According to a study by Upwork, there were 57.3 million Americans freelancing in 2017. Given the topsy-turvy world of furloughs and layoffs in 2020 thanks for COVID-19, I’d be willing to bet that this number is far higher today. The chances are that at some point, you’ll land on a project at some point that requires you to collaborate with some of those 57 million.
Truth be told, some freelancers thrive on creative collaboration while the more introverted solopreneurs hate it with a burning passion. Wherever you stand on that spectrum, sometimes it’s part of the job. Let dig into collaboration in freelancing and how you can master it.
When Might a Freelancer Need to Collaborate?
In reality, some degree of collaboration is necessary on any project, but certain projects take it to another level. Consider these common situations that warrant collaborations.
Collaborating with Clients and Their Teams
In every freelance project, there’s some amount of collaboration with your client. They have specific goals of the project or often a vague vision of what they want. It’s your job to work with them and turn their ideas into concrete creations.
Sometimes you’re teaming up with clients’ in-house staff, whether they’re office-based employees or remote workers. The client’s team might have certain aspects of the project down, but they were lacking your specific type of skill, so they’ve brought you in to collaborate.
Developing a Multimedia or Multi-Talent Project
Let’s say a client wants to build their social media presence. They might need social media strategists to create a plan, photographers or graphic artists to create images, writers to write compelling captions, and digital marketers to create paid ads. This is one example, but there are many types of projects where you’ll collaborate with a group of freelancers, each bringing different skills.
Handling Large-Scale Work
Some projects only need one type of work, but it’s a lot of work, more than one freelancer can tackle. In these cases, clients might bring in multiple freelancers with similar specialties so they can divide up the work.
Overall, you might all work independently, but there needs to be some level of collaboration with other freelancers on the project, so you’re maintaining a consistent brand or voice.
Collaboration Tips for Freelancers
Whether it’s with clients, other freelancers, or both, some level of collaboration is part of every freelance project. In fact, the ability to work with others efficiently and professionally is one reason a client hires one freelancer over another. How can you boost your collab skills to become an even more successful freelancer? It partially comes with practice but starts with these tips too.
Actively Build Your Network
Sometimes, clients might ask that you gather a group of qualified freelancers or offer some recommendations for a multi-talent project. Those circumstances are golden because you can choose people you already know you’ll interact with well…as long as those people are in your network, that is.
That’s why every freelancer should be continuously building a network. Get active in freelancing social media groups, connect with other freelancers on LinkedIn, use the community features of freelance websites, and get involved with local professional groups. Meet people, develop professional ties, and keep them in mind in case future opportunities arise.
Get to Know Collaboration Tools
Every client has their own collaboration tools they use to make remote work easier, like project management software, shared storage drives, task lists, and online chat technologies. When you start a new project, learning new technology on top of managing the workload makes the project more challenging and no one needs that.
Instead, get familiar with as many popular collaboration tools as possible through free trials. It’ll make your life easier while also making you a more desirable freelancer.
When you imagine a freelancer, chances are you imagine someone sitting at home and working by themselves. But freelance work is rarely a solo endeavor: freelancers are often required to collaborate with other freelancers, clients, and employees. Sound stressful? Don't worry: collaboration doesn't have to be complicated or scary, and even the most independent freelancers can find it to be a rewarding experience. Keep reading to learn all about when freelancers have to collaborate — and how they can do so with as little stress as possible.
When Do Freelancers Need To Collaborate?
Regardless of their discipline, there are many situations in which freelancers may be required to collaborate. Here are some common situations in which freelancers may need to engage in collaboration.
Working With Clients
It may sound like a no-brainer, but some freelancers don't realize that working for clients is a give and take. Whether you're a graphic designer trying to nail down your client's vision for a strong, coherent branding strategy or you're a writer who's being brought in to communicate a very specific message to the world, the chances are that you'll need to spend time working with your client and their team to fully understand and execute their vision.
This collaboration extends to more than just one key person at a company. Sometimes you'll be collaborating with a single point person, but other times you'll be communicating with an entire team of employees, or even other freelancers, depending on what you've been hired to do. In all of these cases, collaboration is a necessary part of the job.
Handling Big Projects
Oftentimes clients who have large-scale projects find it easier and more cost-effective to hire a large team of freelancers, instead of just one or two, to get a given project done as quickly as possible. In this case, you'll likely be collaborating with your client as well as a team of other freelancers in your discipline. This type of collaboration requires you to complete your own individual work while also working with your fellow freelancers to make sure that you're all on the same page and sticking to your client's guidelines and voice.
Completing A Multimedia Project
Sometimes, one freelancer can't do everything in a given project — a single graphic designer, say, might not have the skills to perform every aspect of revamping a client's brand strategy. That's where collaboration comes in: a client may hire a team of freelancers to each work on an individual aspect of a project, with graphic designers working with coders, social media experts, and writers to develop a strong, cohesive brand. This type of collaboration might allow you to perform some individual work, but you'll also likely need to collaborate with your fellow freelancers in order to create a unified and cohesive project.
How Can Freelancers Effectively Collaborate?
Believe it or not, having strong collaboration skills can make a freelancer look ultra-appealing to a potential client. Are you worried that your collaboration skills may have atrophied during your time as a freelancer, or simply concerned that you're not sure how to collaborate as effectively as possible? Here are some tips to help you become a communicative and cooperative collaboration superstar.
Whether you're collaborating with a fellow freelancer or a client, nothing is more important than clear, direct communication. Ask as many questions as you can, provide clear and timely updates on your progress, and check in frequently for updates from team members. Make sure to get as much down in writing as you can — not only can it help keep you accountable, but it's also ideal for referencing previous discussions and remembering forgotten tasks. Remember: when it comes to collaboration, communication is key.
Learn About — And Use — Collaboration Tools
Many freelancers and companies like to use collaboration tools, which offer perks such as online storage, task lists, and chat software for simplified communication. Try to get a handle on these tools and how they work so that when you start working with a new one, you're able to hit the ground running. Additionally, once you've learned how to use one, don't be afraid to embrace its time-saving properties. Some platforms can help you keep track of your time, directly invoice clients, and easily generate forms to send to your team, which can help you (and your team) work as efficiently as possible.
Build A Strong Network
Just because you're a freelancer doesn't mean you don't need to build a strong network. Having connections to a variety of other freelancers can allow you to provide recommendations when clients ask for them, which can give you the chance to work with someone you already know and trust. Additionally, having strong connections increases your chances of getting work when your colleagues are asked for recommendations as well. It's a win-win!
Building a network as a freelancer may feel challenging, but it doesn't have to be. Reach out to freelancer groups on social media, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, or check out the forums on virtual job boards. Although it may seem overwhelming at first, finding a group of like-minded colleagues can not only improve your odds of getting freelance gigs — it can also allow you to use their opinions and expertise to sharpen your skills.
Stick To Your Deadlines
Sticking to a deadline seems like a no-brainer, right? But it could be even more important than you think. As a freelancer, you may be in charge of just a single component of a project, meaning that if you miss your deadline, it could have serious consequences for the rest of your team. Ultimately, collaboration is all about being a team player, so if you set a deadline, do your best to stick to it. Not only will it help your team, but it'll also boost your reputation as being a reliable freelancer who's worth hiring again.
Collaboration Is Key
Just because you're a freelancer doesn't mean you're on your own. Collaboration is a crucial component of working with clients as well as fellow freelancers. By communicating openly and in writing, sticking to your deadlines, and investing in a strong network of colleagues and peers, you can strengthen your ability to collaborate — and let potential clients know that you're a team player they'll want to have in their corner.