Freelancing and the Power of Partnering

When a business decides to outsource, it is looking for a solution. It has a pressing project but lacks the internal resources to do it itself. Chances are, some poor marketing director has walked out of a boardroom meeting, faced with a recurring problem: the deadline has been set, the work laid out in front of him and he has no way to get it done. At this point, our poor marketing manager doesn’t want to spend hours searching the Internet for the right web designer, review another pile of résumés for the perfect copywriter and plow through stacks of portfolios for a graphic designer… Our marketing director wants to pick up the phone, find a solution and put his mind at ease.

As the independent freelancer, you want to be the guy at the other end of the phone. Solve the marketing manager’s problem this time, and chances are he’ll call you again. But how can you be sure he chooses you for the job? Odds are you can’t do everything. You’ve spent years honing your skills as a graphic designer, and the last thing you want to do is write web copy. The same goes for the copywriter, who doesn’t want to waste time struggling with HTML code.

1. Be the Solution Even though you can’t do it all, you can provide a complete solution by partnering with others to fill in the blanks. For example, a web designer who partners with a copywriter can offer a turnkey solution that moves a website from initial concept to finished product. When providing a turnkey service, you suddenly make the jump from “freelancer” to “consultant”. You are no longer providing a service, but rather are providing a solution. The more problems you solve, the easier you will find work and, ultimately, the higher your fee will be.

2. The Process in Action Let’s suppose our marketing director suddenly finds out he needs a website for a new product launch. He’ll need artwork, web design and compelling copy to sell the product. Unfortunately, due to a recent “corporate restructuring”, he has no in-house staff to turn to in order to get the job done. He picks up the phone and calls a local web designer, who tells him he’d be glad to take on the project, but that he can’t help with the logo’s design and that the marketing manager will need to provide the copy. Sure, our marketing manager has solved part of his problem, but he still has his work cut out for him. So he calls a second web designer and describes the project. The web designer tells him that he’d be glad to help. He asks the marketing manager if he needs web copy and graphics. When he says that he does, he replies, “No problem. I partner with a number of graphic designers and copywriters. If you’d like, I can contact them and put together a bid for the entire project. When we’re finished, you’ll have a complete website, ready for your product launch.” Who do you think will get the job? At this point, the second designer is in control and in a position to make a much higher bid.

3. Form Partnerships Now Don’t wait until you need partners to seek them out. Otherwise, you’ll be in the same position as the first web designer. Instead, seek them out in advance. Determine who you can trust, who you can afford and who will help you deliver the best product possible. Even more importantly, be sure you are comfortable working with these partners. As you look for partners, ask yourself some basic questions. Is this person reliable? Will he or she respond to the client’s needs or fight every edit and revision? Does this person complement my services? Do we communicate well? Can I rely on him or her to meet deadlines? Ascertaining these details in advance will help prevent many headaches when working with clients.

4. The Win-Win-Win Situation Ideally, a partnership creates a mutually beneficial relationship. For example, if a copywriter were to form a partnership with a web designer, he now solves a problem for the web designer. The web designer wants her websites to look as good as possible, which is difficult if clients provide poor copy. Thanks to this new partnership, our web designer can use the copywriter’s services to improve the client’s copy. The copywriter picks up a new client, the web designer delivers a better product and the client gets a much better website with little or no extra effort. A win-win-win situation for all.

5. Be Everything You Want in a Partner When you work with a partner, consider it like working for a client: do your best work every time. Provide the level of service you would want to receive, and chances are you’ll be working with them again. Provide a “solution” for your partner, and that partner will return again. Do that often enough and work will start seeking you out, rather than the other way around.