The Buddy System
Most freelancers will find, as they venture down their career path, that it would benefit them to outsource some of their work. Freelancers might also find their working lives tend to be a bit solitary. This is not true of all freelancers, but these are two fairly common issues. In fact, not only are they common, for many of us they are a sign of success. For other freelancers though, these could be reasons to change course, do a career pivot. If the independent lifestyle is wearing on you a bit, and the idea of having to give away a lot of your work is disheartening, fear not. There is a simple solution to both these things, a solution that more freelancers ought to consider: Finding a partner.
OUTSOURCING VS PARTNERING
You may think the suggestion to find a partner isn’t all that revelatory. “I already outsource a bunch of my work.” Ahh, but this is not the same thing. There can certainly be confusion here as one of the ways freelancers often become partners is through outsourcing first. Many of us outsource menial tasks we don’t want to deal with like accounting and administrative duties. You may not think of this as outsourcing, but rather a person just paying for some financial help. Remember that freelancers are businesses, and everything a freelancer doesn’t do themselves is considered outsourcing. Now, if you were to hire a full-time accountant as part of your business and let clients know that you could offer them financial services, that would be a form of partnership.
Most of us would not want to hire a full-time accountant as that has no relevance to the service we’re selling. We’re okay to continue outsourcing that work, but if you find yourself outsourcing the work you like to do because you have a surplus of business, that could be aggravating. This would be a good time to consider partnering up.
DEFINING YOUR PARTNERSHIP
To form a freelance partnership can mean a few different things. Most of them don’t require any sort of paperwork or anything. Here are a couple different partnership scenarios:
This is like an upgraded form of outsourcing. If you’ve found a freelancer you like to work with who consistently does good work for you, you may want to make that relationship more personal. You establish a relationship in which you always think of them first when outsourcing work and they’ll always think of you. The consistency builds mutual trust and suddenly the work you outsource doesn’t feel so far from home. You could do the same thing when it comes to recommendations. Guarantee each other that if a client you know needs another freelancer you always think of each other first.
You can do this with more than one person. If you’ve guaranteed someone that they’ll be first on your list, you obviously can’t have two people at #1; but freelancers have unpredictable schedules and the first person you look to might be busy. It can be beneficial to make this arrangement with multiple freelancers.
A Package Deal
This is the next step in that relationship. You’ve really enjoyed outsourcing work to a colleague. You and that colleague really mesh in terms of taste, of lifestyle, of personality, so you decide to combine your businesses into one. By the way, feeling lonely or wanting more control over your work isn’t the only reason to partner with someone. Partnerships can be great for business.
While it depends on your position and industry, there are a lot of scenarios in which partnership is a boon, especially in collaborative environments. Say you’re a web designer and your clients always need some copy or PR work done. Partner with a copywriter and you can now offer clients everything at once, saving them valuable time.
Find a freelancer that works in a related field with skills that compliment your own and see if you can work together on some projects. Designer? Partner up with a developer to offer a bigger solution. By the way, this is a two-way street. Another freelancer may come to you with an idea to partner up. Consider the possibilities before you say no.
SELLING THE PACKAGE
Once you’ve formed a partnership, whatever form that may be, you have to figure how to sell it. Like we said, these partnerships aren’t legally bound and the agreement you’ve come to with your partner could be unclear to a third party. It’s important that clients easily understand what they’re getting when they hire you. Who’s going to be handling the communication? How should they be paying you? Will the work take longer or shorter than before?
Now if your partnership is more casual you might think “well I don’t owe a client that information as long as the work gets done.” Sure you can think that way, but if you’re consistently telling a client you can handle extra work, they are going to want to know how. Initially, if past clients are uncomfortable with your new arrangement, you could offer them a discount until they’re satisfied with the work (you’re going to be able to take on more clients with a partner now anyway). It’s also a good idea to test out your new partnership and how it functions with existing clients before you go after new ones.
Finding a freelancing partner doesn’t only offer a way to limit how much you outsource and fill your days with a companion. It’s a great business opportunity. You can offer clients a wider array of skills, access clients you couldn’t before, and double the man-power to accomplish tasks. Partnership offers a world of opportunity for the right freelancers.