The new Freelance Jungle website is here and we couldn’t be happier. The website itself has been lovingly created by Adelaide web designer, Tori Evans from Toria Designs. Tori gave this website to the Freelance Jungle as a demonstration of her belief in what we do.
Such generosity is amazing to see.
While Tori regularly does pro-bono work as part of her business, to be chosen as one of those deserving projects is quite humbling. We thank her for her efforts, diligence and patience with the project. You can see her belief in the Freelance Jungle in every pixel. Tori’s talent and ability to translate what we need made this a journey to what we now believe is a foundation step to growing the Freelance Jungle visions in ways we could not before.
Here’s the history of why we needed a new Freelance Jungle website – and what we now hope to offer in the future
Why a new website?
We definitely needed a new website. It was something I had built in Divi in two days. Like many “I’ll just cobble this together” projects, it had a lot of issues.
It was full of typos because I broke the cardinal rules of copywriting and wrote directly into the CMS without proofing. Like many novice designers (read people who have no freaking idea), I built each section based on what I felt at the time. There was no planning, no cross-referencing to other pages. Drag and drop editors in my hands are not a great idea.
Oh, and did I mention I am both visually impaired and red-green colour deficient? I’ve heard on more than one occasion, “you picked an interesting colour palette for someone with your form of colour blindness.”
Yes folks, yes, I did. In truth, I don’t look at colours. I read colour off HEX numbers. That means if the website isn’t playing nice that day, but the numbers stay the same, I am often none the wiser.
It comes as no great surprise then that some people didn’t even know there was a Freelance Jungle website until we announced our ambition to fund one through Patreon. Including Tori, who made her generous offer.
I can only imagine what she thought when she clicked that link to the Freelance Jungle website the first time. It must have been difficult to take! Thank goodness it inspired her to save us from well…me.
Beyond the cosmetic issues, the website was slow. Like many websites the owners get embarrassed by, the upkeep wasn’t there, and the information became outdated over time, too.
Life had also changed. We’d moved away from Meetup yet still had the calendar. We wanted to launch a podcast but didn’t really have the functionality to do that well. Loads of things needed fixing.
It was time to move on, grow up and get new digs. And that’s exactly what we did.
The aim of the Freelance Jungle website is to:
Slowly eliminate Facebook dependency
We aim to centralise what we offer so that you don’t have to be on Facebook to get benefits. We recognise that not everyone wants to be on Facebook. We’re doing what we can to make the connection to us possible without Facebook reliance.
- Making it easier to find information and boost your freelance business that way. Threads have been saved and collected so that information moves beyond threads and tags
- Turning these threads into blogs. This is a timely process of working through old threads and re-writing. But it will be a major pillar of the blog going forward
- Creating a library of information. I’ve been creating eBooks, workbooks, templates and also audio tips to help you with your freelance journey. The new website is going to house this information so you can read, listen, explore and play at your leisure. Some of it will be free, some of it will be for sale. But all of it is tried and tested
There also will be a shift towards building a library of Patreon only member content. This will reflect a Patreon member’s support of the project by essentially gating some of the content on the blog for members of Patreon. This will help in providing value to Patreon members going forward. Patreon offers all kinds of interesting ways to connect projects outside the standard offerings and I am making a commitment to use them to full advantage in future.
Centralise where things are
At the moment, the Freelance Jungle consists of Facebook Page and Group, Eventbrite, Patreon, Slack channels (for some Patreon members), the survey via Survey Monkey, newsletter through Mailchimp, the podcast through your 3 different streaming providers and so on. We’re also introducing merchandise via Red Bubble, offering more in the shop re: templates and the like, and trying to expand into some courses, publishing zines and eventually, books.
This means a lot of moving parts to keep a hold of. Add all manner of message coming via everything from instant message, various social media platforms, email and the rest and it becomes a full-time job simply taming the leviathan that is people offering ideas, asking questions and wanting to get involved.
With the website, work has been done to integrate as much as possible so that the communication can be reduced. It means you have one reference point for all your needs.
Fix the dreaded directory issues
Tori has worked an amazing amount of magic fixing one of our biggest thorns in the side, the directory. The directory was always meant to be a simple listing. We had many an issue with how it worked. It also had entries that couldn’t be edited or modified.
There was a fair amount of user error involved too. It seems freelancers panic when asked where they live and offer up all manner of answer so they don’t miss out by location. We get why. Australian businesses still have an issue with hiring remote workers. However, trying to tell us you serviced four different cities or places that don’t exist like Western areas of Brisbane or answers like ‘sometimes online, sometimes off, maybe Sydney if I get there’ made indexing to search impossible.
