Working as an independent freelancer has many advantages: You get to be your own boss, you structure your schedule according to your needs, you have the liberty to choose projects for yourself, and if you happen to be in NYC, you can do all of your work in the Wix Lounge for free.
Still, every freelancer has at some point faced the limitations and challenges that this work model inevitably entails. One of the main problems with working on your own is the fact that you often find yourself cut out from a network of professionals, which limits the type of projects you can get involved in.
There’s only so much you can do as one person, but if you form long-lasting connections with professionals whose work corresponds to yours you can expand your business network and your capacity to take on more work. The trick is in cultivating these relationships, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Step One: Identify Your Weak Spots
Before you approach fellow freelancers with offers, or when you’re considering such an offer yourself, first think on the type of skills and expertise you can bring to the partnership, and then try to objectively asses what things might be lacking or could be complementary to your service.
For instance, for a freelance web designer, natural partnership candidates are developers, content writers or photographers. All of these professionals offer services that touch on or expand the web designer’s work.
Solid partnerships, however, are not only based on the line of work one does, but also on personality and talent. For instance, you might find that a relationship with someone who is a natural in marketing and self-promotion is exactly what you need because you don’t typically excel at these tasks, or that your creative free spirit could benefit from working together with someone who is more grounded and organized in their routine.
Step Two: Discuss Mutual Expectations
Before committing to any mutual projects, it’s important to make sure that you and your potential freelance partner share similar expectations regarding workload division, schedule, compensation, decision making and so on.
It’s important to discuss these issues in advance and make sure you are on the same page. If the person you’re negotiating with has prior experience with other freelance partnerships, ask to hear about how they managed things before and see what in their workflow you like, or where you could spot potential problems.
The bast thing to do is sign a contract that covers all important aspects of the partnership: deadlines, payments and delivery. Remember that you have a reputation to protect and you would not want to see it tarnished by misconceptions or misunderstandings.
Step Three: Keep the Relationship Going
An important thing to do is establishing a partnership that goes beyond a single project and can actually turn into a steady source of income. In order to do that you need to sustain a professional and social relationship with your freelance network of partners.
This means brushing up the old networking skills – showing up at events, grabbing a business lunch every once in a while, forwarding relevant updates you happen to come across, etc. All these help to build and establish trust with potential partners and sending signals about you being a true and supporting team player.
Find the right balance between familiar and professional; maintain a reasonably frequent communication; and be sure to match your strengths and weaknesses with someone who can complement your work. If you have these basics covered, your partnership is likely to grow in ways that both sides can benefit from.