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A Beginner's Guide to Working Collaboratively with Fellow Freelancers

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As a freelancer yourself, working with other freelancers is a great way to support the freelancing community. Plus, we freelancers better understand each other, the difficulties we face in dealing with clients, and balancing life with work.

While hiring freelancers can be a cost-effective way to boost your personal business, you will want to make sure to work collaboratively in the right way, especially since it is you and your client that will suffer if things go wrong.

Finding the right way to hire a freelancer or even finding a good subcontractor can prove a difficult task without understanding a few major points about working collaboratively with freelancers.

To ensure that it goes as smoothly as possible when you join forces with other freelancers the following is a complete guide to help you along this path. Follow the advice below, and with a bit of maneuvering you will gain new, amazing relationships with fellow freelancers. These collaborative working relationships can take your freelancing business to new heights.

When to Hire a Freelancer

The point at which you may need to hire a freelancer is if you can recognize within your work a need for a particular job to be done that is outside your area of expertise. Or you may have gained a project that is just so large that you need extra help to get it done.

If the job you need taken care of is outside your expertise, but also something that will continuously require attention, then a freelancer may not be your answer. You may need to consider hiring someone permanently.

However, if your project is temporary (whether or not it is outside your knowledge base) a freelancer can be a quick and effective answer. They are paid by the job, and because they are not permanent employees, they are more likely to get it done quickly. They have only one job to do for you instead of the workload of a dedicated employee.

How to Hire a Freelancer

You may need a freelancer, but how do you find one? The first thing you need to do is make a detailed list for yourself, writing down the qualities that you require in your freelancer. Some of your requirements may include points such as:

  • Special skills needed for the project at hand.
  • Amount of previous experience.
  • Knowledge of a particular subject.
  • Your personal limits on how much you are willing to pay (by the hour vs. by the job).
  • Length of time in which you need the job done.
  • Distance from yourself to the freelancer (if that matters to you).

Making a list such as this (with more questions and answers suited for your needs) will help you in narrowing your search when you start looking for a freelancer to fit your collaborative work needs. Once your list is complete, you are ready to move onto the next step for hiring a freelancer: the search.

How to Search

There are a number of ways to search for freelancers; you will just have to try a few or all of the suggested ways below until you find what works for you. Thankfully, today with social networking, finding freelancers to work in collaboration with is much easier than in the past.

Word of Mouth

The first way that you should try searching out freelancers is through networking. Ask people you know (or are in business with) if they have worked with any freelancers and what they thought of them. Your friends and colleagues will give you the most educated answers to your questions and will be more personal than a search engine.

The Legal Form of Stalking

The best way to find freelance writers, designers, and more is through social networking and freelance job posting sites.

Designers

For design work, try checking out sites such as Behance, DeviantArt, or Dribbble. Through these sites, users can upload examples of their work. In this way, you can review their work samples before contacting them. Make sure that you look at multiple examples so as to ensure that they have quite a bit of design flexibility.

Writers

Blog networks such as WordPress's Find Friends and Blogspot's blog search will show you what a writer is really like. These searches will also allow you to find specific topic blogs, so you can already narrow your search quite a bit. Plus, the contact information for the blogger is right in front of you, which provides ease of contact.

Even if they haven’t done any freelance work before, if you can see their promise (which should be clear and grammatically correct), then you may have found yourself a good writer. You will have a larger range over setting the timetables and price when working with a less experienced freelancer.

Freelancer Sites

There are too many freelance job posting sites on the web to list them all, so knowing where to start can be overwhelming if you as a freelancer have never used one of these sites before. You can either post your job on one of these sites and see who bids for your project. Or you could connect with other freelancers and connect privately in some cases. For instance, FreelanceSwitch has both the option of posting jobs or you can find a freelancer to connect with.

Google

If nothing else, you can do a Google search for freelancers. This comes with the caution of not knowing who it is you’re working with, so you may have some good luck and some bad luck. When working with strangers, however, make sure you find out as much information about them as you can.

There is no need for an all-out background check, but you should ask who they’ve worked with before and check references. If you find them slow to communicate or hesitant in giving answers to your questions, consider that your go-ahead to choose someone else.