We’ve streamlined how you can enter data as result and cross-matched it in the search. So please, put where you are- not where you wish you could work.
Tori has done a great job in making the directory workable. We’re learning our way with the directory and are using the Ultimate Member plugin. It’s not cheap as far as plugins go but it has some wonderful features we’re beginning to explore. If you know the plugin, we’d love to hear from you on how to make the most out of it in a freelance directory context.
Now, it’s up to you to make it work by adding your details.
Please note: We have started from scratch with the information listed as we recognised many businesses have changed their identity and offering over time. It does however remain free for all members. Dive in and register!
Introducing the merch
Freelance Jungle merch is here and in tester phase. We’re choosing Red Bubble in the early stages of merch because we want to test how it works before we commit to other items that cannot be drop-shipped.
It costs money to produce merchandise and the space to hose it, but with Red Bubble as a drop-shipping provider, we can see what sells before outlaying money. Also, storage is a huge factor. I don’t have space at home and warehousing is expensive, especially if it includes pack and pick facilities.
Red Bubble helps us bypass that situation- and also offer different product lines.
Our plan is to expand designs and items as popularity grows. As a tester phase, we want to see-
- What sorts of items you like? E.g. a hoodie over a cup or a phone case over a cap
- What attitude and mood you wish to display? E.g. do you want a straight up display of what you are to attract clients or are you in it for the stress relief?
That’s before experimenting with other items. If you want items, I suggest supporting the Redbubble store during these crucial early stages.
Manage call outs better
We’re currently running the Freelance Jungle survey. We’re also looking for podcast sponsors, considering how the festival will run and actively seeking events captains. That’s tough to manage without the right tools.
Fortunately, the website allows us to explain what’s on offer, give you the links you need and centralise the contact about these offerings in one tidy Freelance Jungle website. Neat!
You can answer the Freelance Jungle survey, download our sponsorship pack and find out where events are running all from the website. Plus, you can get in contact via the website if you wish to discuss any opportunities.
Focus on what matters
The Freelance Jungle website is another tool in being able to bring you information and opportunities. It also takes off a lot of pressure from the day-to-day running of the Freelance Jungle itself.
What this means for me personally is that I can make collecting the information from the wider group and boosting up Patreon a priority. It also means I can support Nicole with advocacy, see if the merch works and all the rest.
Plus, I want the Freelance Jungle website to grow as our offerings do. The next goals are-
Boost the offering of the Patreon
The Patreon members have been hanging in there with love. And I appreciate that you see the vision. The 160+ pinkies that basically kicked off the journey and have hung in for almost a year is nothing short of astounding. We’ve managed to offer almost a dozen free coaching opportunities to freelancers in need, we’ve paid for all manner of plugin, upgrade, print asset and stuff as it’s come up without too much worry. And the original $10K I have sunk into this project over almost 10 years is no longer a hole filled with dust bunnies.
However, I want to grow Patreon to make it incredibly beneficial for members. I have felt for a while that I could do more. This is my curse and my driving force in a lot of respects. I know many of you don’t see it that way, but I do want to increase the value and build more love.
It’s not only you guys that inspire these feelings in me. It’s also the desire to grow the Patreon to meet the needs of people that do want a direct line to “this benefits me because…” – in lieu of a membership site, I want the Patreon to give some cool benefits in that respect.
- Connecting the website to Patreon so that members can get exclusive content via the blog. This has been made possible with our new website thanks to the hard work of Tori (website) and Jinny (connectivity)
- A quarterly timetable of releases of information (as opposed to my current ad-hoc approach)
- Continuing Jane’s List, the coaching program that helps freelancers in need with access to support and information
- Offering extra paid content and assets that will be available in the shop at discount prices and/or free, depending on the content on offer
- Running digital webinar events for the benefit of Pinkie learning. The first of these will roll out in later part of the year
- Introducing audio learning. A lot of people over the years have commented on my voice and how they enjoy listening to it via the business meditations. I do indeed have a great face for radio! But seriously, I have been recording a lot of audio files to help you learn with your freelance business as well as gain self-care. It’s part experiment to see if this kind of learning takes off and partly because both my anxiety and RSI have been making writing increasingly difficult. We can learn together. These will be available to Patreon members from July onwards
- Expanding Patreon into forums and other offerings. I have also talked to Patreon about a future of forums and making sure we have an alternative home should Facebook ever modify groups to the point of losing what we currently enjoy and they can do this for us. We finally have the backup plan should the Facebook monopoly squeeze what we have. This is further down the line
Start a freelance publishing arm
It’s also no secret I believe strongly in indie publishing as a way of disseminating information. What probably is less obvious is that I have been struggling with massive amounts of anxiety in the last year. The idea of running courses always seems lucrative and “what I should be doing”, but realistically, it’s severely damaged my mental health and confidence trying to push for something I (for whatever reason), cannot build with the same confidence and skills others do.
