Freelance jobs aren’t always swaying in the breeze, waiting for a happy home to go to. That’s why pitching in pairs can help make freelance jobs simpler. For example, pairing up with a developer when you are a copywriter to sell new websites. Or taking time to find composers if you’re a film maker makes life a lot easier.
So how do you create a workable partnership going forward or even find the right people for the next pitch?
Know where to find freelance friends
Networking is your ticket to finding the right people to work with. Luckily, you can do this online or off. Networking online or off can help you get where you need to be. Some groups where freelancers regularly hang are The Freelance Jungle, Never Not Creative, Find a Finder’s Fee (private group- introduction required), Rachel’s List (paid membership required), The Freelance Collective (paid membership required) and The Clever Copywriting School (membership required).
Meetup and Eventbrite have a wealth of business groups and networking events in your local area. For example, Melbourne has a thriving group of freelancers that regularly meet. Another place to look for suitable friends to work with on freelance jobs might be your local co-working joints.
When using social media, pay attention to Australian freelancers you admire. If you like the look of someone’s website and their social media style, it can’t hurt to email them to introduce yourself. Or follow them on social media to build rapport.
Following on social media also gives you the opportunity to check out how they market themselves. It also makes them feel good through giving your contribution to their efforts.
Setting up a workable freelance partnership
This is about working through the softer side of a working relationship with another freelancer.
Please note: I strongly suggest anyone who is looking to partner up on a regular basis and/or have some kind of formal arrangement seeks legal advice and sets up the appropriate agreements. No matter how amazing you find each other, contracts help both parties to understand how things are going to operate. You need this sort of clarity when it involves revenue, splitting that revenue and handling work and client relationships.
There are a couple of ways you can approach work sharing as a freelancer.
The three most popular when dealing with freelance jobs are:
- Having a transparent referral and introduction process so you quote separately
- Integrating their component of the work into one quote
- Ghosting or outsourcing (working with contractors etc)
It’s pretty self-explanatory. Your client wants something else; you introduce them to the freelancer who can provide it. You quote separately. You invoice separately. And most of the project is done separately. Your project management is done between the two of you to ensure it all matches up.
This is usually the no fuss approach, as long as the client is OK with two points of contact.
The freelancer who gets you the work may charge you a small finder’s fee or percentage. Other freelancers just believe in the “what goes around comes back around” ethos.
This is the simpler way of approaching freelance jobs as a combined force.
When you’re going for the larger freelance jobs, you may want to seem bigger yourself. You may wish to combine a quote with a freelancer and treat it as a job under the one banner.
There are a few things you’ll need to work out so it runs smoothly such as:
- If they are doing the billing, when do you get paid?I’ve seen many a freelancer starve based on another freelancer’s inability to extract cash. Don’t let that be you.
- Who is doing the project management overall?Is there a central point of communication? Things get dropped when no one is in charge.
- What can you show on your portfolio once the project is complete?
- How will on-the-fly changes on the job be handled and billed re: quoting process.Scope creep is common on any job, so you don’t want to accidentally invite it through teaming up.
- How do you pay for client communication and project management? The person doing this role should be compensated. How that works and what is involved needs to be agreed beforehand.
- Your due diligence in relation to company structure. You may need to be a company employing contractors to take on this kind of work. You should consult an accountant, a lawyer and the ATO as to the appropriate structure to operate under. You don’t want to accidentally find you are a sham contractor by accident
- What happens if things go wrong? All projects have the ability to fail. It’s up to you have an appropriate way of dealing with a situation if things go wrong. Working out who is accountable and what happens if the project is ailing or failing beforehand makes it easier to deal with when the situation arises
Everything has to be in writing. Clear communication is what saves the day here. Contracts are always better than handshakes. Don’t be afraid to outline how you intend to undertake the partnership and aim for agreement on paper.