How to Stay Formal Yet Friendly

We freelancers are a friendly group, at least most of the time. Sometimes, we can get our feelings easily hurt if another freelancer suggests that they may not trust us completely to get the job done right. Or sometimes we can get too friendly and one of us feels like slacking a bit may be okay. After all, we're friends, right?

No matter who it is you’re working with, writing up a formal agreement is a way to ensure that you are protecting your business interests.

To help avoid problems, protecting yourself with a contract is a must, especially if you have never before worked with this freelancer. My advice? Tread the topic lightly and tactfully. Mention that you hold yourself to a strict policy of always having a contract with both clients and contractors, just to play it safe. Any freelancer should understand this reasoning. If not, then move on to the next freelancer who will be happy to sign your contract.

No matter who it is you’re working with, writing up a formal agreement is a way to ensure that you are protecting your business interests. Within this contract, you can feel free to state in written form anything you deem pertinent to the job, such as the time frame in which the freelancer is to get the project done in order to be paid, the amount that will be paid, any copyright information, etc. On the slight chance that you and your freelancer would end up in a courtroom situation, having a signed contract will save you a lot of time and money, as you will have proof of the business arrangement.

After you’ve gotten all of the professional and legal obligations out of the way, you are free to establish a friendly rapport with your freelancer, staying within the bounds of the employee/employer working relationship. What this means is you can encourage your freelancer in their work but not go so far as to delve into their personal life. In this way, you keep a happy freelancer that will want to work with you, but not so friendly as to make them uncomfortable, or put you in a position that you lose the ability to keep your freelancer in check with their work. Keep in mind, happy freelancers put out better work.

Exchange of Services

As a freelancer seeking a freelancer, exchanging services can be a cost-effective alternative, rather than working up the money to hire someone. For example, say you are a freelance writer and you need a graphic design project done. You may, in fact, know a graphic designer in need of the services of a writer. You can then work out a bargain of providing one or two projects in exchange for graphic work from them. Or, your barter may simply be promotion of the other party on your website.

You can negotiate the terms you desire, but again make sure to write up a contract. If you present yourself to the other freelance party in a professional manner, they will recognize that you have a valuable skill that is worth the exchange, and you will build trust more easily this way.

Subcontracting

Sometimes you will work with a freelancer that has other freelancers that already work underneath them. Make sure to include a consideration of this in your contract with your freelancer. In these cases, it is best to start with only a few low-budget projects so as to assess the quality of the subcontracted freelancers. However, if the work the freelancer provides is attached to her name, more than likely she has made sure that the subcontractors hired produce high quality work.

If you find a freelancer that is quick to communicate and works efficiently, then freelancers with subcontracts working under them are wonderful options as you are able to pass off heavier workloads on a reasonably short timetable without overwhelming your freelancer.

Collaboration

Collaborating long-term with other freelancers in specific areas can make you a very valuable freelance pair. Keep in mind, though, that you should partner with people that have similar values and work ethic as you do yourself.

Collaborating long-term with other freelancers in specific areas can make you a very valuable freelance pair.

You can even set a trial run period to see if your personalities and schedules are cohesive. You can find these collaborative freelancers in the same way that you would find any other type of freelancer, except that if you are abundantly satisfied with their work, you may ask them to pair with you. Not only will this increase your value, you will be able to widen your potential customer base.

For example, if a writer, a graphic designer, and a coder team up, then they are able to work with websites of all types and take on larger projects together. Additionally, they are able to exchange services between themselves. Keep in mind that the more freelancers collaborating, the more difficult it may be to manage projects. Also, the more freelancers that team up, the less like a freelancer business it will be and the closer you're coming to running a small agency.

Similarly to any other type of freelance hiring work, remember to work up a running contract. This contract may be subject to change as the responsibilities of the different parties develop, but the overall ideas will remain constant and will keep all parties accountable.

Making it Work

Often, the benefits of working with other freelancers greatly outweighs the potential negatives. Just be sure to hire well, protect yourself with a contract, set clear expectations, and keep your exchanges friendly yet professional. Over time, you may find yourself some excellent regulars to work with that help you increase profit while cutting down your time spent working on each freelance project.

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by Malchev.

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