We will be testing with zines and all manner of publishing assets over the coming months to see what works and what doesn’t.
The lofty ambition is to create a freelance press with an abundance of titles along the lines of American indie publisher, Microcosm Publishing. By a sheer stroke of luck, I found out one of our very own Pinkies is exploring her future in supplying indie publishing support. Let’s hope this is the start of something wonderful.
Bring together freelance resources
There are a lot of people out there stitching their corners of the Australian freelance journey. We need more interconnection to push forward.
Bringing people together in freelance that are creating cool things has been a neglected part of the Freelance Jungle. So, we’re kicking that off with our friends of the Freelance Jungle page and want to continue to bring you what others are building via our website, podcast and more. Stay tuned!
Introduce our festival
It’s no secret that I have wanted to do a self-care festival for eons. Now, I can critically assess this as an opportunity for Wollongong as well as look at overall viability.
Reach-wise, I am also considering if it should be digital or have an element within the live event that caters to this market. But at least now, I have the opportunity to pursue it through a strong website, sponsorship deck and a whole lot of your support.
Changes outside the Freelance Jungle website
We’re rocking and rolling into a new era with the Freelance Jungle. This includes works outside the Freelance Jungle website.
Event roles are changing
We’re introducing new people such as our wonderful new events captains in Joh Kohler (Adelaide), Sheree Chambers (Newcastle), Angela Vickers (Central Coast), Aaron Winning (Melbourne), Hayley Rollason-Jones (Cairns) as well as continuing with old favourites in Bill Harper (Brisbane) and Rebekah Lambert (aka me- Wollongong and Sydney).
We’re actively seeking captains for any place not listed- and we’d dearly love to get to WA and TAS for example! Our meets will be quarterly and are centrally managed. This means less last-minute cancellations, growing through consistency and learning through better communication.
Our core admin team is changing too
Your admin favourites in Nicole Leedham, Jinny Coyle, Hayley Rollason-Jones and myself continue. We’ve also added the sensational Tim Hanslow to the mix to give us a new lease on life and a male perspective. He’ll also be cluing us in to the challenges of Tasmania and using his wealth of experience as a community manager.
We want to continue to represent more interests and are actively seeking a LGBTQIA+ moderator as well as someone who identifies as a person of colour and/or Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander. We know that different challenges are faced by these two groups especially when doing business in Australia, so we want to make informed decisions about advocating for all Australian freelancers, not just ones that reflect our admin team.
To facilitate this change, Hayley has been nominated as the Freelance Jungle trainer. She will be leading the new direction of how we admin through this training. We’ve heard you when you’ve asked for consistency and we’re hoping centralised training will help with that.
Raising our voices up
Speaking of advocacy, Nicole begins this in earnest in July after her holidays. There are some huge issues that our survey is helping us solve (please ensure you fill it in to help shape the future- it’s on the Freelance Jungle website here). Watch this space.
More changes to the team
Jinny Coyle has been our design lead for over 6 months now. This has meant she’s not only lead the re-brand of the Freelance Jungle for the Patreon rewards, but also the social media look and feel, the print assets, some of the website elements and more. Her sensational work is also shared with Jess Harkins. Jinny has mentored, guided and collaborated with Jess to create our merch, the new cards, the brand refresh, all our print assets and all the fun things arriving in the shop and to existing Patreon members over the coming days and weeks.
Jinny has also worked with me to manage our side of the Freelance Jungle website build. That means things like integrating Patreon to the website, help me speak design and development language, supporting the quality assurance process and more.
She’s also had more than one or two cups of tea with me online and on video when the anxiety has peaked. I am forever indebted to her kindness and down-to-earth approach.
Jess too has been encouraging, kind and nothing short of inspirational with her whimsy, wonder and cool AF creative ideas. She’s a welcome addition to the Freelance Jungle team.
The future is with you
The change over to a new Freelance Jungle website heralds a new age in freedom. That freedom is to build something others are not providing while continuing to do the work we do.
If you’ve gotten to the end of this, you probably deserve a hug and a biscuit.