The freelancer who gets you the work may also charge you a small finder’s fee or percentage, usually around the 10% to 20% mark. Project management and client communication may look like another 30-40% on the final amount. The better the budget setup, the less stress these kinds of freelance jobs will be.
A word of caution: I’ve seen some pretty shonky contracts in my time. As recently as this year, someone tried to hand me one that removed my ability to talk to the client directly. That’s annoying but it’s doable. What was worse was they had inbuilt clause that said I didn’t get paid under the client was pleased(?). If I am not managing the relationship, I cannot manage the client’s emotions.
Another clause you should not accept is not getting paid for the work until other people have their finances in order. 90% of freelancer’s suck at asking for late payments. The project manager should not make your payment contingent on their ability to get paid. Especially if you cannot influence the situation. Nor should you be holding on until the client’s pay day comes in.
Money is in exchange for work. You complete the work, you get paid.
Never, ever give someone else the right to pay you when they feel like it. Especially if they have a different version of what a complete job means. When I raised my concerns, they stopped taking my calls and emails. That’s a huge sign they are dodgy.
Always protect yourself.
Outsourcing and ghost work (e.g. writing, white label production, speech writing etc) are common in writing, design and development professions.
Let’s look at outsourcing first.
Work is outsourced and the client doesn’t know. It’s common with agencies and established freelancers who run teams.
If you’re with an agency, you may need to attend meetings and pretend you work there. You may also need to work in-house on occasion if the client is sniffing about or its launch time. This is different to contracting where they expect you to be in-house more often than not.
If you are in a team, you may be working with a collective of freelancers to win bigger projects. This is becoming increasingly popular because it’s cheaper than hiring agencies and has less contractual obligations attached for the client.
However, outsourcing has some issues attached. Check out the definitions and questions in the “are you an employee or a contractor?” tool from the Australian government. It helps clarify your situation.
How amazing would ghost work be if you actually got to be a ghost? Anyway, I digress. Ghost work (like ghost writing, speech writing, being them on social media, white label solutions etc) may mean you are pretending to be someone when you produce the work.
Ghost work means you forgo using the work for your portfolio and may need to sign and honour a non-disclosure agreement. It is your duty to make sure that as a ghost, you’re an unseen part of the process. That you don’t stand out as a freelancer per se.
If you’re ghost working for a celebrity or professional person, having personal indemnity insurance is a must. You’ll also need to outline and have a mutual agreement with your client about what happens if there is backlash. You’ll most certainly need to spend time getting to know them and their world view so you can replicate it as them.
If you’re ghost working for another freelancer, you’ll need to mirror their work processes, tone and follow their lead. You’ll have to pay a percentage of what you earn to them. Or you’ll be on a set rate card where they take a share of the profit before they pay you.
Oh, and you’ll probably need to have a longer review cycle while they check the work is to standard before sending it on to the client for review.
In any of these kinds of situation, make sure you have a contract that includes:
- How you get paid- amount, cut taken, what payment cycle etc
- Who has their head on the chopping block if things go awry?
- Know what you can and can’t do in sharing that you ghost. And if the relationship is uncovered, responsibilities are clearly outlined
- A general non-disclosure agreement
And definitely look at taking out public liability insurance.
The bottom line on scoring freelance jobs via partnerships
Always know what you want to get from a freelance partnership. Don’t be so overjoyed with the prospect of working with someone you forget to cover your butt.
And build partnerships with people you enjoy working with.
What you want from a partnership is better opportunities and level to reduced workload. Fun and camaraderie are a bonus. Anything less than that and it’s not worth it.
Please note: The information contained in this blog on freelance jobs and partnership management should not be viewed as legal advice. You should always setup the appropriate contracts via a lawyer or legal service. Consult the ATO and/or your accountant in relation to your roles and responsibilities when paying contractors and other associated freelancers. And insure your business appropriately when working with others. Minimise risk at the beginning of your partnership adventure to ensure your freelance jobs are conducted on the correct side of the law and ATO.
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