You’re a freelancer… emphasis on the free. Not working for free, but working for you. Free of an employer, free of sick-leave requests, and frankly, if you want it to be this way, free of pants.
You know what else you are? You’re a tree. Small but strong, majestic in your own right, and able to breathe life into any project that’s placed in front of you.
So why would you want to collaborate with someone? Why would you want to add dependence on another freelancer to your maverick lifestyle?
It’s just plain good for you and your business, that’s why.
Collaboration with another freelancer can enrich your services, breathe inspiration into your art, and attract new clients to your business.
Does a tree complain when a bird or squirrel gets comfy in its branches for a while, collects seeds, and then spreads them around the forest in various fashions? No. That tree just expanded its reach, and got to hang out with some pretty chill woodland creatures in the process.
Think of other freelancers as your animal friends, and the seeds they help spread are the word-of-mouth marketing you need to help keep you going.
Repeat after me:
Working with someone else, especially someone who works in the same field, will provide you with insight into a different kind of process. Maybe you’ll discover something as simple as a new keyboard shortcut that makes your life infinitely easier, or maybe you’ll think about your art in a completely new and life-changing way. Who knows? Anything is possible here.
Another benefit is that of service-supplementation. If a drool-worthy job-listing pops up that you’re not fully qualified for, or a current client requests a service you don’t specialize in, a collaboration could be the key. Teaming up with someone who is skilled in a different-but-compatible trade can keep you from missing out on spectacular jobs, and help you provide a more comprehensive product to your clients.
Finally, there’s the possibility of an epic creation… the possibility of an incredible new product or program that can explode into a career-maker. The entrepreneurial community is bursting at the seams with wildly creative people… don’t be afraid to tap into that wealth.
Where do I find collaborators?
A big part of learning how to collaborate is simply finding someone to collaborate with. Where do you go to find these willing and worthy collaborators?
WordPress Meetups: The WordPress community is an incredible resource to explore when searching for someone to work with. The beauty of the WP community is that it’s a melting pot of niches and specialties. You’ve got programmers, writers, designers, marketers, SEO specialists, developers, and even dog groomers who want to build their own websites. Find a meetup near you, grab some business cards, and dust off those networking skills.
WordCamps: A smidge more formal (not, like, tuxedo formal or anything) than a meetup, is WordCamp. WordCamps bring in some of the biggest names in the WordPress community from whom you can learn, while also creating an exciting social media event that you can follow throughout the day. Follow Twitter hashtags, listen closely to the people asking questions, and keep those eyes peeled for someone you would enjoy working with.
Co-Working Spaces: This is an interesting option that isn’t available everywhere, but is definitely growing in popularity. A co-working space is a place that allows remote workers to have a workplace of their own… whether it’s for a few hours or an entire year. There are usually drop-in rates available, as well as memberships that come with perks like your own desk or business mailing address. This is a great place to find like-minded freelancers, and often comes with a palpable sense of community.
Facebook Groups: Facebook groups like Advanced WordPress and Freelancers’ Hub are ideal for candid conversation and quick responses to queries. You can find fresh information and a hungry group of freelancers who are eager to start something new.
How to Collaborate Effectively
Keep your mind open but your bases covered.
Yes, collaboration with another freelancer can be enlightening. It can be productive and lucrative… and it can also be tricky. You can’t forget that you’re working with another free agent like yourself. You’re teaming up with someone who probably feels the same way as you about depending on someone else: just a little skeptical.
Lay out the terms. Just like any other agreement a freelancer makes, it’s a good idea to work up a contract with your collaborator. It’s not personal or spiteful; it’s just smart. Delineate each person’s responsibilities, explicitly outline payment terms, and allow for some kind of termination plan in case things don’t pan out as expected.
Maintain Equality. Unless you specifically want an unequal partnership, it’s important to maintain your equality in a collaboration. Be honest and voice your opinions, no matter how silly they might sound in your head. Decision-making, client-communication, and any changes should be agreed upon by both parties to avoid bitterness and ensure a healthy partnership. Don’t expect concerns to take care of themselves.
Remember that you’re a freelancer. Throughout this process, bear in mind that you’re still that sturdy little tree. You might be thinking more about this new bird’s nest, but you can’t forget about the family of mice living in your roots. It’s okay to be excited and focused on this collaboration, but you’ve got to keep up the quality of your other client work. There’s got to be a business to come back to when this project runs its course.
Give it a shot.
The best way to learn how to collaborate is to do your research and take the leap.
Start small, if you’re nervous about it… learn which boundaries you’ll need to set and when. And don’t forget to take note of the positive moments you encounter, or the lessons you’ve learned. Those will come in handy for the rest of your career.
As long as you’ve put down strong roots, branching out is a fulfilling and natural next step… and nothing to be afraid of.
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