How to break out of the one-person freelance show
As a freelancer, you know that with the benefits of independent work, come unique challenges. With freedom, flexibility and creative autonomy come feelings of loneliness, anxiety and isolation. You’re not alone. When interviewing indie workers for the Freedom Creators publication, these were the most commonly listed challenges they’ve faced. But what many freelancers don’t realize is you don’t need to go at it alone to run a successful freelance career.
You can break out of the one-person freelance show while enjoying schedule flexibility and freedom. You can work with fellow freelancers to offer more robust services to land bigger clients or more extensive projects. You can then focus on the things you truly enjoy and work on fewer, high-quality projects at once. Here are the six steps to take to grow your freelance business!
Step 1: Create a freelance foundation
Before making your first hire or finding someone to collaborate with, work with a couple of clients to understand everything that goes into a project – from concept to execution to wrap up. Use your time with your first client or two as an opportunity to get to know them and their needs. Pay attention to the areas where they have plenty of resources and where they’re struggling.
The more you arm yourself with experience and knowledge of what goes into a project, the better you’ll be able to delegate. You’ll learn what type of freelancer(s) you need to work with. You’ll also learn more about your personal working style – who you do and do not work well with. You’ll learn how to communicate effectively. A lot of mistakes can be caused by miscommunication. Learn from those lessons and apply that know-how to your collaborations.
You’ll know when you’ve laid a proper foundation and when it’s time to hire fellow freelancers. You’ll either find yourself with more work than you know what to do with, not liking certain parts of the work, or with enough money to hire someone. If you’re not sure whether or not you’re ready, check out this guide to making your first hire.
Step 2: Decide what you want to focus on
While laying your freelance foundation, you’ll find yourself enjoying some areas of work more than others. If you’re a designer, you probably love the creation part of a project. Or, maybe you surprise yourself and find that you really enjoy meeting people and learning about their challenges. It could be that business development is your hidden passion. Or maybe you find yourself loving copywriting.
Whatever it is you enjoy the most, pay attention to it. You can then work with people who are skilled in and passionate about the other areas of work. The “machine” you’re building will run much smoother when everyone is working on what they enjoy.
Step 3: Identify the opportunities you want to work on
When you work with other freelancers, you’re no longer limited only to jobs that need your specific skill. You can go after much larger projects in need of full-stack services. This is your opportunity to break into an industry you’ve always wanted to work in or to pitch bigger projects you haven’t had the resources for previously. In other words, with a team of skilled freelancers, this is your opportunity to go big. By collaborating with others, you don’t have to take jobs you don’t like just to pay the bills. You can work together on the projects you’re all passionate about.
Step 4: Create a scope of work for your collaborators
You’ve done the groundwork and have an understanding of what your dream clients want and need. You know what you want to work on and where you need help. Now, get that on paper. Write out a scope (or job brief) of exactly what you need and what type of collaborator you’re looking for. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Your brief can simply be bullet points of the skills and qualities you’re looking for, as well as the responsibilities and time commitment required of the role.
This is also a good time to choose the structure of your job – when and how your freelancers will be paid. Depending on the job type, a set rate might be best, or an hourly rate. The job may be a one-time engagement or ongoing. The way you structure your job has a big impact on the success of your engagement. For more on how to best structure your job based on type, check out our guide.
Step 5: Find freelancers to work with
Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to find collaborators. One option is to connect with fellow freelancers in the CloudPeeps community. You can simply do a search of Peeps based on the skills, industry experience and location or timezone you’re looking for. You’ll find freelancers offering a range of services from marketing to design, social media to web development, and beyond. When doing a search, your results might look something like this:
You can message any Peep who seems like a good fit directly from their profile. Reach out to gauge their interest and ask them a few questions (here are our top ten must-ask interview questions) to get to know them better. We suggest getting on the phone with them to feel out their communication style and seeing if you’re a match. Once you’ve decided on your best collaborator(s), make an offer! The platform will take care of all the paperwork that comes with hiring a freelancer for you.
Another option is to create a job listing from your brief and open it to a pitching competition. Interested Peeps will pitch for the job, giving you options to choose from. Want more tips on how to hire? Here are seven tips to avoid bad freelance hires. If you ever have any questions, of course, the team is here to help!
Step 6: Create processes for your team
To be truly successful in breaking out of the one-person freelance show, you need to set yourself and your team up for success. Create processes for communication and project management with tools like Slack, Trello or Asana. As you onboard your first freelancer, document everything so that you can turn it into a process. Things like the logins you share, the tools you want them to use, your meeting schedule, etc. Record it all into a doc so that you can easily share it with all future collaborators.
Another important part of breaking out of solo work is learning how to streamline your workflow to save you time to onboard and manage people. Use bots and tools to help automate mundane tasks like scheduling meetings or archiving non-urgent emails. Create shortcuts like text snippets or InDesign templates for repeated tasks. The more time doing admin tasks you can free up for yourself, the more you can focus on paid client work and growing your freelance business!
Ready to grow your freelance team?
Still unsure if hiring another freelancer is right for you? We understand it can seem scary. But we see Peeps hire other Peeps all of the time and have heard nothing but positive stories. For example, Peep Lisa Crocco said, “Being hired as a Peep by a Peep has not only been a great experience, but also a ton of fun. I’m so happy I was hired to collaborate with Danielle on client projects. Being a remote worker can feel lonely, but working with Danielle over Slack, Skype, Trello, etc. has made me feel like I have a coworker sitting in the cubicle next to me always there to chat.”
If you have any questions about finding a collaborator or making your first hire, leave them in the comments below or ask your fellow Peeps in the Facebook Group!
*Above photo from Bench Accounting.*
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