our Slack group, like my network, is small and mighty. We’re a friendly bunch of freelancers always hungry for collaboration. You can also use the Wethos platform for free to team up and collaborate with the kind of freelancers you need for your project. And if you’re not sure what kind of freelancer you need, our directory can give you a better idea.
If you want to start with a platform you’re likely already on, you can join and post on different Facebook groups. Someone out there is looking for the kind of services you offer, you just have to find them. Or maybe they posted it on social media, you just have to reach out.
Or, you could reach out to your community — send emails and private messages to a few people and see if they’re open to collaboration. Encourage creative conversations and see if there are any projects you all can work together on. Keep in mind that the goal here is not to think about how big or small your online community is. The goal here is to keep your creative genius alive, gain experience, and ultimately, have fun!
Next thing you know, you’ll have colleagues referring you to their clients or clients finding you after seeing your work through someone in their network. Undoubtedly, solid collaborations help freelance businesses grow.
I was never big on collaboration. I’m a natural introvert who prefers to work alone and be left alone. Mind your own business, thank you! But when you’re a freelancer, you can only be alone for so long. Collaborating has helped improve my business in ways I never thought it would. I hope it will do the same for you. After all, success in the freelance industry is not just about the dollar sign. It’s also about building a solid community to grow with.